My company is migrating to Microsoft Exchange 2013!

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I already knew this for several weeks, but wasn’t allowed to discuss this publicly yet. But as some know the company I work for, OGD ict-diensten, is using Zarafa as its groupware solution and recently decided to migrate to Microsoft Exchange 2013!

Apparently blue is the color for Groupware :-)

Why Zarafa?

A lot of the Exchange experts I met during the Microsoft Exchange Conference and some outside that event asked my why we were using Zarafa and how that works. Especially when they hear we also deployed Lync 2010.

We have to go back for about six years. At that time we only had a Linux solution (IMP), primarily for mail as the calendar functionality was basically non existent. So, we made a business case for a new product. At the time we wanted to give every employee a mailbox. For those who don’t know, at the time we had about 250-300 full time employees and about 300-400 part timers. Those part timers were mostly college/university students who worked for us a day or two in the week at a service desk or other less specialized IT work. It is kind of a unique business model, but it has worked for us very well over the years (and still does).

So, price was an issue (calculating with about 1000 users) and we got a very good deal at the time. But there where technical arguments. At the time the short list was Zarafa 5 (with 6.x at the horizon) and Exchange 2007. Despite the fact we were Microsoft Partners (along a lot of other company partnerships), we knew we had a lot of *nix users. Furthermore, the bulk of users wouldn’t have Outlook on their work PC’s. Therefor webmail was a massively important way of contacting the groupware solution. And I am sorry to say, at the time Zarafa was ahead of Exchange 2007 in multiple browser support and some much needed web features. Thus, Zarafa won the business case.

However, times have changed. The company has changed and our requirements have changed. I already said we implemented Lync 2010, we found out that a lot of students didn’t use their mailbox (forwarding mail to a personal account) and in my personal opinion Zarafa couldn’t keep up with Exchange on several areas, must of all featurewise (Outlook 2010 and 2013 compatibility) and interoperability (with Lync for instance, no EWS…). This time Exchange won the business case.

And now Exchange!

As we didn’t have any legacy Exchange deployment, we were free to choose any version of Exchange including 2013. As we also adopted a eat-your-own-dog-food principle (use what you sell) and we wanted to be at the forefront of Microsoft technology, we chose to deploy Exchange 2013.

But Exchange 2013 is not the only Wave 15 product we are going to implement, as said we also have Lync 2010 and we do have a SharePoint 2010 implementation (for some departments). All of those will be upgraded to the Wave 15 releases and eventually we are going to use all of the functionality of Exchange and Lync 2013. This includes the (at least in the Netherlands) underused Unified Messaging functionality in Exchange.

I will be the solution architect responsible for the Exchange implementation and migration (working in a team with Lync and SharePoint specialists) and I expect this to be one of the most challenging assignments I ever got. Mostly because the user group are trained and highly critical IT Pros. Most of them have been critical on our Zarafa implementation and (on occasion lack of) functionality. Such as I have been very critical of Zarafa (publicly and privately), I expect the same level of commitment and thus expectation of quality. And rightly so, IMHO.

This will be one of the first Exchange 2013 production deployments I will perform and I will try to share my experiences in the coming weeks/months on this blog and via Twitter. So stay tuned!


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    one year later, have u finished the migration? We are thinking about the same project in 2014 and i try to get some ideas about pitfalls, challanges …. time.

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    Hi PaddyB,

    Yes, we completed this migration successful. I'm actually currently migrating another Zarafa customer towards Exchange 2013. I'm planning to write a blog post on my findings from both migrations. So, stay tuned!


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