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Microsoft woos Domino users with annual tool upgrade

Microsoft scales Exchange migration tools for IT shops with the stomach to run large messaging systems side by side.

Microsoft typically chooses the week of IBM's annual Notes/Domino confab to let IT shops know about the Exchange migration tools it offers to help migrate over to the latest version of Exchange Server.

This year is no different, as Microsoft this week released an updated version of its Transporter Suite for Lotus Domino as one way to move to Exchange Server,

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Office SharePoint Server and the Office Suite, and off of Notes and Domino.

Microsoft has improved the Transporter tools' ability to scale up from tens of thousands of users to hundreds of thousands of end users, said Clint Patterson, a director in the unified communications group at Microsoft. Patterson said the tools were field tested in an organization with 200,000 employees.

IT shops have never taken lightly the task of migrating from one messaging platform to another. There is a lot to consider, including whether or not it makes sense to undertake a migration at all and, instead, just make a wholesale move without running both platforms at the same time.

Many experts agree that at this point, both Domino and Exchange are strong and seasoned. There are reasons to stay and reasons to move off of both, and it usually has nothing to do with product quality.

A typical reason to migrate may be because one company buys another and the IT shop doesn't want to support multiple messaging systems, said Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC, a Framingham, Mass.-based consulting firm.

IT shops also have to consider integration with line of business applications and how advanced its user base is in terms of using collaborative tools, because those tools will converge at some point, Levitt said.

"It's the home grown and third-party applications with the hooks, and the users that depend on them," he said. "And with antivirus and anti-spam, at least a portion of that will have to be changed out, which increases the complexity and cost of the situation."

Some customers seem to have at least the perception that Outlook is easier to use than Notes, though there are only small differences between the two, Levitt said.

One IT expert seconded that motion based on his current messaging migration project. Steven Music, a senior Domino administrator who is currently switching a federal government agency from Domino to Exchange Server 2007, said the agency is leaving Domino because executives at the agency said they believe there are certain benefits to using Exchange. These benefits may only be perceived benefits, according to Music.

The gist of the problem is that business managers sometimes said they believe that Notes and Domino are so packed full of features that it intimidates end users. End users are already accustomed to Microsoft Outlook. "But Outlook 2007 is as feature rich as, maybe not [Domino 8.0], but at least version 6.0 or 7.0," Music said.

Music said he won't actually migrate from Domino to Exchange Server and endure the pain of coexisting messaging platforms. Rather, he will store the Domino data in Symantec Corp.'s Enterprise Vault.

"We will crawl the data and incorporate it into a vault," he said. "We will turn on journaling, capturing stuff as it comes in and having historical stuff as it exists. When end users go home they will be on Domino, when they come in on Monday they will be on Outlook."

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