Messaging vendors aim to undercut Exchange

As Microsoft Corp. lays out its messaging platform road map at the Exchange User Conference this week, competing vendors are attempting to lure Exchange customers with the promise of lower cost, less complex platforms and licensing agreements.

IT budgets continue to shrink, bringing total cost of ownership (TCO) into prominence. Both Microsoft and IBM Corp. are aiming for server consolidation and lowered TCO in their new messaging platform upgrades. IBM released Notes/Domino last week, while Microsoft’s Titanium version of Exchange is slated for the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, the TCO for enterprise messaging and groupware continues to rise, according to Dana Gardner, research director at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston.

“The cost of an e-mail seat is increasing when dealing with Microsoft and IBM,” he said.

Stalker Software Inc. on Monday introduced CommuniGate Pro Groupware, which adds integrated calendaring and scheduling tools to its existing CommuniGate Pro messaging server. The Groupware offering allows enterprises to leverage Outlook’s full collaboration features and functionality without using Exchange, according to Stalker officials in Mill Valley, Calif.

Calling attention to Exchange’s cost of deployment, licensing, and maintenance as well as its high-profile security breaches, CommuniGate Pro messaging server is positioned as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange Server, according to Stalker officials. CommuniGate Pro can also run alongside Exchange in a mixed environment.

“[Microsoft] Exchange users are looking for choices before they take the next dive in the Microsoft platform,” said Ali Liptrot, director of marketing. “Right now is an opportune time because of the forced migration path being put onto Exchange administrators.”

CommuniGate Pro Groupware uses a MAPI connector to run with Outlook on the desktop. End-users experience the same Outlook interface and functionality as if they were connected via Exchange, Liptrot said.

Stalker Software has years of experience in the ISP and university arenas, and claims better reliability and scalability than Exchange. The system also touts lower licensing fees and lower infrastructure costs from the ability to support more accounts per server than Exchange, Stalker officials said. CommuniGate Pro supports as many as 50,000 enterprise users on a single server, according to the company.

CommuniGate Pro supports about 30 hardware and OS configurations, including Unix, Linux, Windows, AS400, mainframes, and Mac OS X. In addition, CommuniGate Pro supports such messaging and directory standards as SMTP, POP, IMAP, and LDAP.

Meanwhile, Weblicon Technologies AG and Sun Microsystems Inc. have teamed up to develop a productivity and messaging package designed to replace Microsoft Office, Exchange, and Outlook. Based on Sun’s StarOffice and Weblicon’s Calmeno organizer, the system taps Linux and open messaging standards to offer a low-cost, easy-to-install alternative to Microsoft products, according to Weblicon officials in Berlin.

Weblicon also claims it provides more protection from viruses in its Calmeno messaging offering by establishing a SSL connection to the Internet and encrypting data for transfer.

The components of the package include word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation applications from StarOffice and e-mail, short-message system, schedule management, and address directory from Calmeno. The integrated offerings use a joint LDAP interface to allow contacts and addresses in Calmeno to be used in StarOffice’s word processor. Furthermore, compatibility with Microsoft products allows Word and Excel documents to be opened in StarOffice, while Calmeno provides synchronization with Microsoft Outlook, allowing Outlook appointments and addresses to be used in the Calmeno server.

In addition, Calmeno features synchronization tools that allow data swapping with Palm and Pocket PC systems and wireless synchronization with SyncML-enabled phones, according to Weblicon officials.