Exchange 2010 the cure for CDC's e-mail bugs

Centers for Disease Control switches to new e-mail server program

IT people at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to use their high tech skills to fight the H1N1 flu or stop the spread of tuberculosis -- not manage the e-mail system. So the federal agency turned to a company called Azaleos Corp. to manage its migration from the Microsoft Exchange 2003 e-mail server to Exchange 2010, a process they started this week.

As many enterprises who read Network World have told us, migration to a new OS, browser, software suite or other technology is a complicated task that has to be studied carefully and well planned out. The cost of the upgrade has to be compared to the potential benefit of what improved productivity the upgrade may deliver. The experience of Azaleos switching the CDC to Exchange 2010 could serve as a case study to help other enterprises decide what to do, although migration may only really pick up once the Microsoft Outlook 2010 client side of the e-mail system becomes more widely available.

Seattle-based Azaleos is one of just 35 Microsoft National System Integrator partners, sharing company with better known firms such as Accenture and HP Services, said Scott Gode, Azaleos's vice president of marketing. It focuses on designing, installing and maintaining Microsoft Unified Communications systems including Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications and other related technology.

Azaleos won the bid to migrate CDC to Exchange 2010, which hit the market in November 2009, after meeting the requirements of a comprehensive RFP calling for large capacity mailboxes, security and data control, storage and a new e-mail archiving system. Azaleos also is delivering a BlackBerry Enterprise Server monitoring and management system for CDC employees who send and receive e-mails on their RIM BlackBerry devices.

The CDC has about 20,000 users on its e-mail system, which makes this one of the largest deployments of Exchange 2010 so far. In announcing the upgrade to Exchange 2010, the agency told its employees the new system starts "a new day for e-mail" at the CDC, Gode said.

"They apparently had so many hiccups and problems with e-mail in the past with their old system in terms of downtime, lost e-mail, etcetra, that they're very excited about moving to this new system," he said.

Over the next 10 weeks, Azaleos will work to install and deploy Exchange 2010 and then slowly migrate end users in batches from 2003 to 2010, a process that may run into the fall. It can be done more quickly, but CDC wants to take its time to do it right.

With each improvement in software, generally, migration gets easier because more tasks are automated. Nonetheless, Exchange migration is still a project and there "are learning curves, particularly on the deployment side," with each new release, Gode says.

While landing the CDC project is a coup for Azeleos, other prospects are holding back on migrations of their own, he added. While Exchange 2010 was launched last year, only this month did Microsoft release Office 2010, including Outlook 2010, the e-mail client companion to Exchange. That's been holding back business.

"I've talked to a lot of companies that have said, 'I'm really bullish about Exchange 2010, but I want to do my entire switch at the same time, so I'm going to wait until the Outlook 2010 client is available and then I'll start doing my switch over,'" Gode says.

What are your plans for upgrading to Exchange 2010? Is it an upgrade you're itching to do? Are you moving ahead with plans now that Outlook 2010 is also out? Let me know.

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