Messaging: Lotus Notes Domino R5 vs. Microsoft Exchange 5.5

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The subject of this note is the never-ending question within collaborative messaging, " What's better, Notes or Exchange?" Generally, this question is answered from an emotional perspective, based entirely on the specific administrator's and/or end users comfort level. There is no one correct answer, both messaging servers excel in specific areas and pale in others. The contents of this note will pit the two systems against each other in six specific areas:

  1. Product Functionality: Feature functions contained within the product

  2. Product Technology: Protocols, Databases and Platforms

  3. Product Cost: Initial cost of training, implementation and support

  4. Service and Support: How does the vendor treat you after the sale

  5. Corporate Viability: Financial Analysis of Vendor

  6. Corporate Strategy: Is the vendor's future direction a match to your Company's?


TEC analysts began assessing the pros and cons of both messaging platforms through the construction of a detailed information repository with over 1700 detail-level criteria, arranged hierarchically in our proprietary software-modeling tool, TESS. Each hierarchical category within the model is assigned a value, which represents its priority relative to other categories, or "weight". Figure 1 shows weights for the top-level categories in the Messaging Model.

Figure 1. Global Weights for High Level Criteria

Figure 2 represents Product Functionality versus Product Technology

In functionality and product technology Lotus Notes Domino R5 takes a slight lead. This is primarily due to the advanced and feature rich Application Programming Interface (API). Lotus Notes offers the ability to run robust customized or pre-packaged applications due to their database structure. Having Lotus Notes and simply sending point-to-point e-mail - not taking advantage of the programmatically available resources - is somewhat similar to having a sports car that will never be driven over 55 mph. For users looking for point-to-point e-mail, coupled with calendaring and end-user friendly functionality without the need for an application server, Microsoft Exchange is a preferable choice due to its ease of use and administration.

Figure 3 represents Product Cost versus Product Functionality

Lotus Notes Domino R5 has a far higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than Microsoft Exchange. A Lotus Notes seat will cost approximately $150 USD per year as opposed to an Exchange seat cost of approximately $70 USD per year. Administrators must remember that although Lotus Notes may cost more, it has greater functionality and technology than that of Exchange. Lotus has a more focused concentration on database functionality, data processing, and personalization; whereas Exchange is more focused on end-user ease of use, excelling in scheduling, point to point e-mail, Internet mail, and simplified database functionality.

Figure 4 Represents Service and Support versus Corporate Strategy

Both Lotus and Microsoft offer highly skilled and trained employees for 24x7 support and both receive high marks for overall customer satisfaction. Lotus is an IBM company and has been wisely left to its own devices by 'Big Blue'. Both Lotus and Microsoft have roughly the same corporate strategy as it relates to messaging. Both companies are touting Reliability, Availability, and Scalability as key strategies to success.

The two companies are also in a race for the " Holy Grail " of Unified Messaging, which encompasses wireless messaging, voice integration, fax integration, video conferencing, and any other form of electronic media which can be funneled into a user's inbox. The Image above may show Microsoft as having a slight edge, but that's exactly what it is, slight. Exchange comes out slightly ahead of Notes, due to its focus on end user and administration ease of use.

Both companies offer good service and support and are both pursuing appropriate messaging industry verticals to ensure long term success, which is good news for corporate users. Both Notes and Exchange are pursuing Unified Messaging and Wireless messaging, but they differ in database functionality and usage. Notes has targeted its databases at applications and included a web server to further the proliferation of MAPI (Mail Application Programming Interface) enabled databases. Exchange, as previously mentioned, is more focused on ease of use and feature rich functionality. While Exchange does not include a web server, it fully integrates with Microsoft's Internet Information Server (included with Windows NT Server).

User Recommendations

Based on the above statistical analysis of the two collaborative messaging servers in our decision model, we were able to clearly identify the pros and cons to each system. The following table makes suggestions for a messaging system based upon specific user needs. The answer for which system to implement is probably best answered by asking what the systems do not do well. Where Exchange falls down is in the flexibility of its Pub.edb (Public Folder Database) to handle complex applications, regenerate views and handle large quantities of structured data. Notes, on the other hand, does not perform well in ease of use or in total cost of ownership, yet its databases are by far the best within the messaging industry.

Functional Requirement Preferred System
Point to Point Messaging with Calendaring and Internet Mail Microsoft Exchange - Ease of Use and Cost
Enhanced Database Functionality Lotus Notes Domino - Highly customizable and scaleable databases
Unified Messaging Microsoft Exchange due to a wider array of 3rd Party Supported Applications
Wireless Messaging Lotus Notes Domino - Lotus has already struck deals with wireless providers and provides support for WAPs and PDAs. Microsoft Exchange is lagging behind at the present time

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