Is a Taste of ICE Easier to Swallow than the Whole Enchilada?

by Jacqueline Emigh

Integrated messaging environments like Exchange, Notes, and Groupwise are often dinged for cost and complexity. When are they a good fit, and when is it best to marginalize their role in your organization? Jacqueline Emigh reports.

Despite costs and other headaches, overall users of ICEs (integrated collaborative environments) like Exchange, Notes, and GroupWise are on the rise, according to some analysts' statistics. Meanwhile, certain organizations are trying to get "the best of both worlds" by offering ICEs to pockets of knowledge workers, while deploying lighter weight messaging systems among the bulk of users. In some enterprises, responsibilities are being split up between inhouse administrators and external outsourcers or hosters.

Total ICE users worldwide will climb from 210 million in 2001 to 240 million in 2002, says a recent report by IDC. At the same time, though, IDC predicts merely $1.57 billion in ICE revenues for this year, a slight drop from 2001. Experts agree that organizations of all sizes are taking a closer look at how to get more from their messaging bucks.

"Although few corporations have really gone through the work entailed to define the true cost of running their messaging environment, it is probably at least $25 to $30 per user, per month, by the time both 'hard' and 'soft' costs are included. And that does not even count the costs entailed in upgrading to Microsoft Exchange 2000 and its required Active Directory," according to Tom Kucharvy, an analyst at Summit Strategies.

One way to mitigate messaging costs is to give ICEs only to those end users who really need them. "Features such as group calendaring and the ability to handle large attachments such as PowerPoint and Word documents are really available only on enterprise-level messaging systems like Exchange and Domino," Kucharvy observes.

"You might want to use lower-cost messaging systems, however, with people who don't need those features, such as extranet partners, retail branches, and factory workers, for instance."

For inhouse administration, lower-cost alternatives to ICEs run the gamut from older POP3 mailers to newer commercial lightweight messaging environments like Novell's NetMail.

The University of Kentucky, for example, is now running an inhouse system that mixes NetMail with Exchange 2000. Exchange is being deployed among about 1,500 to 2,000 users, "primarily university administrative types who need scheduling of resources," says Matt DeFoor, the university's directory engineer.

NetMail is doing a good job of serving the university's other 30,000 users, according to De Foor. About 14 months ago, the university decided to switch to a commercial messaging system from a legacy system consisting of Sendmail and Qpopper, running on FreeBSD Unix.

"My boss wanted me to use something that was supported by a vendor, so we could fix problems faster if anything went wrong," he says. "NetMail was evaluated and chosen as our replacement system."

Reasons for choosing NetMail included its Web-based interface, "open standards support" for IMAP and POP, and native directory. "We have a large NDS structure, and we wanted to use something that was directory-enabled instead of using LDAP. The price was good, too," De Foor adds.

De Foor estimates NetMail's cost at about $6 per user, beyond the university's NLA. The school is also testing NetMail on Linux servers, but hasn't gone into production yet with messaging on Linux.

Why is the university using Exchange instead of GroupWise with school administrators? "We haven't really looked at GroupWise, because it hasn't scaled with the hardware," according to De Foor.

Beyond inclusion of lightweight messaging systems in the mix, other money-saving tips from analysts include internal consolidation of departmental servers and storage; leveraging the messaging directory across complementary applications such as wireless access, and either centralizing or outsourcing messaging administration, support and help desk duties.

Depending on their own areas of specialization, outsourcers and hosters offer help with Exchange, Notes, and GroupWise, as well as with non-groupware systems. "You can mix together enterprise-level messaging with carrier-grade messaging from Sun (formerly iPlanet) or Critical Path, for example," Kucharvy advises.

Judd Frahm, VP of managed services for Syntegra, backs up that point. "We've had a number of customers questioning why they're on Lotus Notes. They had big aspirations for Notes, but they're finding it's over-priced for what they need. It could be that they only want to run Notes with a subset of their users," he maintains. Syntegra plays in both the enterprise and carrier spaces, using its own messaging server as well as Exchange.

When it comes to Exchange, you can also try to avoid upgrade costs, of course. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) for instance, has opted to host all its messaging with US Interactive (USi), but to stick with Exchange 5.5, instead of moving to the pricier Exchange 2000. So, too, has HR and benefits outsourcing firm Watson Wyatt.

Pick Your Partners
Generally speaking, smaller organizations tend to turn to full-scale messaging hosting, whereas large organizations prefer traditional outsourcing models, according to Kucharvy. There are plenty of exceptions, though

Other factors playing into outsourcing and hosting decisions include inhouse skill levels, which can vary dramatically from one organization to another, together with complexities and costs associated with operating a specific ICE.

Procter & Gamble, for instance, has decided to operate Lotus Domino and related applications by itself, while offloading Microsoft Exchange management to a partner.

Daimler-Chrysler, Circuit City Stores and AFLAC run their own internal messaging systems, but use partners for management of their dealer, retail store, and agent networks, according to Kucharvy.

"If you want integration with other applications, or if you have a spam problem, you'll probably look to a carrier," Kucharvy suggests.

Platform considerations: Microsoft Exchange

Consensus isn't unanimous on the costs and complexities of Exchange 2000. Some even claim that growing inhouse deployments of Exchange 2000 are one of the reasons behind slower-than-anticipated growth of messaging outsourcing and hosting.

Wayne Dunn, principal consultant at AimNet Solutions, points to several recent migrations from competing ICE to Exchange 2000, including Sybex International's move from GroupWise to the Microsoft environment.

"Exchange 2000 administrators only need to manage one directory: Microsoft's Active Directory," according to Dunn.

Still, though, the Ferris Group has estimated costs of Exchange 2000 upgrades alone at $400 to $800 per user.

In the CFF implementation, "Exchange 5.5 = 100% of the seats, (and) Exchange 2000 = 0% of the seats," according to Greg August, CFF's CIO.

In its first messaging deployment of all time, CFF is implementing Exchange 5.5 among 600 users at 60 different locations.

"Exchange was a 'no brainer' for us. We want to keep our focus on fundraising, and keep our folks out in the field chasing after that. And we needed something that works," August says.

"Deploying Exchange inhouse, though, was really not an option for us. It was cost prohibitive," he adds. "Building up an IT empire, while it can be fun, really was not practical."

CFF chose USI because it "offered a comprehensive solution (and) the cost was feasible, according to August. Other considerations included 24/7 support, availability/uptime, "in-depth security, a 'state-of-the-art' NOC, and access to multiple levels of technical expertise."

Watson Wyatt is also hosting Exchange 5.5 with USi. The company previously devoted 52 staff members to running Lotus cc:Mail inhouse across 35 offices in North America, Latin America and Asia, to a total of 4,250 users.

"Problems included significant downtime and difficulty in resolving downtime issues," says Michael Osterman, principal of Osterman Research.

Aside from providing much higher uptime, the hosted scenario has let Watson Wyatt reduce its staffing by 40 people, and cut its messaging-related staffing costs by 72 percent. Overall messaging costs went down by $1.4 million annually, or 39 percent, according to Osterman.

Conversely, the Kansas Farm Bureau Services (KFBS), another customer, decided to step up to Exchange 2000 from 5.5 during adoption of USi as its new Exchange hoster.

"It's not an easy thing to do a migration from 5.5 to 2000, but overall it was worth it," recalls Amy Grothaus, KFBS's Web manager. KFBS ran into some initial problems with inhouse access to resource scheduling and public folders. The organization is handling tasks such as new account set up inhouse, while relying upon USi for overall management.

"We've also expanded the capability for our users to access e-mail from anywhere with Outlook Web Access," according to Grothaus. "This is a very big plus."

KFBS is also an example of an organization that used to run two different messaging systems, but has now consolidated to a single system. Under the original arrangement, mainframe messaging system was used at 220 internal locations with 1200 seats, and a Eudora POP3 mail was used at five external locations with 200 seats.

The Eudora messaging, though, was plagued by "limited access and lengthy and frequent downtime, Grothaus says. Eudora was managed inhouse, but "not as a priority." In between the mainframe/Eudora implementation and USi, KFBS used another hosting partner for Exchange 5.5.

With Exchange, the organization "wants to extend e-mail to all of our users, so we could better service our members and also work more closely with our business partners, (by sharing) data a lot more easily," she contends.

Outside of USi, other successful hosters specializing in Exchange include Mi8, for example. At the high end of the large Exchange services market, HP and Compaq have each been running Exchange outsourcing services for big enterprises. "Now that HP has acquired Compaq, it must figure out how to integrate these services into a single offering that addresses the needs of HP, its customers and its partners," Kucharvy points out.

Meanwhile, Sprint PCS BUSiness Solutions has been creating a hosted wireless messaging implementation of Exchange/Outlook.

The Lotus Notes/Domino flavor

"Lotus Notes wasn't designed as a true messaging product. It was a workflow product, supported by a messaging component. It hasn't been easy to find people who could easily integrate Notes, because it's had a very slow shift to becoming non-proprietary," charges AimNet's Dunn.

For Microsoft, though, Notes/Domino is still the big one to beat. In 2001, IBM held a 49 percent share of the $1.68 billion worldwide ICE market, according to IDC. IBM was followed by Microsoft (39.4 per cent), Novell (6.2 per cent), Teamware (1.8 percent), Centrinity (.0.5 percent), and "other" (3.1 percent)

Some messaging partners, including Interliant and BT Ignite, offer hosting and other outsourcing services for both Notes/Domino and Exchange.

Sprint E/Solutions provides Exchange 2000 hosting and remote management to large and mid-sized organization, along with Sun (iPlanet) POP3 messaging for corporate extranets. "Domino/Notes is supported through a third-party relationship with Nexus Technology, but is not actively marketed," Kucharvy says.

Novell GroupWise & NetMail
Some detractors claim that GroupWise isn't as scalable as other ICE. GroupWise 6, though, increases scalability at least fivefold, according to Howard Tayler, Novell's GroupWise product manager.

"Where GroupWise 5 only supported 200 users on a server, GroupWise 6 will support up to 1,000 users on the same box. If users deploy on to new hardware, they might be able to support up to 5,000 users on a single server," Tayler elaborates.

Novell provides GroupWise outsourcing at customer locations through its partners, according to Tayler Examples of GroupWise partners include DWS, the Harding Group, and Viable Services.

"There really isn't enough fiber out there yet to support the hosted model. That's not to say that there aren't some good hosted providers. A lot of customers, though, are holding off from hosting until the infrastructure is in place," he maintains

Most organizations that outsource GroupWise administration are SMBs, according to Tayler. Larger companies tend to run GroupWise themselves.

Southwest Airlines, in fact, now has an inhouse deployment that mixes GroupWise with NetMail. "Pilots and flight attendants, for example, can use NetMail to access their e-mail from a Web browser when they're out of town," Tayler observes.

The University of Kentucky's De Foor says he only has a couple of items on his NetMail wish list. "It'd be nice if NetMail had shared calendaring. I don't care for shared calendaring myself, but some of the end users do. Some better anti-spam stuff would be useful, too, instead of having to integrate with third-party tools."

At this point, NetMail end users can write rules that will delete e-mails from particular users or hosts. "It'd be great, though, if administrators could flag e-mails as either 'spam' or 'non-spam,' on a systemwide basis," according to De Foor.

» See All Articles by Columnist Jacqueline Emigh

This article was originally published on Thursday Sep 5th 2002