Microsoft Canada is offering subsidies and training tools to its partners to help them shift customers from Novell GroupWise to Exchange 2003.

The program, which is only in effect until the end of May, is also aimed at getting Exchange 5.5 users to upgrade to Exchange 2003.

The

program offers partners up to $7,500 in subsidies per customer along with new total cost of ownership and Healthcheck assessment tools to help lure customers from GroupWise. The Healthcheck assessment tools provide partners with advice on the state of their clients’ current messaging infrastructure. Another tool – the Baseline Information System – is designed to help administrators in mid-sized organizations compare the cost of owning GroupWise in comparison to Exchange 2003.

“”This is a program to make it easier for customers to evaluate the latest communication collaboration technology,”” said David Willis, vice-president of small and mid-market solutions for Microsoft Canada. “”As well, if they make the decision, we want to make it cost-effective for them to migrate,”” he added.

Jon Myers, product marketing manager for Novell, said he understands why Microsoft has introduced the program, but he doesn’t think it will make a difference.

“”I’ve talked to countless customers,”” he said. “”They get approached by Microsoft almost on a daily basis with different deals and this is actually not one of the better ones I’ve seen.””

“”Most of our customers get approached on a daily basis with no licence cost at all, plus anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 off on a consulting deal,”” he said, “”but it’s just not worth it to them to migrate because the big things they get with GroupWise are security and reliability.””

Myers also said that according to a Novell study, GroupWise customers are satisfied with the application’s reliability. The study also found that 87 per cent of GroupWise clients didn’t have to re-start their server in the past six months and 52 per cent reported no re-starts in the last year.

“”Microsoft can throw as many programs at it as they want, but the administrators know there are a lot of hidden costs with downtime and security,”” said Myers.

Myers said Novell isn’t planning any new initiatives to counter the Exchange program, but he did say Novell will be re-instating its Exchange on Exchange partner program, which ended in January. The program helped migrate clients to GroupWise from Exchange, Meyers claimed. He said approximately 400 customers worldwide – including 11 in Canada – switched to GroupWise. Of the 400 customers, 86 per cent had been deploying Exchange, he said.

“”We certainly don’t play reactively to Microsoft,”” said Myers. “”Our focus is on obviously keeping our current GroupWise customers, which is a very easy proposition. We just remind them of what they’re getting for their money with our product. Plus, we’ve seen a huge uptake in the last couple of years from customers migrating from other platforms to GroupWise,”” he added.

Victor Harder, a Microsoft practice leader with Compugen Inc., said response to the Exchange program among the reseller’s Microsoft clients has been positive.

“”We’ve actually not had to rely to heavily on that because customers already see the inherent value in moving to Exchange,”” he said. “”These tools are very powerful if you need them, but so far it hasn’t been a hard sell.””

Harder expects migration away from GroupWise and other platforms to accelerate because the availability of quality support for older platforms diminishing, so it becomes more cost-effective at some point to move to a newer platform because of the availability of support.

If so, why are some customers refusing to migrate to Microsoft Exchange 2003 from GroupWise?

“”Anytime you’ve got a reluctance to make a move, it’s just because it’s a change,”” said Harder. “”There’s a huge user impact anytime you do that, so a cultural shift is probably the biggest valid reason that a customer would give for not wanting to do it, but we’re not running into too many of those,”” he added.

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