Exchange 2003 at One Year: a Migration Progress Report

Microsoft formally launched Exchange Server 2003 about a year ago. The company is holding off until next month to formally announce how much momentum the incremental upgrade to Exchange 2000 Server has built up in that time.

Several analyst firms that track messaging closely, however, think they have a pretty good idea how migrations are going.

Analyst David Via with Ferris Research paints a picture of fairly fast adoption, at least for pilot programs, with a pace that is picking up. "We think between 35 percent and 40 percent of the base has at least some Exchange 2003 in place," Via says. "Virtually every Exchange admin we surveyed -- 96 percent -- expects to be running at least some Exchange 2003 servers by the first of January 2005."

Measured another way, as a percentage of the overall installed base of Exchange mailboxes, progress is slower but steady. The Radicati Group estimates the worldwide corporate Exchange installed base at 114 million mailboxes. By the end of this year, Radicati projects that the installed base of mailboxes will still be heavily tilted toward Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000.

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Radicati Group estimates that 40 percent will be on Exchange 5.5, 43 percent will be on Exchange 2000 and 14 percent will be on Exchange 2003. By the end of 2005, when Microsoft support for Exchange 5.5 is formally supposed to end, Radicati's surveying projects that the installed base for that older messaging platform will fall to about 24 percent. The end of 2005, will also mark Exchange 2003's passing of Exchange 2000, with 37 percent of the installed base compared with 36 percent, according to Radicati data.

The peak year for Exchange 2003 in the Radicati Group's current view will be 2007, when it will command 53 percent of a worldwide corporate Exchange installed base of 189 million mailboxes.

Via contends the new features in Exchange 2000 combined with those in Exchange 2003 is finally proving compelling enough for users to upgrade. As for 2003-specific enticements, Via says, "The main features that administrators are talking to us about include spam filtering, much better Outlook Web Access, VPN-less connections with the full Outlook client using HTTP. There is, of course, the issue of Exchange 5.5's end-of-life, but to many customers that in and of itself hasn't been enough to encourage them to upgrade."

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Analysts at both firms credit Microsoft with providing a mature and smooth set of tools for managing migrations that cross the Active Directory barrier from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003.

With any new messaging platform, the market leaders (Microsoft and IBM) constantly strive to demonstrate that customers are abandoning one platform for the other. Analysts say they haven't seen a lot of that.

"I'd say that for every one that moves from Exchange to Domino, one moves from Domino to Exchange. Migrating to a completely different platform is such an expensive undertaking that very few customers [do] it on the merits of the products themselves," Via says.

Some movement is evident, though, among Novell GroupWise customers, Via says. "We definitely do see people leaving GroupWise, and usually for Exchange. I think customers are very hesitant to stay on a platform that is number three in the market based on the limited third-party support and some uncertainty about the future of that platform."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.