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MICROSOFT'S EXCHANGE SERVER really came of age with the release of version 2007. Exchange 2007 offers a solid and complete messaging platform. The beta release of Exchange 2010 serves up even more features and functionality and looks like it may be the most robust Exchange offering yet.
Exchange has long enjoyed the lion's share of the business messaging platform market. Does this mean that it is the best e-mail platform offering out there? Some would argue that isn't the case. Microsoft dominates in the business client/server software market, so it stands to reason that Exchange would be the "best fit" for an organization already running a Windows environment. Perhaps that fact accounts as a major reason Exchange is so widely deployed.
However, IBM's Domino platform with Lotus Notes still has a strong following. Die-hard Lotus Notes fans cite stability and security as the primary benefits for eschewing Exchange for Notes. We took a side-by-side view at the two latest releases of each platform: Exchange 2010 and Lotus Domino 8.5 and each e-mail server's respective clients: Outlook 2007 and Lotus Notes client 8. We assessed each in five key areas: installation and deployment, interoperability and customization, feature set, performance and pricing.
Installation And Deployment
E-mail servers almost always require some sort of preplanning before actual installation and deployment. Launching the SETUP.EXE file of Exchange 2010 brings up a splash screen with links to useful information.
There are several components that must be installed before embarking on an installation of Microsoft Exchange 2010. The SETUP.EXE splash screen lists and links to each component; all are available as free downloads from Microsoft's Web site. Prerequisites for installing Exchange 2010 are the .Net 3.5 Framework, Windows Remote Management 2.0 and Power Shell v2. IIS components.
Of course, having to download each component and then reboot the server after each is installed adds to the length of time it takes to get Exchange installed. Once that is done, Exchange can be installed. The program can be installed with typical settings or with customized settings. "Custom" settings refer to the installation of Unified Messaging, an Edge Transport server role or the Exchange Management Console.
Another time-consuming yet necessary part of the Exchange installation are the Readiness Checks. The system will check for additional prerequisites needed to install Exchange. Any Active Directory or DNS issues could really set back the installation time during the Readiness Check phase. However, the time it takes to do the check is worth it. This is a big improvement over legacy versions of Exchange.
Install of Lotus Domino Messaging Server moved like lightning in comparison. To install the core Domino and Lotus Notes platform took about two minutes, although the process was not completely glitch-free.
After installing Domino, attempting to launch Domino as a Windows Service gave a "Notes.ini file for this server is invalid error" message. There seemed to be an issue with the installer -- it appeared to be configured to write files to a directory path that did not exist on our Windows 2008 Server. Modifying the .ini file to the path containing the appropriate files corrected the error.
Domino installed with the following features by default: templates, certificate management, Web services data files, Dojo, XPages, Lotus iNotes, Sametime integration, performance monitoring, plus a host of other features.
You get a lot of extra goodies with a Domino install. After installation, the server had a database replicator, an agent manager and other "tasks" that can be added to customize the environment. Each task is listed in the interface with a description that explains what that task is all about.
For deployment, we tested connecting each e-mail client to each e-mail server. Outlook is a snap to configure. Once a user has a mailbox set up, the client also needs to point to the server. The Lotus Client configuration is a bit more involved; not only does the server name have to be specified, a mail file and User ID file must exist for the user.
For Installation, points go to Lotus. The install process is a smooth one because the installer contains all of the necessary files to get Domino up and running in a relatively short amount of time.
Exchange 2010: 4 out of 5 stars, Lotus Notes 8.5: 5 out of 5 stars
Interoperability And Customization
Lotus Notes as part of the Domino platform supports a multitude of operating systems. A 32-bit or 64-bit version of Domino can be installed on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Linux, Sun Solaris or IBM AIX.
In contrast, not surprisingly, Exchange Server 2010 is a single unified communications system designed to be run as part of the Windows ecosystem. Exchange 2010 also requires 64-bit architecture.
Although there are a vast amount of granular controls and varied configuration options, Exchange is pretty much a straight-out-of-the-box software product, and there isn't exactly a lot of room for integrating custom components.
Lotus Notes, on the Domino platform, is highly customizable and there are modules for developers to integrate custom components. Lotus Notes supports the integration of mash-ups—Web applications that integrate data from multiple sources into one single interface. Composite applications are another way to customize the Notes environment and are weightier than mash-ups.
IBM also offers a Lotus Expeditor Toolkit. It is used to create custom plug-ins for not only Lotus Notes but for Lotus Sametime, the unified communications platform from the Lotus Software division of IBM and for Lotus Symphony, Lotus' office applications suite.
In terms of interoperability and customization, Lotus is the clear winner over Exchange. However, all of that customization horsepower can lead to a level of complexity for Notes administrators. Businesses are opting more for the shrink-wrapped feature set of Exchange. An added plus for Lotus Notes is the ability to install on multiple platforms and operating systems.
Exchange 2010: 2 out of 5 stars, Lotus Notes 8.5: 5 out of 5 stars
Next: Feature Set