Problems dog ABC's $500k Exchange rollout

Faced with the inevitable end-of-life shift from its legacy DEC All-in-one messaging platform, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation hit some pain points in its hefty $500,000 Microsoft Exchange migration.

The ABC's systems management services manager Fred Spark told Computerworld that the move from DEC All-in-one to Exchange, which began running live in January, has created "some grief".

Spark said all users "bar a few that need the four or five features All-in-one has that are not in Exchange" have been moved across to the new infrastructure. There are about 5000 employees at the ABC.

The e-mail archiving solution, for which the ABC called tenders, resulted in a "spectacular increase" in disk usage in the Hitachi Data Systems SAN environment.

"The design went ahead to simplify storage but we had a couple of failures with a disk filling up overnight," Spark said. "Exchange believed the backup had been completed but it hadn't [and] it took us several days to recover."

As reported by Computerworld in July, the ABC's corporate information is housed in 18TB of disk in its SAN and virtualization is being considered to better utilize its capacity, in addition to replicating half of that capacity to a HDS-based disaster recovery site.

One of the ABC's initial requirements - as well as making the design more redundant and "much more" recoverable - was to be able to recover the Exchange database in two hours. Spark is now confident these objectives are being met.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the ABC recently rolled out Exchange 2000, for which it purchased licences "a couple of years ago".

"We understand that the rollout was primarily conducted internally by the ABC, so Microsoft is unable to comment on this customer's implementation," the spokesperson said.

Distributor of competing enterprise groupware application Scalix, Customer Technology's managing director Gordon Hubbard declined to comment on the ABC's woes but did say Exchange "does not have a great reputation".

"Unlike Exchange the Scalix messaging store is distributed so that corruption of a single file has limited impact resulting in vastly increased robustness," Hubbard said. "There are several deployments of 5000 users and larger. Both centralized and distributed topologies are supported so very large deployments are not a problem."

Hubbard said Scalix is likely to be at least 30 percent cheaper than Exchange, with even more savings possible.

"For example, Outlook usage can be reduced in favour of the advanced browser-based interface with integrated calendaring, or some users may just need basic e-mail and calendaring which is free for 'community users' on Scalix," he said. "In the extreme case, they could pay zero and run Scalix Community Edition - but they probably want more than five Enterprise users [with] full Outlook and full calendar support."

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