Both IBM/Lotus and Microsoft have recently released new versions of their groupware suites--Notes/Domino and Exchange--with an emphasis on collaboration. We take them both through their paces.
Products like Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange provide a foundation for collaboration, e-business, and corporate messaging. They are designed with reliability, scalability, interoperability, and performance in mind and feature a number of tools that help keep your systems ticking over as well as making administering them easier.
In a nutshell, these products will help you set up policies, manage e-mail quotas and spam filtering, as well archiving your users' e-mail. You can also purchase add-ons that will enable you to take responsibility for creating workspaces or discussion forums for projects that you may have running. They will enable you to share documents with colleagues from around the world in real time. They can communicate using instant messaging to mobile phones and wireless PDAs. Another area where they can help you is development. They can help you quickly create multi-platform applications to automate business processes and increase workflow. You can also combine Web-based standards to create e-commerce solutions.
The real battle between Lotus and Microsoft no longer rests on mere e-mail or calendaring. These days, the real competition is in developing environments where staff can collaborate on projects--Microsoft's SharePoint and Lotus' QuickPlace and Sametime. These two companies also wrangle in the area of rapid application development, enabling you to develop custom collaborative applications for staff.
Both Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange integrate a Web server. Microsoft's Exchange server is Internet Information Server (IIS). If you want to develop Web-based applications you can use the Comprehensive Object Library (CDO). CDO for Exchange 2003 includes enhanced calendaring and contact management, and is dual-interfaced for programming in C++, Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual Basic Scripting Edition, Java Script, and Java.
For mail, Exchange Server can use SMTP/POP3, IMAP, and Microsoft's proprietary format MAPI. It integrates best with Microsoft Outlook. There's an Outlook Web Access client that provides a robust Web client for remote, home, and occasional users.
Lotus Domino offers iNotes mail and POP3 mail as its two primary e-mail services. iNotes Mail service provides you with two ways to access your mail: via a Web-browser (iNotes) and via a POP3 client. POP3 Mail service allows you to access your mail using standard mail clients such as Outlook Express or Eudora. However Lotus Domino works best with the Notes client, so in order to get the best performance from your Lotus Domino server, you should use Notes.
Choosing the right product can be a difficult task. There are a number of factors such as company size, whether or not you're going to be developing applications in-house, network infrastructure and budget which all have to be considered.
For this review we take a look at some of the features of Lotus Domino and Exchange Server and the add-ons that make them full-featured collaboration products.
Lotus Domino 6 Enterprise ServerIBM's Lotus Domino 6 Enterprise Server and Lotus Notes 6 is an impressive collaboration product that is packed with features and now a lot easier to administer and use as a client.
We had a specialist from IBM install the Lotus Domino server component on Windows 2000 Server SP3. Lotus Domino Server was installed on a Xenon machine with an Intel Pentium 4 3.0Ghz processor and 1GB of RAM. We also supplied two of our own servers to install QuickPlace and Sametime. QuickPlace was installed on an Acer Xeon-based server with 1GB of RAM and Sametime was installed on an Acer Dual Pentium III with 1GB of RAM.
The reason for using three servers is in fact for architectural reasons and not performance issues. QuickPlace and Sametime currently run on specific versions of Lotus Domino V5, so they won't work on Lotus Domino 6 server (IBM told us these products will run on Lotus Domino 6 in the coming months). Also QuickPlace and Sametime should not run on the same box. They can be bunged together, but this is not usual practice and the administration guides tell you to run these products on separate servers. The key point here is that the products are architected in this way because in the real world you would run these products separately to maximise scalability and resiliency. We also plugged each of these servers to a D-Link Fast Ethernet switch and connected two client PCs up to the switch. The installation went quite smoothly and we were able to get everything working with the latest service packs in a bit over one hour.
One of the great features of Lotus Domino is the Administrator tool. It allows you to create and manage people, groups, and servers. You can establish and maintain standard settings and configurations and create policies so you can automate redundant administrative tasks. For example you can create and modify the set of rules that define how documents are archived. You can create policies to dynamically update the desktop settings and configurations of users. It can track the number of Lotus Notes users you have as well as the number of client licenses you have. The Administrator tool however did appear a little cluttered. There are quite a few tabs that run horizontally and icons that run vertically, which can make you feel a bit lost.
The sign-on process has come a long way. You can theoretically only have to sign in once and be able to access multiple resources. In other words you should be able to log into Windows and then be able to access Notes or iNotes. And when you change your Windows password, Domino will be able to synchronise and change your other passwords.
The Lotus Notes 6 client is available for most versions of Windows. However, it's not available for Windows Server 2003, nor will Lotus Notes R5 client and Lotus Domino R5 server run on Windows Server 2003. IBM indicated to us that support for Windows 2003 would begin in Lotus Domino versions 6.0.3 and 6.5.
The mail has been enhanced to include several new features like being able to drag and drop files to and from your desktop. Another useful view feature is the Auto Inbox Refresh. This enables Notes to check for new mail by automatically refreshing your inbox.
With Calendar and Scheduling, you can customise the colours of your calendar and choose from the many different daily, weekly, and monthly views. You can also assign someone like your PA to have full access of your calendar so they can create notifications for you.
Lotus Domino now offers a new network compression feature that reduces the amount of data exchanged between Lotus Notes clients and Lotus Domino servers. This feature would significantly reduce the traffic on your network or over a slow WAN or dialup link. What the compression feature actually does is compress data at the source, transmit the data to the destination, then uncompress it at the destination.
Lotus Domino has a streaming feature that speeds up replication. For example, smaller documents are replicated first so users can begin working with these documents while larger documents are still replicating. Users can also define locations for example home or office and can configure the replication settings for specific locations.
Lotus Domino also allows for you to read your e-mail online by using iNotes, which is designed for Web-based users. Since the user settings are stored on the server, you will be able have access to all your e-mails and all the features of the standard Notes online.
Lotus Domino also gives you the ability to lock and unlock files. Users are now able to lock files preventing others with the same access from modifying them. The general performance of Lotus Domino has also improved now that it makes use of multitasking by allowing the user to do other things while Lotus Domino is checking for new e-mail, replicating, or running background applications.
QuickPlace is an application that allows you to create a team workspace so users that are apart of the team can share information. QuickPlace has to be installed onto a server by an administrator. Users can then create their own team workspace.
QuickPlace features a discussion area where users can post messages that can be viewed by all the other users in the same workspace. Users can then reply to messages as well as edit messages.
There is a calendar, which allows you to view scheduled meetings, for example. There is also a workspace that allows you to publish certain tasks that you would like completed by users that are a part of the workspace. You can also view a list of members who are a part of your workspace. QuickPlace features a search function that allows you to quickly find information in any workspace that you may be a member of.
Users can also customise their workspace. QuickPlace will allow you to decorate the way you want your place to look like. You can choose from a myriad of visual themes and you can set the background colours, textures, and fonts and you can create your own custom themes if you want. You can also show and hide various items, create custom forms for your workspace, and even extend your place by creating private spaces for selected members to work in.
Another feature of QuickPlace is that it allows team members to take information with them offline after they disconnect from the network.
We didn't have much time to test Sametime this issue. We can basically tell you that Sametime is an instant messaging and Web conferencing solution. It includes three components: the Sametime server, Sametime client, and developer toolkits. The server provides the platform for managing the flow of information between all the clients. Users run the client software to message other clients through instant messaging and the developer toolkits give you the ability to embed real-time collaboration into Web and Windows-based applications.
There are three other additional components you can buy to expand the capabilities of Sametime. With Sametime Everyplace, you will be able to send instant messages to Sametime users with mobile phones and wireless PDAs. Check out the May issue of Technology & Business if you would like to learn more about e-mail to mobile and Everyplace. Sametime IM Gateway will let you connect to other instant messaging communities, while Enterprise Meeting Server will allow you to host and administer enterprise-wide Web conference environments.
|Product:||Lotus Domino 6 Enterprise Server|
|Price:||Domino Enterprise Server AU$5395 per CPU, Notes Desktop Client $228. See Pricing and support table on page 82 for more details.|
Excellent cross-platform support.
Tightly integrated collaboration system that can grow with you.
Excellent ROI for organisations already running Notes/ Domino.
Wide range of support available.
Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
Exchange 2003 comes in two flavours, Standard Edition for small to medium organisations and Enterprise Edition for large organisations. The Standard Edition has a few limitations. It supports only one storage group and it can only contain two databases.
Its databases are also limited to a maximum size of 16GB. The Enterprise Edition supports up to four storage groups and each group can have five databases. Databases can also be up to 16TB. Eight-way clustering is also supported in Enterprise Edition.
Exchange 2003 runs on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows 2000 Server SP3 or later, however it's optimised for Windows Server 2003. Also several of Exchange 2003's features require Windows 2003 to run.
We installed Exchange 2003 on the Xenon Pentium 4 server and SharePoint on the Acer Xeon-based server. We had to install Windows Server 2003 on both of these servers before we installed Exchange and SharePoint. We also plugged each of these servers to a D-Link Fast Ethernet switch and connected two client PCs up to the switch.
We also had to configure the test server as a domain controller. What domain controllers do is store data and manage user and domain interactions, including user logon processes, authentication, and directory searches. So in order to provide the Active Directory service to network users and computers, we had to configure the test server as a domain controller. We also had to install IIS 6.0 and ASP .Net v1.1. With SharePoint, we didn't have to do too much to get it up and running.
The Active Directory Users and Computers and Exchange System Manager can be used to administer networks, computers, services, and other system components. Exchange also features a Migration wizard. The wizard makes it easy for you to migrate mail from Microsoft Exchange as well as Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise.
The Outlook client and Notes client are noticeably different. Outlook is a little easier to use and looks and feels more like a typical mail client. Notes appears a little dated and different but that said, it won't take you too long to get the hang of.
You can configure Exchange 2003 to run Outlook Web Access much the same as you can configure Notes/Domino to run iNotes. Exchange 2003 also has integrated support for mobile devices, so devices such as Pocket PC PDAs and Windows-powered smart phones can synchronise with Exchange 2003.
Exchange also has some new improved abilities to restrict connections and e-mail messages that work like Access Control Lists. There's support for attachment blocking, and it also comes with new anti-spam features to block mail and has an improved virus scanner.
SharePoint Team Services is essentially a team Web site that is designed to improve the way in which your team manages and shares information. It is designed for small workgoups, while SharePoint Portal Server is designed for large workgroups. With Team Services you can create a team or site that can serve as a central repository for information relating to a project. For example, you could share documents, tasks and discussions with anyone who is from the same team and all you need to share information is a Web browser and access to your corporate network or the Internet.
The team home page or the welcoming page can list any announcements or events or any other important information that you want your team to be aware of. The home page can also be customised to display only certain information. You can also change the way your site looks like by assigning a different template.
You can also create discussion boards where team members can post messages for everyone to view and reply to. You can create your own surveys and even generate graphs based on the information that was collected from your survey. Team Services also uses a task list to keep track of who has to do what in your team.
As we mentioned large workgroups would use SharePoint Portal Server v2.0. SharePoint Portal Server gives you more control over your information. The table below gives you a good view of the differences between Team Services and Portal Server.
|Product:||Microsoft Exchange Server 2003|
|Price:||Exchange Standard Server AU$1533 per server license, Exchange Client $147. See Pricing and support table on page 82 for more details.|
Limited support for non-Microsoft operating systems.
Scales up quite well. Option of Standard and Enterprise Editions.
Good ROI for organisations already running Exchange.
Wide range of support available.
Pricing and support
- Domino Messaging Server (e-mail only) $2084 per CPU
- Domino Enterprise Server (e-mail, applications and clustering) $5395 per CPU
- Notes Messaging Client (Notes Client and Browser access to e-mail only) $164
- Notes Desktop Client (Notes Client and Browser access to e-mail and applications) $228
- iNotes Messaging (Browser only access to e-mail only) $115
- iNotes Collaborative (Browser only access to e-mail and applications) $177
- Domino Designer $1376
- Domino Administrator (included in the server license)
- QuickPlace $89 per user
- Sametime $87 per user
(Both Sametime and QuickPlace need a user licence only.)
All software is sold with 12 months maintenance, which includes software updates and 24 x 7 telephone and e-mail support. There are also a number of other different licensing models (like extranet servers with unlimited users).
- Exchange Standard Server $1533
- Exchange Client Access License (CAL) $147
- Exchange Enterprise Server pricing not available
The price for SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is yet to be announced, however:
- SharePoint Portal Server 2001 $8770
- SharePoint Portal Client Access License (CAL) $159
These figures are based on open business entry-level volume licensing prices. The vast majority of Australian customers will purchase these products according to the Open, Volume, or Select License agreements that they have chosen.
Visit Microsoft's Web site for extensive support information or to log incidents online. Phone support is Mon-Fri 8am to 8pm. Variety of options starting at $297 per incident.
If a company invests in Lotus Domino and Lotus Notes, it will be spending more than it would for Exchange and Outlook, however the potential is much greater with Lotus Domino on board. If you're after a complete collaborating environment and plang on developing in-house applications, then Lotus Domino would definitely be your best bet. If only basic e-mail and groupware capabilities are needed, then you could have an argument for Exchange.
We should also mention that many companies are showing an impressive return on investment with Lotus Domino and we're not surprised. It features a more consistent framework than Exchange, its common toolkits are more tightly integrated, and above all it's a much better platform for developing applications. Quickplace was also our preferred application for sharing information among small teams. We were able to move around Quickplace much easier and it only costs $89 per user.
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RMIT IT Test Labs is an independent testing institution based in Melbourne, Victoria, performing IT product testing for clients such as IBM, Coles-Myer, and a wide variety of government bodies. In the Labs' testing for T&B, they are in direct contact with the clients supplying products and the magazine is responsible for the full cost of the testing. The findings are the Labs' own--only the specifications of the products to be tested are provided by the magazine. For more information on RMIT, please contact the Lab Manager, Steven Turvey.