To upgrade or not to upgrade
Microsoft Australia unified communications specialist Sandra Lee-Joe says almost all of the vendor's large Australian customers are looking at Exchange 2010, and key Microsoft partners Dimension Data and Data#3 have already conducted several implementations each that have consisted of 10,000 mailboxes or larger.
Data#3 national practice manager (Microsoft Services) Scott Gosling says much of the interest from customers has come from those engaged in merger and acquisition activity -- where systems integrations is inevitable. But the public sector is also interested, he says.
Not all of the migrations will be publicised, however.
"Exchange [as a platform] has been in the market for a long time," says Gosling. "There's some good skills in customers now. A lot of customers will do their own upgrade without any fanfare. The days of the database schema are gone."
Dimension Data Microsoft global alliance director Brian Walshe says he's been surprised by the amount of interest in Exchange 2010.
"The reality is today, anyone that is upgrading Exchange is going to go to 2010," he says.
Walshe says the launch of Outlook 2010 next week as part of the new Office 2010 will boost demand for Exchange 2010, as customers can use one platform to unlock features in the other.
Other customers are migrating from IBM's Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise to what some now see as the best of breed product.
However, the largest factor that is driving upgrades in the sector is that most of the Exchange ecosystem in Australia is still based on Exchange 2003 rather than Exchange 2007.
Just as Windows 7 upgrades have been popular for desktops still on XP, customers on Exchange 2003 will view Exchange 2010 as the best means to solve some of their pain points with the legacy software.
But Data#3's Gosling admits there are customers that are "sitting" on Exchange 2007 as a platform and are happy with what they currently have. Examples include conservative government agencies or even retail giants like Woolworths -- which recently flagged its intention to migrate from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007 -- despite the availability of 2010.
Tier two banking giant Suncorp was an early adopter of Exchange 2007, but it's currently happy with its platform and doesn't see the need to upgrade.
It's a similar situation with the Queensland University of Technology. Back in 2007, the university rolled out Exchange 2007 as part of Microsoft's Rapid Deployment Program. But last month, the university's director of facilities and infrastructure Graham Keys said it was doing the initial planning and review of Exchange 2010, but would not be implementing until at least the end of 2010.
There just isn't an urgent need.
VU has been a supporter of Exchange throughout the years. But County said Exchange 2010 was the first version of the software that he considered truly enterprise-level.
"The old versions of Exchange, for example," he said, "weren't as good as you might have wanted for disaster recovery and how you could actually integrate that into your storage area networks. [Exchange] 2010 is more enterprise, more robust."
For example, County says in previous versions of Exchange, administrators had to do a lot of work creating parallel storage architectures behind the scenes to do maintenance on mailbox structure -- even though 2007 had some functionality in this area.
"It really came down to creating two different parallel structures to mirror each other," he said.
Exchange 2010 has that feature built-in, County says, as part of better disaster recovery capabilities and more flexible storage mechanisms. "[Exchange] 2010 is really hitting that mark a lot more," he says.
Exchange 2010 has a bunch of new features (most visibly, the improved Outlook Web Access), but it is this improved focus on storage that is commonly mentioned as one of the main features in the software.
"Seventy percent of any Exchange environment is probably storage," says Microsoft's Lee-Joe.
Lion Nathan, for example, is taking advantage of one of the most hyped features of Exchange 2010 -- the ability to do away with complex and expensive storage area networks and replace them with cheaper direct-attached storage units (HP StorageWorks 60 Modular Storage Arrays).
The storage area networks that were previously servicing Exchange implementations can then be re-purposed to a more useful application.
DiData's Walshe says he's also seeing an "enormous" amount of interest in Exchange 2010's new rights management rules around email, because large organisations are looking to better secure their data.
And he's also seeing user interest in some of the lesser-publicised features of the new software -- for example, its Mail Tips option. Mail Tips warns users -- before they send an email -- about pitfalls.
For example, it'll let you know if an external recipient has been added to an internal email discussion you're having, or whether you're emailing someone who's already set a holiday message and might not be around to receive it.
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