Linux

One quarter of Exchange shops plan to move to Linux? I don't buy it


A new Yankee Group survey of IT executives shows that 23% respondents intend to migrate off of Exchange to Linux-based mail servers in the next 12-18 months. Of the respondents, 65% of them currently run Exchange.

I'm extremely skeptical about this report. I honestly doubt that even half of that 23% will end up migrating. I went through a similar process in my last job. I launched our original e-mail platform on Linux using sendmail (which I soon replaced with Qmail) and a basic POP3 server. Within the first year that solution simply wasn't robust enough because users needed to share calendar, task, and other collaboration data. I did not want to go to Exchange Server.

Since I wanted to avoid Exchange - mostly because of cost - I explored and tested a bunch of different Linux solutions, including HP OpenMail (that was a disaster). Eventually, the search reached the point of diminishing returns, so I threw my arms in the air and bought Exchange. I was a glad I did. It solved the problem, was easy to backup, and easy to manage.

Of course, that was Exchange 5.5. I've heard horror stories from colleagues about the migration to Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003. Now, Exchange 2007 is here and it has some extremely hefty resource requirments, including the fact that it has to be installed on a 64-bit OS.

I have no doubt that the migration issues with recent versions of Exchange and the big Exchange 2007 resource hurdle is what has many IT managers rethinking Exchange and seriously considering a switch to Linux. Still, I doubt many of them (certainly not 1/4 of them) will make the switch once they do a full evaluation of what they would have to give up in moving away from Exchange.

That being said, there are now more and better Exchange alternatives in Linux than there were when I was going through this process in 2000. For example, if Scalix was an option at the time, then I would have seriously considered it. Nevertheless, even with Scalix you have to give up some things in terms of manageability and some features (e.g. Windows Mobile integration). That's why I think the number of Exchange defectors will still be far less than 23%.

For more information on the Yankee Group survey, check out Mary Jo Foley's report. For more on Scalix, take a look at this post from George Ou.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

39 comments
matt.midson
matt.midson

If you are looking for an Enterprise robust messaging environment on Linux then you really can't go past GroupWise 7. GroupWise is fully supported on Linux, Windows or NetWare. In fact you get full OS and product support by using GroupWise on SLES10 or OES - Linux. You can also have a staged approach to migration. First move over to GroupWise on Windows and then over to Linux. No 64 bit hardware needed either ;-) I hear you all scream, what about the client, you can still use Outlook on the desktop and migrate the backend over first. I expect you will also be able to consolidate a lot of post offices in the process too. There are great end user training materials, from 3rd Parties, for those looking to transition from Outlook to the GroupWise client. In fact with the secure private instant messenger component already available and the new teaming and conferencing product on the way; I think you will find more and more users of Exchange willing to consider not just the advantages of what GroupWise on Linux can offer, but also some of the other offerings Novell has with Linux in the Workgroup space. Just my two cents. Matt

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

I migrated to Linux in 2002, and after many years of frustration, migrated back to Windows at the end of 2006. Email was one of the last things to go, but I was amazed at how much more free time I had after the migration. By pairing Exchange with Blackberry ESE server, I can almost fully manage contacts, schedule, email, etc from my phone while on the road, and the ease of setting it all up and maintaining it really blew me out of the water. If I could have only skipped my dip in the Linux pool, I wonder home many months of my life I would get back.

r.smitherton
r.smitherton

Zimbra has Exchange beat hands down, Their full blown version will cost you though.

bwpina
bwpina

It is open source, but it isn't free. Compared to the costs of Exchange 2003, it is an absolute bargain. Compared to the costs of upgrading to Exchange 2007, it is a steal! Have a look, it is worth the time to check it out. http://www.postpath.com

Justin James
Justin James

Jason - I just sent my review of Scalix to Jody for editing/publishing, so without getting ahead of her, I will say this: Scalix's pricing makes Windows + Exchange look downright cheap. What most folks who look into Scalix without really digging deep (this isn't a knock on you, just that you really need to burrow into their literature to find this out) is that Scalix is NOT free. Sure, if you want functionality not much different from qmail + vpopmail + nocc or squirellmail and a calendar system, Scalix is free. As soon as you want an Exchange equaivalent, Scalix is a whopping $60 per user for the Enterprise Edition. Add in their support costs (higher than Microsoft's, $300 for an email incident vs. $250 for an email OR phone incident), plus the yearly fee, plus their $5 migration fee (more, if you migrate in bulk), plus the RHEL or SLES support fees (which make Windows; license fees look like bargain bin software), and Scalix suddenly does not look like such a hot option! J.Ja

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

of Lotus, I know many Australian government agencies that use Lotus Notes, some because they had it and were used to it, some moved to it from early versions of Exchange because it was more versatile. the question here is what do you really want out of the thing - is it a mail server or a mutual calendar. Those I know who use a mail server for just mail, use Linux or Unix with a simple mail server program, they have another server for sharing files and calendars. I think of servers like peripherals, OK you can save space by having them all on the one, but when one goes down, the lot are down. That's why I don't buy those multi-function units, and keep servers separate. Closest I get to multiple use servers is things like the back up mail server being on the web server, and the back up file server is on the print server type thing.

cls
cls

If the survey was biased towards "Exchange shops" in the USA, I don't buy it either. Some of the respondents are just using the survey to register their displeasure with MSFT. (Was the survey conducted in English only? Was it only offered to readers of an English-only Web site or magazine?) If the survey was worldwide and conducted in many languages, it's plausible. More than half the people with Internet access live outside the US. That's where the Internet is growing the fastest, too. Across Latin America and Asia and in the European Union countries, alternatives to MSFT are being adopted much faster than they are in the US. It's part of our technological decline relative to the rest of the world. As software technology goes, MSFT is kind of a backwater.

DanLM
DanLM

I about had a bird.... Shows how much I pay attention. Dan

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"A new Yankee Group survey of IT executives shows that 23% respondents intend to migrate off of Exchange to Linux-based mail servers in the next 12-18 months. Of the repsondents, 65% of them currently run Exchange." Okay, I'm confused. Something doesn't add up 23% of TOTAL respondents intent to migrate off Exchange. But only 65% of TOTAL respondents are running Exchange. The other 35% of total respondents can't abandon Exchange; they aren't running it now. That means all 23% of the total respondents intending to migrate come only from the 65% of total respondents currently running Exchange. By extension, 36% of those currently running Exchange intend to migrate (23 shops out of 65). In the words of Maxwell Smart, "Not one quarter, Chief? Would you believe ONE THIRD?" In the next 18 months? I've always worked in an Exchange / Outlook environment, so I've got a few questions. Will the Outlook 03 or 07 clients work with non-Exchange e-mail servers? If not, will other e-mail clients open Outlook .PST files? If not, are there utilities to migrate .PST archive files to formats compatible with other clients?

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Why didn't you use a real mail server like sendmail or qmail? ;-) I'm not a huge fan of openmail and I find that sendmail is far more robust. However, now that Exchange can act as a mail gateway, I have a LOT of questions on how it actually functions in a real environment.

viccuranovic
viccuranovic

Here is the Link to the statement. As long as you have 2003 Server with Service Pack 1 or Windows 2003 R2, you should be fine. I'm running R2 with Exchage 2003 and in the next year or so I will be migrating to 2007.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

Will it work with our existing Blackberry Enterprise server?

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

as soon as I can. I seem to have this centOS 4.2 vm on my laptop that is yelling out for a demo install of this prog.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I'm looking forward to reading it. Sounds like an eye-opener!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"alternatives to MSFT are being adopted much faster than they are in the US. It's part of our technological decline relative to the rest of the world." I don't think third world countries adopt non-Microsoft solutions based on the quality of the technology so much as the price. If Microsoft products are inferior, why do people pirate them when many of the alternatives are free?

DanLM
DanLM

Even though it was from 2005(god, I feel stupid) it was a good write up on an alternative that will work with Outlook. I know that George is an MS fan, but he was straight up honest in that he felt that Exchange should be worried as this product matures. I apologize, I can't remember what this product was. Dan

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

they worked great for basic mail (I especially liked qmail), but for calendaring, sharing tasks, and other collaboration features there just wasn't a viable Linux solution at the time (and the ones available now are still somewhat limited). Users and management wanted those collaboration functions and so Exchange ended up being the best solution I could find. And yes, I also considered Lotus and GroupWise, but I went with Exchange because it provided the best price for the features I needed.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Clearly stated Evaluation which was something thrown together to evaluate the new version of Exchange on a 32 Bit OS but it's not available as a Production version in 32 Bit only 64 Bit as that gives it more Mail Boxes, More Space for rules and more room for mail which simply is not possible with the 32 Bit version that M$ where using previously. There is a very big difference between a 120 Day evaluation and the production version. Col

TechExec2
TechExec2

. Exchange Server 2007 requires 64-bit Windows. Operating System Requirements: [b][i]"...Microsoft Windows Server 2003 x64 or Windows Server 2003 R2 x64, Standard or Enterprise Edition..."[/i][/b] From (1): [b][i]"...The primary hardware difference between Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2007 is the move from a 32-bit platform (Exchange 2003) to a 64-bit platform (Exchange 2007)[/u]. Exchange 2007 will only be supported in production environments when it is running on an x64 edition of Windows Server 2003..."[/i][/b] -------------------------------- (1) Exchange Server 2007 Processor and Memory Recommendations http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/2007/plan/hardware.mspx

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Aren't you? My end users would string me up by the [b]Family Jewels[/b] if I was to implement something new like Exchange 2007 without serious testing. But you plan to migrate to it this in the next 12 months without a worry. It must be nice to be so totally divorced from the end users that they are unable to injure you when you stop their access to their e-mail. Mine would sooner I screw their wives than cut off their e-mail and that's on a good day if it's a bad day I would be offered their wives and daughters to get their e-mail back on line NOW! Col

matt.midson
matt.midson

BES is fully supported with GroupWise. At the moment BES still needs to run on Windows and really that is up to RIM. It does not matter what platform the GroupWise agents are running on. In fact a Novell engineer commented to me yesterday that developers from RIM work onsite with GroupWise developers at Novell. I know Novell guys that use Blackberry devices with GroupWise. Also for those who are looking to support non Blackberry PDA and Smartphones, Novell have worked with Nokia on a version of Intellisync called GroupWise Mobile Server. GMS is also currently restricted to running on Windows, however a Linux based release is due very soon. (Talking weeks not months.) So you will no longer need a Windows server to run the product. One other point worth noting is that customers who are on GroupWise 7.0 with upgrade protection and or maintenance are automatically entitled the to GroupWise Mobile Server product at no additional charge. Hope this helps Matt

cls
cls

Germany, Massachusetts, Finland, and Venezuela are hardly "third world countries." Price is only one factor in total cost of ownership. The main argument I see from places that are jumping off MSFT's treadmill is security. MSFT's system simply isn't trustworthy enough to bet your business or your government on. They change their own formats, API's, and protocols willy-nilly, to sabotage "competitors" and create work for MSFT-oriented IT professionals. The Reagan Pentagon commissioned a RAND study of the real strategic threats to the US. Of course killer malware was one of them. We haven't seen Al Queda's email virus yet, just the relatively harmless ones the spammers commission. A security conscious organization will move off of email systems that remain intentionally vulnerable to that threat. But there was a second threat: proprietary formats let a vendor hold a customer's data hostage. Suppose MSFT announced that starting next year they would charge you twenty cents each time you opened an MS-Word file. What's to stop them from doing that? How do you know MS-Office doesn't already have the mechanism in place to do it? RAND thought that was a bad risk for the Department of Defense to take. That's why the Reagan DoD and GSA kept buying generic unix while the private sector took the risk. It kept unix alive for a decade. Engineering and scientific work wasn't really a big enough market to keep the big manufacturers interested, it was government purchasing. Venezuela and Munich and Massachusetts aren't stupid; when they studied the problem they came to the same conclusion. I never said MSFT products are inferior. MSFT has one of the best software quality assurance organizations in the world. They ship pretty much exactly what they want to ship. They like to point out that they've never had to re-release the flagships (Office and the OS) because a show-stopping bug made it to production, and it's true. I said MSFT's products are about the last place you'll find technological advances in software. They let everybody else take those risks. With their mindshare, they can get away with taking credit for everybody else's inventions when they get around to imitating or buying them. It's a lot like Edison Electric a century ago. MSFT enjoys what reasonable economists would call a monopoly, in at least two of their target markets. It's the type of monopoly that depends on what economists call "network effects." In that kind of monopoly, it is far more important to suppress and control competition than to maximize revenue. It really doesn't matter to MSFT whether any particular instance of the flagships was paid for or "pirated." It's one more desktop or small-office/home-office server that's not running Red Flag or Ubuntu or FreeBSD. Every keystroke someone pounds into MS-Word is another brick in MSFT's wall. That's the primary network effect. MSFT's nightmare is that the International Standards Organization's Open Document Format will cut seriously into MS-Office's share of daily and yearly document production over the next couple of years. They even went to the trouble of creating a decoy (OOXML) to confuse the issue and try to slow ODF down.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

pirate to sell it. Criminals only seek to rip off and sell what the fools will buy, smart people won't deal with the criminals anyway.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I scanned the article, but I was initially more interested in the statistics. Since 12 to 18 months have passed since the survey, I wonder how many of those shops actually abandoned Exchange. I don't see any heads on pikes in downtown Redmond, so it's a lot less than a third. The compatibility questions didn't occur to me until after I finished looking at the numbers. I'll go back and take another look at the products mentioned. Thanks.

apotheon
apotheon

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned Open-Xchange yet. It's the obvious replacement, and at one point I was looking at it as a means of satisfying a VP's desires for more feature bloat without incurring the cost of a dedicated Exchange admin (yes, it's that bad these days). From what I saw at the time (late 2005), there was nothing good you'd get out of Exchange that you couldn't get from Open-Xchange for a fraction of the price or for free, and very few of the bad things you'd get from Exchange. I've always been a fan of a more sane, home-rolled solution used by integrating a number of different tools that each do their jobs better than any all-in-one can do all of the jobs together. It's not nearly as difficult as it sounds these days, especially with stuff like the iCalendar standard (not to be confused with Apple's "iCal" application, which by the way supports iCalendar) springing up to make things easy.

cls
cls

I used Qmail for several years. Finally forced to dump it. It's got serious bugs and its strange copyright has thwarted effective ongoing maintenance. Please see http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/416#comment_6 before exposing Qmail to the Internet. Use Exchange Server on your LAN if your users like it. Don't expose it to the Internet. It wasn't designed for that. (Believe it or nnot.) Relay your mail across your DMZ with something robust like Postfix or Sendmail.

Kjell_Andorsen
Kjell_Andorsen

We've been looking at possibly upgrading to Exchange 2007 as well and when we checked with Microsoft about it the answer was clear, the 32 bit version is highly unstable and unreliable and should never ever even be considered for a production environment unless you like having your exchange server crash every couple days. It's strictly meant as a "preview" to give IT Pros an idea of what Exchange 2007 is like without having to buy an X64 box to "test-drive" it on

georgeou
georgeou

I can build a $800 Intel Core 2 box that more than exceeds the Exchange Server 2007 specs, $700 using the cheaper AMD X2 processors. If I was using a server rack mount chassis and a server class motherboard with hotswap RAID, I can build a really nice white box 1U for $2K. If you're not willing to buy a new server, chances are you're going to stick with your existing solution with whatever software it's running on. Doing same server migration isn?t the wisest thing to do because if it screws up during the migration you?re dead in the water. Even if you go with a Linux/Scalix solution, you?ll want the same kind of new hardware anyways. Going with Linux/Scalix doesn?t mean you get to skimp on hardware. While I think there are good Exchange Server alternatives like Scalix, I don't believe the fact that Exchange Server 2007 requires x64 is a bad thing and should be the deciding factor. As a matter of fact, I wish ALL software written for servers should mandate x64. x64 on servers is only natural and you don't need to worry about scanner drivers and printer drivers (unless it's a file and print server). That holds true for Linux or Windows and you'll want to run on x64 for either OS. Go to Scalix if that?s what you want to do, but the fact that Exchange 2007 is x64 with the ability to address a lot of memory is a good thing and is actually an advantage.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

The web server could be down for a day befor anyone complained. I reboot the e-mail server in the middle of the night after a patch, and my cell will ring seconds after hitting the reboot button. I am not planning on moving from Exchange 2003 until I am forced to by overwhelming pressure.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Germany, Massachusetts, Finland, and Venezuela are hardly 'third world countries.'" When I referenced third world countries, I was addressing your original remark, "Across Latin America and Asia..." I failed to specifically exclude your reference to the EU; my mistake. Regarding MA, you're the one who said the U.S. was in a technological decline, not me. Also, I think MA has backed off from their open format position in the last couple of weeks. We could debate Venezuela's status. "I never said MSFT products are inferior." No, you said, "As software technology goes, MSFT is kind of a backwater." I hope you can see how that could be misinterpreted. Your last posting made your position much clearer. "Suppose MSFT announced that starting next year they would charge you twenty cents each time you opened an MS-Word file. What's to stop them from doing that?" It's bad business. Nobody would continue to use Word any longer than it would take to load a replacement. Despite the file format, there are any number of applications that will open a Word file. You may lose some formatting, but you haven't lost the actual text.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Just knowing that it's duable with a mash of do -one-job-well apps gives me some direction. I've been watching OpenXchange and similar exchange killers (I know, cute little worrier braves but wait till they grow up). Anything I've looked at so far only provided the source for compile. I could compile the monster but I'd rather be lazy and wait to find an rpm. Of course, I'm too lazy to compile source and hunt dependencies but not too lazy to try and assemble the same functions from a collection of apps... hehe..

apotheon
apotheon

At the moment, I'm only supporting a network for two people, and we don't have any need of that sort of setup. All my notes from the last time I set up something like that were lost when I left the company, because they considered the files to be their "property" since I compiled them while I was employed there (absurd, really). If you have questions, feel free to ask, but my memory of the specifics is pretty spotty at the moment.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Is your setup supporting centralized calendar, tasks, email and contacts? It's one of my bigger puzzels to solve at home right now. Ideally, I'd love to have those four things centralized and accessible across all machines be they *nix, osX or Outlook with PalmOS supported if possible (email can run through pop or imap at least).

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

the driver issue for servers is also pushed by vendors such as Dell, IBM, etc. They have the financial power to ensure 64 bit drivers for the hardware they choose. that being said, ther eis no guarantee of driver upgrades.

Justin James
Justin James

I had the same experience with XP Pro 64; indeed, even Microsoft Office was unstable on it! Windows Vista 64 is also equally lacking in drivers. The Server products seem to be a bit better supported with drivers, if only because servers tend to have less wild varieties with hardware, and even if a generic driver is used for many pieces of hardware (video, sound, input devices, and the like), as long as it is stable, if some functionality like DirectX is missing, there is no real harm in it 99.999% of cases. That being said, I always feel more comfortable using the "right" drivers. J.Ja

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

with george on pushing the x64 on server platforms. the increase in memory bandwidth alone is worth its weight in gold. I also have to acknowledge that the driver database is simply not there yet for windows in 64 bit. I tried valiently to run XP x64 when it came out, but the complete lack of driver support made it useless to me. (Thats been almost 2 years now, I should give it another go.) BUT, if more people began to adopt the 64 bit platform, more divers would appear.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But with the previous M$ advertising of [b]Do More With Less[/b] where several different servers are combined into one server so you no longer need the Mail Server, The File Server, The Print Server and whatever else there is a very big problem with the 64 Bit 2003 Server platform as there are no where near enough drivers available for the hardware. God only knows why this is as we have had 64 Bit hardware around for a very long time now and even a 64 Bit version of XP for the Masses but for some reason M$ has been fighting to give this version of XP away as no one seems to want it. Even when I bought the Volume License of Vista when it was first available I only had the option of the 32 Bit version as back then the 64 Bit version wasn't on offer here at least, though to be honest I wouldn't have wanted it anyway as the driver issues are currently still just too great to get around. But this is where I run into a problem with M$ 64 Bit Products I've been running 64 Bit Nix servers for a long time now and while I do have to chose the additional hardware a bit more carefully than some I can generally find something that works and is cheap to use like a cost per page on Laser Printers and while the initial cost may be slightly greater I've yet to run into a problem with getting the hardware to work. Where as with M$ products I've been called in on numerous occasions to make something work with a 64 Bit Server Product that just lacks the available drivers Lexmark Printers come to mind here as one place bought a 64 Bit 2003 Server and a printer to run off it from the same place and they where informed that of course the printer will work with the Server but as Lexmark don't have any 64 Bit Drivers or at least didn't then I haven't looked recently the printer didn't work with the 64 Bit Server and the seller refused to accept the return as they claimed that the unit had been opened and assembled so they had no need to accept the return even though it was clearly stated on the invoice that the printer was to work with the server. Granted if I had of been there when the units where delivered I wouldn't have even opened the Printer Box and just sent it back for something that did work but unfortunately I wasn't there and the Company Tech believed what he had been told by the salesperson without even looking at the specifications of the Software that came with the printer. I was called in after the printer refused to work with the server as no one could get it to work. I'm actually wondering how they managed to install the 32 Bit software but they did and somehow I was expected to make it work. Now they are using a Canon Image Runner as the main printer connected directly the that server and the Lexmark printer is connected to a Desktop which isn't ideal but it works and they didn't need to sell of the Lexmark because of the salespersons stupidity. Col

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

screw the lockin software all together. Actually, I'm trying to find a FOSS alternative so I can get the home computers all working on the same calendar and tasks. Must support Linux, BSD and osX. Outlook and PalmOS support a plus but not deal breakers. Any out there have a recommendation?