Tuesday, December 1, 1998

A guide for comparing Notes/Domino and Exchange

The sad fact is that many companies implement Notes only for messaging. They may not: understand its other capabilities, have the ability to leverage them, or know what to do with them.

This is a major problem. Notes collaborative capabilities can do great things within a corporate environment -- when applied. If Notes is only understood as a messaging infrastructure, those elements will be missed and their value lost. In this case, the differences between an Exchange and Notes solution are minimal.

Notes vs. Exchange

Let's start with a bit of history on the Notes vs. Exchange debate. Lotus Notes was initially designed and developed, not as a messaging platform, but as a collaborative solution suite designed for allowing a group of networked workers to communicate and work together on topics and issues. [Yes, but since Release 3, when Notes really began to gain acceptance, it was definitely a messaging platform as well. -- DG] cc:Mail was actually Lotus' messaging product, and was very successful for some time. Since it's early beginnings, Notes has evolved to include: messaging, C&S (i.e., calendar and scheduling), Web serving, powerful application development tools, back end access, and on and on.

Exchange, on the other hand, has developed in exactly the opposite way. Exchange began as an email/messaging infrastructure, partially on the foundation of MS Mail, and has begun to integrate collaborative application support into as it evolved.

It should also be noted that Microsoft has taken on a very different strategy from Lotus in terms of product development. They have done this by keeping their products "de-integrated". I'll discuss this more later, but, in essence, while Lotus has integrated more and more capability into the Notes and Domino product set, Microsoft has kept those same functions in separate products that work with each other as components. This is one of the major distinctions between the two and why so much of the analysis on the topic can be misleading.

Understanding Domino

Most of you know this, but let's recap. Domino is a Web and application development platform as well as server. It handles messaging and C&S, POP3 (email messaging) support, Web development support and server, can support SMTP, IMAP, and many other Internet protocols, it can access back-end data via external products, supports several different application design languages, has extensions for C++, includes, along with these other languages, a simplistic language (i.e., LotusScript, which is now somewhat Visual Basic-like) that is easy and efficient to learn. Domino includes a systems administration component, it will work on any number of servers and clients, and is increasingly incorporating more and more Web capabilities into itself.

Understanding Exchange and the Microsoft side of the equation

Exchange is a messaging and collaboration server platform meant to work with Windows NT. It can serve to the Outlook client, as well as POP3 and Web clients. Exchange can be programmed using Visual Basic and there is the potential of supporting other languages in future versions. In order to achieve the same functionality of the Domino product itself, you must utilize other Microsoft products or components. Some of these products include: IIS (the Web server), Access, SQL, and FoxPro (for database storage), Visual InterDev and FrontPage (for Web development and design), BackOffice, and Visual Basic (the application design language) -- to name a few.