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VAR eye view: Mail migrations overstated

When Microsoft made the second beta of Exchange Server 2007 SP1 available to testers on Monday, it used the occasion to once again tout mass migrations of IBM/Lotus Notes customers into the Microsoft Exchange and/or SharePoint camp.

This time it claimed that more than three million customers in “over 1000” companies have switched to the Exchange Server /Sharepoint Server dynamic duo from Notes in the past year.

IBM and Microsoft have made a parlor game of such claims and counterclaims for the past decade. You know it’s Lotusphere time when Microsoft announce X-million Notes users have switched. IBM/Lotus typically returns fire.

But many e-mail-savvy VARs say these mass migrations are simply not in evidence in the real world.

“The Lotus situation is very stable really and despite what everyone is saying, customers are not flocking off of Notes. Lotus Notes and Domino are very capable, mature products,” says Ron Herardian, chief systems architect for Global System Services, a Mountain View, Calif.- solution provider who works in both camps.

In fact, if people were to count Web mail seats hosted by ISPs, the market share picture would be very different from what either IBM or Microsoft is saying, Herardian maintains.

“A little known fact is that Sun has more messaging seats than Lotus and Microsoft combined if you count Web mail seats,” Herardian noted. Sun Microsystems had its own mail server product and then bought Netscape Communications technology later on. Its mail is typically hosted by ISPs and telecoms.

As for GSS’ business, mail customers are in three camps…Lotus, Microsoft and Sun, he noted.

Many solution providers now say the Lotus-Microsoft numbers are moot from another perspective: They say those customers who are weighing a mail move are just as likely to consider less-pricey Web-2.0 like or other hosted mail solutions as the more expensive Microsoft and IBM options. Most typically don’t know or care what the underlying technology is.

Still, many e-mail VARs expect dueling press releases about stolen customers to keep flowing out of Cambridge and Redmond for some time.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area journalist, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net

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