Domino makes strides in TCO battle with Exchange

As recently as three years ago, Exchange beat up on Domino in a total cost of ownership battle. A new report, however, shows the tides are turning.

Results of a survey from The Radicati Group Inc. comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Microsoft Corp.'s and IBM Lotus Software's messaging environments show that Lotus' messaging products are no longer significantly more expensive than Microsoft's. In fact, in some ways they're cheaper.

The study, sponsored jointly by Lotus and Microsoft, compared all costs associated with implementing and using Lotus Domino/Notes 5.5 versus Microsoft Exchange 2000 in Global 1000 enterprises.

When Radicati compared the cost of software and hardware acquisitions as well as software maintenance contracts, Lotus came out only slightly more expensive than Microsoft -- about $3 more per user in both categories.

However, Lotus had a lower average TCO than Microsoft in installation and configuration by more than $23 per user.

Lotus also had a nearly $50-per-user advantage in costs associated with downtime, such as lost productivity. According to Palo Alto, Calif.-based Radicati, the discrepancy in downtime costs was due largely to unscheduled Exchange downtime, while most of Domino's downtime was scheduled.

Ed Brill, director of infrastructure marketing, messaging and collaboration products for Lotus, said when a similar study was conducted three years ago, the average TCO for a Lotus environment was 250% more than for Microsoft.

Brill credited the savings to improvements in Domino Release 5 over past versions, noting its ability to handle more users per server and increased reliability.

In some areas the advantage belonged to Microsoft.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant had a nearly $68-per-user advantage in average administration costs over a three-year period. It also held a slight edge in follow-up training costs for administrators and help desk staff over both one-year and three-year periods.

Microsoft also had the lower overall ownership cost over a three-year period by about $3 per user, largely due to lower administration costs. Lotus, though, had the lower TCO over a one-year period by about $6.

Brill defended Lotus by saying in some ways a comparison between Domino and Exchange is like comparing apples and oranges.

"Domino, as a product, is a lot more than a messaging server," said Brill, adding that at least half of Lotus' customers also deploy other collaborative applications on the same infrastructure. He said much of a Domino administrator's time is spent managing applications other than Notes.

Even though the results are largely positive for Lotus, Brill said the study highlights the need to further reduce administration costs.

"Tivoli [another IBM software division] has a whole lot of expertise in that area, and we're jointly building an ability in Domino to do proactive monitoring and repair of problems as they occur, and that will further reduce the cost of administration," said Brill.

Brill said it is unusual for Lotus to sponsor a study along with a competitor, especially Microsoft, but "this is actually the best of all possible worlds because it avoids any ability for one side or the other to say it's a biased study."

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