Australia's biggest known migration to Microsoft's new Exchange 2007 collaboration platform will kick off early next year, as brewer Lion Nathan moves around 3,000 users to the new system.
"We'll be looking to February/March to start migrating users," the company's chief information officer, Darryl Warren, told ZDNet Australia this week in a telephone interview.
Lion Nathan has had some 100 users trialling test versions of Exchange 2007 for a little over four months, as part of Microsoft's rapid deployment program and with a little help from Hewlett-Packard.
That group is mostly composed of staff from the brewer's IT department, but also includes some other workers and Warren himself. The rest of Lion Nathan's workforce are still using Exchange 2003.
"The thinking behind it [the trial] was number one, we wanted to understand what the product was capable of," said Warren. "Number two, we had for quite a while been looking at how we could better manage our mail environment."
The migration will see Lion Nathan consolidate 10 mail servers down to three, cutting costs and administration effort along the way.
"The new Exchange environment allows you to handle large amounts of data in single environments, and I guess the thing for us is it actually allows us to create a more robust, more reliable environment -- because you're doing it with less servers," said Warren.
Exchange 2007 will also bring Lion Nathan additional functionality in the non-e-mail areas of calendaring and group scheduling. Warren praised the upgraded Outlook Web Access client delivered through a Web browser. "I think there will be users who will use the browser interface as their mail interface in time," he said.
Not a big deal
The migration will not immediately impact Lion Nathan's user base in a big way, particularly as the company will not upgrade its employees' Outlook 2003 desktop clients right away.
"It's actually seamless for the users," Warren said. "They don't suddenly have to connect to any other Exchange server or anything like that. They just come in, and when their Outlook client connects, it just says 'I'm connecting to this new server', and away they go."
He noted probably the only immediate impact on end users would be the need to inform them of the upgraded experience possible through the Web-based client to Exchange.
Warren said at some point Lion Nathan would probably also look at a rollout of the Outlook 2007 software, an upgraded version of Microsoft's desktop client designed to dovetail nicely with Exchange 2007.
While Outlook 2007 (which comes as part of the Office 2007 pack) isn't strictly necessary for users to connect to Exchange 2007, it would enable some additional functionality not provided in Outlook/Exchange 2003.
Also down the road is better integration between Exchange/Outlook and Lion Nathan's Cisco-based IP telephony system.
But a rollout of Microsoft's associated Windows Vista new operating system is a bit further away. "We haven't taken a position on Vista at this stage," said Warren. "I think as hardware starts to ship with Vista, then we'll begin to look at it. We'll build a standard operating environment over time."