Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A CIO asked about Exchange, so I told him the truth

So we have a meeting in an office at a client which we briefly met 6 months previously. One by one a few other people pop in and out, some get introduced, others do not. Trying to stay focused we did not ask who everyone was, although in retrospect maybe we should have.

Along the way a side conversation started around a feasibility study on moving from Notes to Exchange. Needless to say I was not quiet and I hope none of you would be either.

Not going to get into too many details about the client but they run an iSeries Mail server of Domino and are mostly on R8.x for their dozen or so servers and have run Domino for about 10 years perhaps, 2,000+ employees with 1,000's of temporary/project staff.

Note: While much of this is about Microsoft, one could claim Gmail meets some of this as well, but in truth Gmail has a long way to go for corporate users.

1st question I asked was simple....why?
"Management wants it" was the reply.
"Can you help us" they asked.

I informed them that no, we can not help you move to Exchange, but we can try to provide some details they may not have been thinking about. We have managed some clients Domino infrastructures, for quite some time, during their migration phase because we feel that showing a client how their servers could be running(and still providing them new tools and benefits as well) is important the next time they think about these topics or want to go to the Cloud perhaps or use Lotus Connections. You would be surprised what makes people decide sometimes.

We discussed the real motive is to go to Outlook, not Exchange. They all nodded their heads. Some things never change.

Discussed how their sales/business development people would be missing out on the whole sidebar functionality for researching people. While they are not doing this today, we hope to show them more ways to benefit from it next time we visit.

Had they thought about their Domino apps? Those doc links? Not going to work anymore I informed them. "We are looking to rewrite them" was the reply. I wished them luck and suggested they start small before going whole hog breaking the bank.

What about their connectivity between offices and remote sites which currently do not have a server? They will under this plan OR they could really increase their bandwidth everywhere. Servers are cheaper.

Time. How long did they think, or were told, the migration would take? I suggested they get it in writing and hold firm to the dates and costs if they get that far because so many migrations end up taking way too long to get done, if ever. Oh and the Domino servers? Not going to go away either in time, especially if they are holding your applications. Which leads up to...

Money. Did they realize how much this would cost and, say it with me, "All they would get is email" when it is done. Running a dual universe is an expensive proposition, especially when you really have no idea when the end will be in sight.

What about support calls they asked? Well the truth is support calls will just be different types but not really less. I'd like to hear form anyone with good data on this topic.

Buyers remorse. So you go to Outlook. then you start finding out all the things the people in the company used Notes for and liked and they can't do it in Outlook and that's not fun. Notes may be full of customizations but at least you have the options.

Then we got to hardware/licenses.

In simple terms I outlined the parallel universe they would need to run for some time during the course of their migration (however long that will be). Keep in mind they would likely need a BES, FAX solution, Backup solution for Exchange running in parallel to their existing Domino infrastructure and of course need a full army of servers loaded with Windows/Exchange etc.. Less likely other items could include spam, malware, anti-virus solutions as well.

There is also the reality of their branches having such a small space for data centers that adding 3 or 4 more servers, even in a rack, may not be possible in every case.

The point was also pursued about open options and backwards and future compatibility and upheaval. Notes mail and apps good no matter what version of Notes or Domino running and across an abundance of operating systems. Compared to Exchange which is tied into the Windows server platform exclusively and unable to be upgraded without the whole infrastructure being upgraded at the same time.

The discussion ended with me reminding those in the room that if the boss wants something, you can only discuss it to a point, and retain your job. So think about it before ranting and raving about this being a bad idea.

It is a costly idea, no question. Really hard to justify it from a budget perspective. But we know it is not about budget, or technology, that wins in the end.

Go read the Applicable White Papers on costs for more information from a group which is an IBM and Microsoft Business Partner.

The CIO? He kept his arms folded the whole time he was in our meeting. He's European and very set in his ways and not very comfortable when surrounded by a flock of IBM/Lotus lovers. After the meeting, when we found out who he was, I couldn't stop laughing. Unknowingly I had delivered the pitch which he would never get from anyone in house(and unless we found about it and I got an audience) and he went off to ponder what I said.

Will it change his mind? I knew already money was an issue last time they discussed it, however they saw great revenue in Q1 and he is now thinking they can, spend, I mean waste, the money. With luck we will get another round of discussions from it. We did promise to provide backing details :-)

The option to go to LotusLive was brought up if cost was a reason, but no one could say cost was an issue, if they were prepared to spend so much money to just get email. If it was a public company I would short their stock if they ever make a decision.