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Options await cc:Mail stalwarts

Lotus has officially ended support for cc:Mail. That leaves many companies wondering where they'll find the money to make the expensive move to Domino, Exchange or Groupwise.

Time has run out for Lotus cc:Mail's hangers-on.

Last week Lotus Software ended support for its 16-year-old cc:Mail messaging system, which at its peak claimed 15 million seats. Most systems admins have long since embraced more modern software, like Lotus Notes/Domino, Novell Groupwise or Microsoft Outlook/Exchange, for messaging and collaboration.

"I thought they discontinued support for cc:Mail over a year ago," said Martin Paul, administrative officer at ESP Networks Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ISP that provides SMTP gateways to businesses using cc:Mail.

Paul and some of his ESP co-workers still use cc:Mail. But he said they are ready to move on. "We're faced with the fact that the client [cc:Mail] hasn't been updated in over two years, and it is becoming obsolete," he said.

IDC estimates that between one million and three million people are still using cc:Mail. Their administrators will now have to contract with third-party consultants to get technical support.

Analysts, even some cc:Mail consultants, are encouraging cc:Mail admins to move on to new systems. But they also acknowledge that e-mail migrations are among the most expensive to undertake.

"No path is less painful than another," said Dale Johnson, president of Woburn, Mass.-based Johnson Consulting Inc. "Any one of them will come as a shock to administrators' pocketbooks, not to mention their users."

Migrating to Novell Groupwise may be the least expensive option, especially for Novell shops. "Introducing more Novell boxes [into a Novell network] isn't usually that big of a pain," Johnson said. "Exchange [Server] 5.5 can be the same way, although network traffic is greatly increased."

And with Exchange 2000 Server, admins need additional IT resources to manage the notoriously cumbersome Windows 2000 Active Directory, which replaces Exchange Server 5.5's Directory Store.

Lotus Notes/Domino may be the most expensive choice for cc:Mail admins, Johnson said. "If you install Notes, you'll likely be using more than just mail, and the infrastructure, personnel and planning costs to maintain all that are going to be higher."

Mid-size and large organizations will find incremental migrations to Notes/Domino rough going; for them it will likely have to be all or nothing. Lotus also discontinued support for cc:Mail MTA on Oct. 31, a tool that admins use to run cc:Mail and Notes/Domino simultaneously. (Lotus stopped upgrading cc:Mail MTA nearly a year ago.)

Small companies, however, or those with limited messaging requirements, can easily continue to use cc:Mail.

"Some companies may believe their e-mail and bulletin boards are meeting their workers' messaging and collaboration needs," said IDC analyst Mark Levitt. "And other companies have an IT philosophy, 'If it isn't broken, don't fix it.'" As long as cc:Mail does not break, "there is no reason why they cannot continue using cc:Mail without support from Lotus."

Consultants, of course, are eager for the opportunity to step in when cc:Mail does break.

"We're not shy about that," admitted Johnson. "But it does cost a ton of money and time to migrate. And, by not supporting [cc:Mail MTA], Lotus is saying 'you're on your own.' You should wait until you have the time, people and money in place to make the transition."


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