Microsoft Updates Tools To Woo Domino Faithful

Just days before the annual Lotusphere love fest kicks off in Florida, Microsoft unveiled updated tools to ease migration from Lotus Notes/Domino to Microsoft's own "collaboration platform."

In years past, the company would have focused these tools on Exchange Server, but Microsoft's collaboration platform now comprises several other products such as SharePoint (both Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server) and Microsoft's Live Communication Server (LCS).

Due later this quarter, the Application Analyzer 2006 for Lotus Domino will examine a customer's current Lotus application environment and suggest a framework for moving those applications to one or more of the Microsoft applications.

Data Migrator 2006 for Lotus Domino, using technologies licensed from Proposion, and due in the second quarter, eases migration of template-based data in Domino to Windows Sharepoint Services templates.

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Microsoft is also updating the existing Exchange Calendar Connector for Lotus Notes/Domino and added three new Windows Sharepoint Services application templates to the 30 that have been available since August.

"Messaging migration is just part of [the story]," said Megan Kidd, senior product manager for Exchange Server. "Mail is a key part, but it's part of a broader environment and what we hear from customers is they want to take advantage of their existing investments in Microsoft technologies."

Those technologies include Windows Sharepoint Services bundled in Windows Server, the instant messaging and app sharing in Live Communications Server and integrating "presence" information from Active Directory, said Roger Murff, group product manager.

Microsoft also claims several new Notes-to-"Microsoft-collaboration-platform" wins including First Data Corp., with 32,000 users, and Arcelor a global steel maker with 50,000 European users. To be fair, Microsoft and IBM/Lotus have traded claims of account stealing for years. Privately, large integrators say there is very little wholesale migration from one mail system to another, although one integrator who works with both IBM and Microsoft says the latter has a slight edge, largely due to customers' trying to get the most out of their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) volume software licenses.

"There is a fair amount of interest on the part of Domino customers on at least examining the Microsoft alternative," said Matt Cain, vice president of Gartner, the Stamford, Conn.-based researcher.

But Cain and others say while it is fairly straightforward to move data from one system to another it is very difficult to move full applications. And since many Domino customers use their infrastructure for a lot more than mail, it's hard to convince them to move.

Microsoft still lacks two important components that IBM/Lotus offers, Cain said. "They offer data migration, not logic migration—you still have to rewrite the apps. And there is still no comparable tool to Domino Designer."

The latter is an IBM/Lotus rapid application development (RAD) tool. Microsoft had such a tool, internally dubbed Office Designer, in the works several years ago, but nixed it.

The Microsoft execs were quick to say that the company continues to rely on other migration tools from Casahl Technologies and Quest.

While IBM Software confused some customers and partners with what some see as dueling Workplace and Domino/Notes paths, Microsoft has also got some explaining to do. Will its future collaboration focus center on SharePoint or on technologies it purchased along with Groove Networks last year? There is a lot of redundant capability in there and it's unclear what will prevail.

Sources say that the Groove buyout happened too late for that company's secure-across-the-firewall-collaboration infrastructure to make it into Office 12, due the second half of this year..

Officially, a Microsoft spokeswoman says the company will release new versions of Groove Virtual Office and Sharepoint products and technologies in the Office 12 timeframe. "How these new technologies will be delivered to customers is still being determined," the spokeswoman said.

On its side of the equation, IBM/Lotus will use its Lotusphere pulpit next week to launch the promised Workplace 2.6 client and publicly demonstrate Project Hannover, aka Domino/Notes Release 8.