iPhone and Enterprise E-mail… A Few Months Later Friday, Oct 24 2008 

When Apple released its iPhone 3G earlier this summer, Apple touted it as “The best phone for business. Ever.” For most users, that means enterprise e-mail, calendar, and contacts on the device. 

The iPhone 3G launched with a native support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync – a logical, but interesting choice for Apple. Logical because Microsoft Exchange is, by most measures, the leading e-mail solution in the market. Interesting in that, given the desktop marketing wars between “Mac and PC”, one wonders why Apple did not provide native support for IBM’s Lotus Notes also.

So where do things stand with other enterprise e-mail solutions a few months later? Below is a quick summary for IT shops that do not have Microsoft Exchange:

Google GAPE: For the iPhone, Google provides a tailored web interface. Another option is Gmail for mobile, a Java-based e-mail application. Gmail also supports IMAP synchronization of e-mail to iPhone’s native e-mail client.

IBM Lotus NotesIBM announced at the end of September the release of iNotes Ultralite software that supports Lotus Notes on the iPhone. The software is free for anyone with a Lotus Notes license. iNotes Ultralite is web application that leverages the Safari browser on the iPhone to access the Lotus Notes functions. The advantage is that since it is a browser, no data is stored on the iPhone (except in the browser cache), should the iPhone turn up missing.  However, it is not a client, so no data on the device also means no synchronization with the iPhone’s native e-mail, calendar, and contacts functionality.

Novell GroupWise: GroupWise 7 ships with GroupWise Mobile Server – an OEMed product from Nokia for mobile e-mail, calendar, and contacts for GroupWise. GroupWise Mobile Server does not support iPhone and, with the latest end of life announcement from Nokia for the product, will not in the future. Novell customers can utilize a partner solution recently released from Notify Technology that provides full support for the iPhone and GroupWise through the native iPhone functionality using ActiveSync.

Oracle Beehive: Using IMAP, Oracle Beehive e-mail is supported on the iPhone. Another option is to install Oracle Beehive Integration for Outlook, through which iPhone users can also synchronize calendar entries, tasks, and contacts through iTunes. Like Novell GroupWise, Notify Technology provides a technically better solution for Oracle Beehive also, with full support for the iPhone and Beehive through the native iPhone functionality.

Yahoo! Zimbra: Zimbra supports the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, which permits the iPhone to synchronize with Zimbra exactly as it would with Exchange. 

In sum, a few months later, there are ways for all of the enterprise solutions to get e-mail to the iPhone – mostly through IMAP or an optimized iPhone browser access. However, because Apple chose to support ActiveSync, the rich client experience of synchronization of e-mail, calendar, and contacts with the native iPhone clients is only available to those solutions that support ActiveSync. For IBM, Novell, and Oracle this means a web client, or a third party solution like Notify Technologies that connects their product with the iPhone through ActiveSync.

If Apple wants the iPhone to be “The best phone for business. Ever.”, Apple needs to add support for other e-mail vendors, notably IBM, to deliver synchronized enterprise e-mail, calendar, and contacts.

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

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IBM Announces Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging Thursday, Oct 23 2008 

“And so it begins…”

That is the lead that Larry Cannell will use next week when he kicks off our telebriefing entitled “Software as a Service Enterprise E-mail: Get Ready to Go Beyond the Grind.” Today, IBM officially announced Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging. The three heavy weights are now in the SaaS e-mail ring: Microsoft, IBM, and Google. Cisco and Yahoo! have said they will be joining soon.

For many organizations, this means that SaaS e-mail services are now a viable option, especially now that the two primary vendors of on-premise e-mail (IBM and Microsoft) have a SaaS alternative. IT departments can realistically consider transferring the responsibility and headaches for this essential utility to a vendor and reallocate their stretched time and resources to other projects. 

Legal compliance and discovery will remain a concern for many organizations. Who owns, possesses, and accesses the data in e-mail is important. A significant amount of any organization’s intellectual property flows through its e-mail. However, I expect that concern will be resolved over time as legal precedence is set and the vendors become more compliance savvy in their SaaS offerings. 

Organizations will benefit from SaaS e-mail because it will spur more innovation by the vendors. The e-mail client is an example. The web client has made significant technological progress because of consumer web e-mail. It will likely replace the desktop client in the future because of the advantages it provides a SaaS e-mail vendor. A SaaS vendor will not want to, or possibly be able to, upgrade desktop clients – that is difficult enough today for organizations with on-premise deployments. 

The change in the delivery model also provides many benefits. For example, not many organizations can say today that they are providing e-mail services for less than $10 a month per user. The economies of scale that the vendors can bring to this market will make the price point of SaaS e-mail very attractive. In addition, getting e-mail off of IT’s responsibility list will free them to work on other projects that may lend competitive advantage to an organization. 

A price war is a possibility. There is a significant amount of revenue at stake in this market. IBM is starting at $10 per user per month for Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging. Microsoft Exchange Online is also $10 per user per month. Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) suite of tools for enterprises is starting at $50 per year per user. Cisco (PostPath) and Yahoo! (Zimbra) have yet to announce pricing. 

“So it begins, the great battle of our time.” – Gandalf, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

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

Beer Google? Thursday, Oct 16 2008 

I learn something new everyday…  I didn’t know that e-mailing while intoxicated was a significant problem. Well, for all of you that feel you would benefit from a little help to prevent that scenario, Google has just the thing: Mail Goggles.  

This add-on for Gmail turns on a math Q&A when you hit the send button, with varying levels of difficulty. The idea is that if you aren’t quite sober, you might have a hard time solving the math problem in under 60 seconds, and the e-mail won’t send. This prevents you from sending that flame e-mail to your boss, spouse, significant other, etc. that you might regret sending the next morning.

You can adjust the days and hours designated for the add-on to be active and the math difficulty, for those of you that are better at math than expected when inebriated.

So, enjoy that Friday and Saturday night with the comfort knowing that your Gmail will protect you from your errant e-mails while intoxicated.  

For a step-by-step walk through of the Mail Goggles experience, read Claire Suddath’s article.  

E-mail as a Managed Service Wednesday, Sep 24 2008 

I had the opportunity to speak with Scott Gode, VP of Marketing and Product Management for Azaleos, yesterday. Azaleos provides managed service offerings for organizations using Exchange.  They also have a beta going for SharePoint managed services.

A couple of insights that I came away with after the conversation:

1. The interest in SaaS e-mail offerings is also creating interest in managed services for e-mail.  Not all organizations are willing or able to make the transition to a hosted e-mail service, but still want some of the advantages hosted e-mail offers for their IT departments.  

Under a managed service model, the organization still has the solution on premise and pays for licenses and hardware, but the management and monitoring of the solution is outsourced to a third party, saving on internal IT resources.  

So, the managed services model still gives an organization complete control (and the associated expenses) of their e-mail solution (especially important to an organization concerned about the security of the e-mail content) as it is still on premise, but the day-to-day work to maintain is outsourced for a predictable recurring cost.  

2. Virtualizing Exchange can successfully be done, but you need to know the limits and optimize.  

Scott’s team lives in the Exchange world and has developed expertise in virtualizing Exchange.  Scott stated that they have benchmarked a virtualized Exchange implementation as high as 3,000 users. The metrics Scott’s team used were reasonable. However, keep in mind that any benchmark with an e-mail solution is just an indicator, your mileage will vary.  

For example, I once worked with a luxury home construction company with e-mail users that were pretty average in their use (volume, frequency, etc.) except… they liked to add CAD drawings as attachments. The large file attachments created unanticipated loads within their system and caused issues for outgoing e-mails.

Five Reasons the Enterprise Messaging / E-Mail Market is Getting Interesting Again Tuesday, Sep 16 2008 

1.  Choice – For years Microsoft and IBM have dominated this market with Exchange and Notes, with Novell and Oracle holding onto a small share of loyal customers. With Google, Yahoo! (Zimbra) and Cisco (recently announced the PostPath acquisition) all pushing into the market, enterprises have some options to consider. Novell and Oracle both have major releases scheduled before end of the year also. Choice and competition are good for a mature market because they will foster lower prices and innovation.

2.  SaaS – The primary reason Google, Yahoo! and Cisco are interesting is that they are Software as a Service offerings for e-mail. Both Microsoft and IBM have similar offerings in the works. The SaaS model gives enterprise a new delivery model to consider. Larry Cannel covers this in depth in a recently published report that Burton Group customers can access here.  In addition, Burton Group customers can read the results and analysis by Craig Roth of recent Burton Group / Ziff Davis survey on SaaS here.   Also, Jack Santos goes in depth on IT strategy, SaaS, and Google in the document found here.

3.  Social Software – The social software evolution is taking e-mail back to its roots as an asynchronous communication method and providing interesting new ways for e-mail to fulfill this role in larger collaboration systems or platforms.

4.  Mashups – The interface for e-mail is becoming interesting again with mashups.  Check out any of these six solutions to see what I mean: ZenbeOrgooFuserTopicRGoowy, and Jubii.  These have been labeled by some as e-mail aggregators, but many of the features delivered demonstrate that there is much more than e-mail aggregation going on here.  Perhaps one of the most interesting mashups that is still in the “playing with the idea” stage is Adobe’s Genesis project.

5.  Legal Decisions – As I have previously blogged, the courts continue to delve into defining e-mail’s legal status through decisions that present challenges to users and enterprises alike. Compliance and e-discovery are becoming “block and tackle” e-mail issues that need to be addressed by enterprises, with the courts continuing to add complexity through new legal decisions. 

 

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

GroupWise 8 Open Beta Released Thursday, Sep 4 2008 

Novell GroupWise 8 released to open beta yesterday. As a former product manager for GroupWise, I think Novell customers will be pleased with the enhancements – otherwise, I didn’t do a very good job. But, having worked on the product, let me share some insight I have on this release that might be of interest.

While Novell doesn’t spend much marketing effort to compete with IBM and Microsoft in the enterprise messaging market, Novell does continue to develop and maintain GroupWise for their established customer base. Most market estimates place Novell’s single digit enterprise messaging market share at a distant third to IBM and Microsoft. But GroupWise is a good example of how e-mail systems once entrenched, tend to stay. 

It has taken Novell a long time to deliver on GroupWise 8.  GroupWise 7 released in August 2005. However, GroupWise customers will find some nice “delighters” in this next release, as Novell spent a significant portion of its development effort on the end user experience. 

Perhaps one the most significant differentiators in this release is that Novell can now tout a complete enterprise messaging solution from the server to the desktop for Linux. Novell has been using its own Linux desktop internally for several years. As a result, there was significant pressure on the GroupWise team to bring the GroupWise Linux client up to snuff. The Linux client in GroupWise 8 is arguably one of the richest Linux e-mail clients in the market. Unfortunately for Linux aficionados, it is not open source.  For GroupWise customers, this also means a very rich Mac client, as the two clients share the same code base. 

In addition to the Linux development, GroupWise contact management, task management and calendaring have been enhanced significantly – bringing them on par (or even slightly better, depending upon your opinion) with Exchange and Notes.  

Two major pain points for GroupWise that are not fixed in this release are the weak Outlook connector and no iPhone support. 

Overall, GroupWise customers should be happy with this next version and it should help Novell to retain customers. Now Novell needs to find a large, credible partner to help them provide a robust hosted GroupWise offering or potentially watch their customer base dwindle away as SaaS e-mail solutions become more viable for enterprises. 

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.

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.

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.   

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