August 18, 2003
Why Use Exchange?

After a number of comments to my previous post, some a bit acid-etched, questioning why I was using Exchange at all instead of a Lotus/IBM product for calendaring, I checked and realized I had never posted an explanation about my product choice, though it's been a staple of my informal talks and speeches for a long time.

One of the top requirements in a PIM for me is to have a shared calendar. My assistant Esther Sun schedules appointments and keeps my calendar, so we both need access to it. My wife Freada and I co-ordinate our professional and personal lives, so we need to see and update each other's calendars. Freada has an office staff for her consulting work and her non-profit activities and they need access. And so on.

Lotus Notes with a Domino server does a good job with calendars, but because of the high administrative overhead it doesn't make sense in a small office. In fact, Ray Ozzie, the product's creator freely acknowledges it's not a sensible option for an installation under 500 seats. It's not a lack of loyalty to my old company but pure pragmatism which steered me away. (The Groove calendar, by the way, is unfortunately underpowered for our needs.) Outlook/Exchange was the least bad of all the existing alternatives.

The constraints of the Exchange-based solution have been, of course, a major motivation, for the development of Chandler.

Posted by mitch@osafoundation.org at August 18, 2003 08:39 AM
Comments

Sun's Calendar product is also a good choice. It's a pure web based product that has excellent sharing abilities. It can synch with Outlook via a free Sun supplied utility and supports (quite well, IMHO) CAP/WCAP. Best of all, it's something like $35US per CAL and no server charge, period.

-J

Posted by: Jake at August 18, 2003 09:51 AM

Most of my Domino/Notes customers are WELL under 500 users. Most are between 10 and 50 users. They all use and love Notes. It's secure, easy to administer and flexible. Judging from the needs you listed, it does what you desire. And it serves up calendars to Notes Clients and Web browsers. You can sync it with PDAs, if you like. And you can build all sorts of mobile apps that Exchange can't even approximate.

Successful virus attacks are rare in the Notes/Domino world and the list of serious security patches is very short. Security is built into every layer and is far more granular then MS' mechanisms. None of my customers have ever been brought down while their Exchange counterparts suffer hackers greatly.

You could even run the Domino server on the same Linux machine currently running your Apache web server and dump Windows Server entirely!

Might I suggest another look at Notes/Domino? I'll bet they'd give you a discount. :-)

Posted by: Eric Wilson at August 18, 2003 02:27 PM

Out of curiousity, what was the last version of Notes and Domino you looked at? ND's calendar and scheduling system perfectly handles the items you mention above... shared access for executives and assistants... multiple people updating calendars, etc. As for the below 500 person comment, please see lotus.com for last weeks announcements about Domino Collaboration Express. For $89/user we would be happy to see you move off of Exchange and onto a truly world class and secure messaging solution.

http://www-3.ibm.com/software/swnews/swnews.nsf/n/jmae5q4lda?OpenDocument&Site=lotus
http://www.lotus.com/world/usa.nsf/itdisp/A+Preview+of+the+Notes+6+Client

Alan

Posted by: Alan Lepofsky at August 18, 2003 05:43 PM

Mitch, with all due respect to both you and to Ray Ozzie, I don't think it is reasonable to make an unequivocal statement like "it's not a sensible option for installation under 500 seats". Organizations differ in far too many respects besides size for a blanket statement like that to hold true. If Ray said such a thing before he left Lotus, I would be very surprised if it was unequivocal about it, because he certainly knew many installations of fewer than 500 seats were amongst the tens of millions of Notes and Domino users. If he said it afterward, well... he's competing with IBM Lotus now, and he's received significant financing from Microsoft, so despite the fact that he is a man that I admire tremendously for his technical skill and accomplishments, I have to conclude that his statement might just be a little teensy bit influenced by his own current best interests.

Notes/Domino is, indeed, a very sensible option for any organization of any size that happens to need any one of the many unique features that IBM Lotus provides which nobody else does, whether that organization has 5 seats or 50,000. And even if you have no need for any of the unique features of Notes and Domino it is still a sensible option for any organzitation that does not want to have to spend so much of their valuable time and resources patching systems and repairing the damage done by worms and viruses. The "high administrative overhead" you cite is arguable based on the most recent studies, but for the purposes of this debate I'll accept that in most typical smaller offices it is quicker to roll out Exchange than Domino, and somewhat easier to perform many routine administrative functions. Measured TCO and ROI, however, tell the full story. When you factor in the firefighting that Exchange/Outlook shops have to go through every few months when the latest vulnerability is patched or the newest worm starts making the rounds, the loss of services to users during those episodes, and also the fact that Exchange upgrades too often require time-consuming upgrades across the board to a whole new generation of Microsoft technology, any advantage the Exchange may have in initial deployment and basic administration goes away.

My point in a nutshell, I guess is that choosing Exchange as the "least bad" alternative, given enough time, reveals that it really is the worst alternative. You've just witnessed a prime example of why that's the case. Through no fault of your own or your own administrators, you lost services because of a weakness that Exchange inherits from its dependence on Windows.

I look forward to working with Chandler. The more alternatives to Exchange, the better ;-)

Posted by: Richard Schwartz at August 18, 2003 08:05 PM

Since Office 2000, Microsoft has implemented end-to-end scheduling via email in Outlook. It works with a simple publish/subscribe mecanism and it doesn't need an Exchange server. Because email passes firewalls, it works everywhere.

I began using it when I realised that only close relations (wife, boss, assistant...) want a copy of my calendar, and unkown firewall rules is the norm when I work on customers' sites.

To be fair and complete, the feature is a little buggy in Outlook 2K. Perhaps it's better in Outlook XP ?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Papillon at August 19, 2003 05:06 AM

Since Ray hasn't been involved in a version of Notes since 4.5, how much does he really know about what it takes to administer a Domino server?

I've run Domino networks in environments ranging from 5 users to 50,000 users. Administrative effort is a function of planning and product knowledge, not the platform itself.

Posted by: Nathan T. Freeman at August 19, 2003 07:07 AM

First of all almost all of our clients are under 500 users, as a matter of fact most are under 50 users and a lot are in the range of 10 - 20. Now I will acknowledge that setting up a Domino Server can be a bit of a challenge if you have never done one before, but I would not call it difficult. And from an Admin perspective I have seen ND servers that have been functioning for several years and have never been down for unscheduled maintenance which is usually upgrading the software.
One of the previous posts refers to Total Cost of Ownership and I agree 100%, never lost a minute due to ILOVEYOU Nimda etc. ability to work off line (not just in mail) by replicating applications to a laptop, etc, etc. and then be able to develop applications in hours that take days (maybe even weeks) in the M$ world.

If ND was only sold to 500+ user companies I'd be out of business, and I would suggest so would Lotus

Posted by: Bill Fox at August 19, 2003 09:42 AM

Acid Etched? LOL. More like pragmatic. :-)

Notes makes companies more efficient. And small companies reap more efficiency (provided their employees truly want to work together and collaborate) for the amount invested than a big company.

I wonder how you're doing w/ the SoBig-variant virus today? Most companies and email servers are swamped today. Too many Outlook users just opening up the virus message. I can add a comment about what happens after Outlook drops its shorts, but I'll refrain ;-)

As for admin overhead, I should tell you about this company w/ 20 people that used college interns for Notes admins w/o any problems...

Posted by: Ken Yee at August 19, 2003 02:11 PM

Wow. I'm a big fan of Notes/Domino myself, but really guys! Mitch has a very small group of people with which he does C&S with and Exchange really is the simplest choice. I can imagine that he didn't feel the need to do a thorough evaluation before picking a provider for such commodity services.

Posted by: Jake at August 19, 2003 07:05 PM

Ecco, available from Netmanage's ftp site, handles shared calendars quite nicely.

Posted by: Larry Yudelson at August 20, 2003 06:14 AM

This certainly is proving to be a popular entry. Again, absolutely no disrespect to Notes/Domino. If I were starting with a clean slate, and had ready access to an inexpensive Notes administrator to manage the setup, I'd be inclined to see if the 5 client solution really works. The devil of it is that by the time you have something like Exchange up and running, there's the lock in from the learning curve. Just seems to o hard to start over again, especially when the target is to move to Chandler.

Posted by: Mitch Kapor at August 20, 2003 01:22 PM

I don't have a trackback ping built in the lotus.com/weblog, but I've posted some comments there around Notes/Domino's fit in very small organizations.

Posted by: Ed Brill at August 25, 2003 09:04 AM

As an ex-Lota, can I just briefly mention Lotus Organizer, which I still use, even with my work's Exchange mail? It's iCal & vCal compliant, meaning I can accept Outlook invitations without conversion problems...

Posted by: Lis at September 1, 2003 04:38 PM