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July 29, 2005

Dell Unveils Migration Program for Exchange 5.5 Users

by Alex Woodie

Dell on Thursday unveiled a new hardware, software, and services promotion to help small and midsize businesses that use Microsoft Exchange version 5.5 upgrade to Exchange 2003. With support for Exchange 5.5 ending December 31, it's important to start the planning process soon, because the upgrade can be difficult, the company says.

Based on Dell's estimate, 25 percent of Exchange users have not upgraded from Exchange 5.5 to newer versions of Exchange, including Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003. In many cases, Exchange 5.5, which was most often deployed on Windows NT 4.0, was the first server that small and midsized companies deployed during the late 1990s. This may explain why they are hesitant to move off them.

"We think there are about 400,000 servers still on 5.5," says Leslie Sobon, Dell's director of global alliances. By comparison, Exchange 2000 has almost 50 percent of the market, while Exchange 2003 has about 23 percent of the market, Sobon says. "What we're really recommending to customers on Exchange 5.5 is go to Exchange 2003" and skip Exchange 2000.

Sobon says there are two reasons why users have taken so long to upgrade. "One, it's hard, and two, it costs money," she says. "With migrations, we figure we can help customer get over some of this, and help them figure out what they need to do….We want to help them get there, so they can clearly see what it's going to take from a time and money standpoint."

Dell's professional services organization and its "Exchange rangers" have been doing Exchange upgrades for years, and they have a pretty good idea what it takes to accomplish them. Sobon says Exchange upgrades take anywhere from two weeks to two months to complete. "The heavy lifting piece for 2003 is really Active Directory," Sobon says. "Your users have to have a whole new set of permissions assigned to them. . . . Smaller companies don't have that expertise in-house, and in many ways they don't know where to begin."

Mainstream technical support for Exchange 5.5 officially ended December 31, 2003. However, due to complaints from customers who said they weren't given enough time to migrate from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 (which requires Windows Server 2003), Microsoft in 2003 announced a period of extended support, which includes pay-per-incident and non-security hotfix support. The extension is slated to end December 31, 2005.

There are good reasons to upgrade to Exchange 2003 besides the looming end-of-life for Exchange 5.5 support from Microsoft and the threat of flying solo without any fixes for bugs or patches for vulnerabilities, Sobon says. "Exchange 2003 has a lot of advantages from a customer standpoint and from a scalability and security viewpoint," Sobon says. In terms of scalability, a single database can power an Exchange 2003 implementation, whereas Exchange 5.5 might require up to 20 databases. In terms of security, Exchange 5.5 does not have Active Directory, which often serves as a company's central repository for controlling user access rights and authority levels for a range of applications, not just those from Microsoft.

"Last but not least, Exchange 2003 is lower cost," Sobon says. A company can fit 3,000 more users on a Dell PowerEdge server with Exchange 2003 compared to running Exchange 5.5, she says.

Dell's new Exchange migration program is designed for small and midsize businesses with between 100 and 5,000 e-mail users. Organizations with more than 5,000 boxes are directed to Dell's professional services group, where Exchange migration bundles start at $23,000. The SMB bundles start at $5,000.

Dell's Exchange offerings are based on the two-way PowerEdge 2800 and the two-way PowerEdge 2850 running Windows Small Business Server 2003, or the standard or enterprise edition of Windows Server 2003. Depending on the number of mailboxes, Dell will try to upsell customers one of its co-branded Dell/EMC AX-100 or EX-300 Fibre Channel storage arrays. For backups and archives, the promotion includes PowerVault-100T DAT, LTO, or DLT tape drives, the LTO-2-based PV-122T autoloader, or the PV-136T, a six-drive tape library available in SDLT, LTO-2, and LTO-3 formats.

Users also have an array of choices when it comes to purchasing professional services, user and administrator training, and technical support. Customers deploying more than 100 mailboxes are encouraged to purchase Dell's Active Directory design and deployment package, while customers deploying 1,000 or more mailboxes are pointed toward the Exchange Migration Readiness Assessment (EMRA) services offering. Three-year Gold Support packages, in which the company offers 24x7 remote support and promises to have an emergency response technician out to customer sites within four hours, are available for all packages.

For additional details on Dell's Exchange migration program, visit

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Editors: Dan Burger, Timothy Prickett Morgan, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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