Rivals ready to exploit Exchange weaknesses

Microsoft may face tougher times ahead for Exchange sales as rivals smell blood

Among the more controversial announcements to come from Microsoft in recent months is the decision to make the next release of its market leading e-mail and collaboration server, Exchange Server 2007, available only for 64-bit platforms.

On the plus side this will boost scalability, enabling a single Exchange server to handle up to four times as many users as on a 32-bit platform. However, it also means customers having to upgrade both server hardware and the Windows operating system in order to benefit - a move that adds significantly to the cost of deployment and likely to prompt some customers to take a serious look at the alternatives.

Fully aware of this, rival vendors are queuing up with enhanced versions of their products to fill the void. IBM is, naturally, at the forefront recently adding a Linux client to its Lotus Notes software. However, a number of smaller open source developers have also been hitting the headlines with a couple of significant announcements in the run up to the recent Linux World conference.

Scalix, for example, released a community preview of its forthcoming Linux based Scalix 11 solution, adding new Web services and an intelligent caching technology for use with Microsoft Outlook. Scalix 11 also gets enhanced XML-based synchronization and a lightweight web-based client for mobile devices.

Zimbra, meanwhile, released Version 4.0 of the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS), with a new feature called Zimbra Documents for ad-hoc sharing of information. ZCS 4.0 also sees the addition of over the air synchronisation to mobile devices, enhanced Outlook integration, new user-access controls and management tools.

Open source products like those from Scalix and Zimbra are starting to win converts from Exchange, especially with smaller companies put off by the cost and complexity of the Microsoft product. However, there are plenty of longer established proprietary developers vying for the same market.

Most notable here are Alt-N with its popular MDaemon solution and UK developers Gordano and Kerio. All three have released new versions of their software ahead of the Exchange Server 2007 launch (not now expected until early next year) with the clear aim of wooing customers away from the Microsoft platform.

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