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Exchange 2000 migration: why and why not?

Is the gain worth the pain of moving up to Exchange 2000? A migration expert explains why companies should and shouldn't migrate. Then, he ticks off a few of the challenges facing migration teams.

After weighing the benefits of moving from Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 to Exchange 2000 Server against the effort required to get there, many IT managers run for cover. Not only does an Exchange migration touch every e-mail user in an organization, it also involves integration with Microsoft Active Directory. That's a one-two punch that could floor any IT manager, said Doug Davis, FastLane Migrator product manager for Irvine, Calif.-based Quest Software, an application management software vendor.

Even so, many businesses are biting the bullet and making the switch. Davis has been a helpmate on a number of these Exchange 2000 migrations. In this interview with searchWindowsManageability, he offers insights into why companies migrate and the challenges they face when they do.

sWM: What is the top reason why businesses decide to migrate from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000?

In most cases, they're interested in the scalability of Exchange 2000. You can put four, five, even six times the number of mailboxes that you had on your Exchange 5.5 servers on your Exchange 2000 servers. You can also manage them better by being able to have multiple message storers on the server.

sWM: What is the second most important reason to move up to Exchange 2000?


That would be management improvements in the Exchange 2000 product. One would be having the user account and e-mail account be one managed object. The merging of Active Directory and Exchange 2000 into one directory service really allows people to sort of streamline their management.

Then, probably to a lesser extent, businesses want to take advantage of Exchange 2000's new collaboration and chat features.

sWM: What are the most common problems that occur in an Exchange migration?

The most common problem is that businesses plan the Exchange 2000 migration as just a pure mailbox migration. They do not take into account the deployment and migration of the Active Directory. Usually, in Exchange 5.5 shops, the Exchange group is very autonomous and different from the NT group or other management groups. So, the Exchange group starts planning and doing a lot of work before realizing that they have to communicate with, say, the Active Directory community. Or, the Exchange people may need to convince the NT group to deploy Active Directory. Understanding that Exchange migration and Active Directory migration, in particular, are not two projects. They are really one unified project.

sWM: What kind of cultural issues come up in such an all-encompassing project?

For one thing, the Exchange people can get derailed as soon as they start, if they are hesitant to work in tandem with other IT departments, particularly an NT group. For another, people have to be ready to accept change. We have seen some really weird things happen when people change things in a piecemeal fashion. For example, people will try to deploy Active Directory and Exchange 2000, but keep the same account structure. Or, they will try to quickly do the Active Directory migration without any planning, thinking that they'll clean that up as they do the Exchange 2000 migration.

sWM: Are there reasons why a company should not migrate to Exchange 2000?

You may not need to migrate if the Exchange 5.5 environment is running quite well and has no scalability problems.


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