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E-mail news from IBM & Microsoft

Heavyweights Microsoft and IBM have made recent announcements in the e-mail archiving/management market space, which means that managing and searching e-mail has officially become a serious business.

To this point, the market has been characterized by a plethora of small, aggressive companies like ZipLip, Zantaz, Fortiva and Postini, and larger storage-oriented firms like EMC and Plasmon. E-mail volumes in organizations are massive and growing, adding to the storage burden that they face. According to Forrester Research, enterprise data is growing as much as 150 percent annually, with some companies seeing their data double or more each year.

IBM is releasing CommonStore eMail Archiving Preload, which is aimed at small to midsize businesses (SMB) and positioned to help resellers more easily install an e-mail archiving solution. Smaller customers often have a limited IT staff and budget, so the new solution will help them comply with regulatory and governance demands while supporting litigation readiness.

CommonStore eMail Archiving Preload works with Exchange and Lotus Notes to provide e-mail search, storage and management functionality. Built on an AMD Opteron-powered blade server, it provides preloaded, pretested IBM CommonStore and Content Manager Enterprise Edition software on a System x platform, powered by AMD processors. CommonStore provides the Tivoli Storage Manager and the WebSphere Application Server to complete the e-mail archive management requirements. IBM states that its new software, E-Mail Search for CommonStore, will benefit any SMB that has rapidly growing e-mail archives and a need to retrieve an archived item on request. The solution provides e-mail archiving and retrieval while removing the load on native messaging servers. It can place e-mails on hold to prevent any time-based disposition of them as set by the sender.

Pete Peterson, VP of systems product marketing for Tech Data, an IBM business partner, says, "The IBM e-mail archiving solution helps resellers quickly deploy and capitalize on the growing demand for more efficient e-mail storage and management among their small and midsize customers."

Microsoft is introducing unified messaging support in Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which marks the start of the third wave of unified messaging technology: interoperable, server-based tools that integrate with desktop and mobile clients to give information workers access to voice, fax and e-mail data from wherever they are, and to allow people to use the telephone to manage their e-mail, calendar and personal contacts.

Microsoft believes the solution will reduce costs and save users time in locating information, because they will have just one inbox with "anywhere access" from a variety of mobile devices.

According to Keith McCall, CTO of Azaleos, the biggest problem with Exchange is that it is not SQL-based, but still based on the decade-old JET database, which does sequential reads and random writes. Because a search query has to read through data in sequential order, but the data it's looking for has been written in multiple places on a disk at random, searches for information within Exchange can be costly in system resources and time-consuming. McCall says, "With a 4K block size, that's quite a few writes to be searching for."

Ray Mohrman, technical product manager of Exchange for Microsoft, says customers have been increasingly voicing the idea of a move to SQL as the basis for the Exchange database. "We've heard a lot of requests from customers for improvements to the core of Exchange, and a lot of them want a switch to SQL," he says. "[But] when it came to Exchange 2007, people were really looking for increased stability and higher availability. We found we could deliver those capabilities and do so sooner by adding features to this newest release rather than overhauling the database." Mohrman adds, however, that the next move for Exchange could be to a SQL platform. "With some of the features we've already added, we're in a better position to move to the SQL server," he says. "We've integrated more of SQL Server's text search engines. We're continuing to look toward that option for the Exchange store."

"It doesn't matter whether they change the database," says Andrew Lockhart, director of marketing for Postini, another e-mail outsourcing service provider. "The broader issue is unrelated to how the database is designed--it's that users don't want to throw away any e-mail anymore."

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