Another 800 LB Gorilla Jumps In – Cisco Acquiring PostPath Thursday, Aug 28 2008 

Microsoft and IBM have long dominated the enterprise messaging market, with Novell and Oracle holding onto a small and loyal set of customers. Google continues to threaten to enter this market but, as my colleague Guy Creese points out, still has a ways to go. This market hasn’t changed much in several years, other than it’s slow evolution in becoming integrated with hot new technologies like social networking. Now Cisco has jumped into the enterprise messaging market with the announcement of the acquisition of PostPath.

On the surface, Cisco has the size and resources to potentially challenge Microsoft’s and IBM’s dominance of the enterprise e-mail market. However, like Google, Cisco has a ways to go and displacing Microsoft and IBM as a preferred e-mail solution vendor will be very difficult. 

The e-mail market is established. To win, you have to take market share from Microsoft or IBM.  Their solutions are mature, integrated, and entrenched. Once in place, e-mail solutions tend to stay. 

Cisco’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach, ability to tie the PostPath solution to their existing collaborative technologies (notably WebEx), and knowledge of enterprise IT give them a shot taking market share. Initially, it is clear that Cisco is targeting Microsoft. 

It won’t be easy. Cisco has to answer the questions of why and how for enterprises. Why would an organization want to incur the cost to leave an e-mail solution that works for them today and how would an organization actually migrate to the Cisco solution?   

Both Microsoft and IBM are launching SaaS offerings that include e-mail and are meeting their customers enterprise messaging needs. Cisco is going to need a strong “Why” story. And if they don’t offer an easy “How” answer, then even a good “Why” story might not be enough to persuade many customers to leave their current solution. But, hey, this is technology. Anything can happen.

Note:  This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

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Virtualizing Exchange? Maybe not… Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

Microsoft recently made changes to its licensing program for Microsoft Server Products in Virtual Environments. My colleagues, Chris Wolf and Richard Jones, commented on the changes in licensing from the data center perspective. However, as part of the announcement, Microsoft also published a support statement for virtualizing Exchange. While the statement is very detailed, it led me to an important question for Microsoft – or as one of the Microsoft folks I talked with aptly put it: “This announcement begs the question of whether MSFT recommends virtualizing the Mailbox server role.”

The answer? “The answer is that while the Mailbox server role is supported in a virtual environment and customers are permitted to do it, we generally recommend customers run Mailbox servers on physical hardware.” 

The reasons are understandable – Mailbox servers have high server transactional costs that lead to high CPU utilization, heavy disk IO, and large quantities of attached data. 

The support statement doesn’t contain this advice, so after further conversation with the folks at Microsoft, I received the following clarifications: 

  • Virtualizing Exchange in test, development, or small deployments (branch office, for example) is not a bad idea because the load is lighter.
  • The role of the Exchange server needs to be considered – a mailbox server is a role where issues may arise, but an edge transport or client access server might be a good candidate, depending upon the architecture of the implementation.
  • You can throw more hardware power at the mailbox server role, depending upon the load, but the drawback may be that you end up paying more for the hardware than if you didn’t virtualize.  The mathematics of the TCO need to be examined in this scenario.
  • Virtualizing Exchange narrows your storage options, like deploying on a SAN, and may force smaller mailbox quotas. 
  • Avoid the mistake of making the virtualized Exchange a single point of failure. 
  • Note that support for virtualized Exchange 2007 is for SP1 or better.  The Microsoft folks verified that this is not because of specific fixes in SP1, but rather to take advantage of the fact that 2007 SP1 is the version supported on Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V. 

The folks at Microsoft offered some recommendations for virtualized Exchange also:

The sum? Virtualizing production Exchange mailbox servers is, generally, not a good idea from a technical perspective. When I asked the folks at Microsoft if they were going to use virtualization for Exchange Online, their answer was no.They said it would increase their management load and tweaking Exchange and AD to run multi-tenant was more cost effective.

Collaboration Between Schools and Parents Needed for Juvenile Diabetes Thursday, Aug 21 2008 

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation just published details on two programs to help parents, students, teachers, and school administrators regarding the needs of diabetic children in the school system.  

As a parent of a child with diabetes, I have experienced first hand the challenges of working with teachers and administrators to understand the challenges that my child faces and the help that they can give. Unfortunately, often the response – born of frustration with low funding, high classroom loads, and student performance requirements – is that they will do the best they can.  Translation:  “I have to teach too many kids to just focus on one.  I don’t have that kind of time.”  I am not arguing that there is an element of truth to that feeling, but the reality is that education is all about the individual.  A child with diabetes has different needs in the educational system than other children, as do children with other challenges.

Fortunately, the JDRF announced yesterday that it has published two key support programs to help families and schools address the needs.  The School Advisory Toolkit is available from any of the 85 local JDRF chapters or online.  The second school-related program JDRF introduced is an on-line help system called the Online Diabetes Support Team.  

Thanks to JDRF for their hard work.  I pleasantly surprised a cashier at my local grocery store last night.  I heard him ask the person in front of me if he wanted to donate a $1 to JDRF.  The person politely declined and went his way.  When it came my turn, the cashier rung up my purchases, but didn’t ask me if I wanted to donate.  So, I asked him.  And then I gave him everything I had in cash in my wallet and said I wanted to donate.  The cashier was excited (I think they get kudos for how many $1 contributions they get during their shift) and my hand got rapidly tired from signing all the $1 tennis shoe shaped donation slips. It was entertaining and felt good to be donating to a good organization.

Going Green with Web Conferencing Wednesday, Aug 20 2008 

While doing research for my upcoming web conferencing overview document, I was discussing with the folks at the Adobe the perceived value of web conferencing in relation to being “green.”  With new announcements almost daily from companies announcing their “green” efforts (For example, IBM’s latest announcement in it’s Big Green initiative), being green in IT is growing in popularity and trendy.     

The folks at Adobe showed me a nifty little application pod for Adobe Connect Pro from RefinedData that calculates, based on the IP address of attendees, the carbon footprint savings by attending a web conference meeting instead of traveling to the host location.  The add-in is called Footprints.  The screenshot below gives you a feel for it:

Footprints Preview

 

The idea is that the Footprints add-in will show attendees and the organization how much carbon they have saved the planet through the use of the Connect Pro conferencing tool.  If you are a Connect Pro customer, the add-in might be a way to tout your “greenness” –  if that is worth the $295 license fee from RefinedData to you.  You can download a free trial version here.

Another web conferencing vendor, iLinc, is expending a fairly significant effort to tout it’s iLinc Green Meter:

 

The gist of these tools is to provide some method to track and measure the benefit of web conferencing in relation to Green initiatives by organizations.  While the scientific accuracy of the real environmental benefit could probably be argued, the marketing value seems to be on the rise with the trendy and politially correct efforts to “show your greenness.”

 

E-mail and Privacy in the 9th Circuit Court Again Thursday, Aug 14 2008 

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has another key case related to e-mail and privacy to decide. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief on August 1st regarding a lower court’s decision in the case of Bunnell v. Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), asking for the lower court’s decision to be reversed. 

In this case, EFF filed a brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “arguing that federal wiretapping law protects emails from unauthorized interception while they are temporarily stored on the email servers that transmit them.”

The owners of TorrentSpy brought the case against the MPAA when a contractor for TorrentSpy, allegedly after being paid by the MPAA, hacked into the company email server and configured it to copy and forward all incoming and outgoing email to his personal account.  Ironically, the information was then allegedly used by the MPAA in a lawsuit levied against TorrentSpy for copyright infringement.

As I mentioned in my previous blog on this subject, I am not an attorney and appropriate legal counsel should be consulted before making any decisions based on any information shared in this post. However, coming from the perspective of e-mail as corporate communications tool, the EFF is absolutely right. 

The ramifications of the lower court’s decision, should it hold through the legal process, are significant.  Allowing the secret copying and forwarding of e-mail without a legal penalty or control that the federal wiretapping law provides would make e-mail a massive liability for enterprises. Much of most enterprises’ intellectual property flows through e-mail in various forms – e.g. content, attachments, and calendar items. I understand that enterprises would still have other methods to protect themselves, but losing the protection of e-mail as communication under this law could lead to all kinds of scenarios that make legal departments shudder.