If heavyweight boxing's 1975 "Thrilla in Manila" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had lasted seven years, it would have been almost as contentious as the battle for the undisputed championship of enterprise messaging between IBM's Lotus Domino and Microsoft's Exchange.
"Domino runs on operating systems that are more scalable than anything from Microsoft, but Domino itself has so much overhead that there isn't that much benefit." Herardian said there isn't one right answer. "As a customer, you need to see what makes sense for your own company's size and growth."
"It's pretty strange, but Domino has built in clustering with the enterprise version of the product, and it's pretty unique for a PC e-mail server product to have that. It's a pretty sophisticated technology, and combined with replication it's very strong. They can cluster across platforms. On the Microsoft side, you have NT clustering, which is a totally different animal."
Ease of maintenance
"With a properly configured system, either Domino or Exchange, I don't personally believe there's a big difference. If you have people who are properly trained and understand the technology, they're going to be equally capable on either system. What I do believe is that it is often misperceived how much belongs to Exchange versus Domino, because in an enterprise where you have Active Directory, that job doesn't count as an e-mail or groupware admin, but it really is." (See sidebar.)
"There have been problems upgrading Domino because of the groupware applications people have developed for it. Going from R4 to R5 was quite problematic, but they've done a much better job with [Domino 6]. With Exchange 2000, the biggest hurdle is Active Directory. After that, an Exchange [upgrade] looks pretty easy. Personally, I believe the upgrade from R5 to Domino 6 is much easier than the upgrade to Exchange 2000 because it doesn't require migrating to Active Directory."
"On Exchange, [developers use] general-purpose Microsoft application development tools, but they are not groupware development tools. The second issue is the engines and APIs that go with them. With Domino, I have workflow that's built in and APIs that let me do database replications."
Supporting end users
"If you have a Windows desktop, everybody's got Outlook. People understand it, and it's easier to use. When you learn to use the Notes client and learn how powerful it is, you can do a lot more, but the average user will never benefit from that."
"I think right now it's pretty much a wash. There's no major difference supporting remote Notes users versus Outlook. If you're dialing up [using Outlook], then it's pure misery because of the speed, but you shouldn't be doing that. You should be using a VPN."
"The big problem that Microsoft has is its client-side vulnerabilities, because everything is so closely linked to the OS. So I don't know if it can really ever fix that because you can never run the software on any other OS. But as far as just e-mail is concerned, Exchange isn't as secure as Domino because Domino has always had a PKI, and it still does today. But you do pay a price because there is more administration overhead."
"Exchange on Linux? It's just not credible. It'll never happen."
Java and .NET flexibility
"Domino is totally committed to Java, and the strategic direction it's headed in is integration with WebSphere. It's not going to replace the Domino Servlet Manager, which is also a great piece of functionality. Microsoft has provided .NET as a Microsoft-centric way of creating Web services, so that you can have all your servers in a Microsoft paradigm on top of Windows. So if .NET wins and Java dies out, that would hurt Domino because everybody has Java apps on it, but it wouldn't make any difference to Exchange users."
"Domino has IM; Exchange doesn't. So do you want to have MSN Messenger on your PC, or do you want Sametime, which lets you share whole applications, just like WebEx? Sametime even works on mobile phones, and I can see on my phone whether someone is sitting at their desk." Herardian noted that Exchange 2000 does integrate with Microsoft's MSN Messenger, but doesn't provide the real-time collaboration capabilities of Sametime because it lacks application sharing.
"That's a mixed bag, because there are so many great Domino tools and great Domino applications. Lotus has done a fantastic job in terms of the quality of partners and products, but Microsoft has legions of developers as far as the eye can see, all the way to the horizon. So it's easier and cheaper to find Microsoft developers because there're more of them. Quantitatively, Microsoft definitely has it, but quality-wise Lotus has an edge."
"In that area, I'm not satisfied with either vendor. Microsoft gives more resources to their business partners, and being an MCSE [Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer] is just an amazing value because it's a Microsoft world. The Lotus [partner] program's got some really great value too. Both are quite generous, but as a practical matter, more of what Microsoft gives you gets used."
"If you just look at Exchange as a product, then you find the administration overhead for Domino is higher. If you recognize there's an integrated infrastructure on the Microsoft side that isn't just one product, because all the other pieces you need aren't part of Exchange, then I think there's no significant difference whatsoever."
"That's another area where it's hard to get a fair comparison. It's cheaper to develop applications on Windows with Microsoft development tools, unless you're developing groupware applications, in which case the Microsoft solution just doesn't have it. I think the common misperception in comparing them is that Microsoft is cheaper because everybody uses Windows and the tools are abundant, but the only problem is if you want to develop groupware, then the Microsoft tools are the wrong tools."
Per-seat licensing costs
"I think, in general, the Lotus solution is more costly up-front, but if you have a business case for groupware, that's a different story. I think Microsoft's practices are misleading for customers because they make it sound like the client is free -- because it's everywhere -- when it's not. If you're a good Microsoft citizen and you license everything, I think it's still less than Lotus, but it's not much less."
"With Exchange, the most important consideration [for] any IT professional is that everything doesn't come with Exchange. You're not comparing apples to apples, and when you sit down and do the math, Microsoft doesn't have any compelling advantages, but that depends somewhat on what you're trying to do. If you're a small company using Windows PCs and all you need is e-mail, it doesn't make sense to [implement] Domino. If you're a high-tech law firm with 100 users and you want to have a groupware application and security is a concern, then Domino is a compelling solution. It's a case-by-case decision. There isn't one answer."