Messaging migration is not for the faint of heart

* Migrating to a new messaging platform is not quick and painless

At some point, just about every organization will be faced with the decision of migrating to a new messaging platform, whether that involves migrating to the next major upgrade of the same vendor’s platform or migrating to a new vendor’s offering. Regardless of which path an organization chooses, the move will typically require a substantial commitment of IT and other resources to make the transition as painless as possible.

In a large research project that we conducted in late 2006, we found that only 17% of organizations planned to migrate to another vendor’s messaging platform during the next two years. This is in contrast to the 30% of Exchange-enabled organizations that indicated they would migrate to Exchange 2007 during the next 12 months.

The reason that I bring this up is that a survey conducted by a major, very credible and very well-respected consulting firm found that nearly one-quarter of respondents indicated that they would migrate from Exchange to either a Linux-based or open source messaging platform within the next 18 months. While I’m sure the methodology was sound and the research was conducted in an unbiased manner, I believe that the percentage of organizations that will migrate away from Exchange just won’t be as large as that.

To be sure, many organizations are considering alternatives to Exchange. Vendors like PostPath, Scalix, Zimbra, Rockliffe, CommuniGate, Ipswitch and many others offer messaging platforms that are less expensive, that can run on 32-bit hardware and that offer a number of important benefits, not least of which is Outlook compatibility and lower cost.

However, migrating to a new messaging platform is often a difficult and disruptive activity and one that most IT organizations don’t eagerly anticipate. The level of difficulty involved in migration puts serious brakes on organizations’ likelihood of migrating, even if another platform offers some desired advantages. Add unified communications into the mix and the integration of voice into the messaging platform and the decision becomes even more difficult.

What I believe ultimately will happen is that Exchange will lose some customers to Linux-based and open source alternatives, it will gain share from other platforms, and its user base will continue to grow. Further, I believe that the Exchange alternatives will also do very well as messaging continues to expand worldwide. What I don’t believe, however, is that huge numbers of users will be migrated from one platform to another in the short term. Migration is simply too much of a pain for that to happen.

I’d like to get your feedback on this – please send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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