Week one of an Exchange to Domino migration is hopefully the toughest. The best laid plans get put into action, the understandings formed of the customer’s environment are challenged and the architecture you’ve built is tested to the extreme. This particular customer is going from a mixture of Exchange 2000 and 2003 to Domino 8.5.2 in a clustered (two site) infrastructure. What have we learned so far?
Domino Clustering is Great
Domino clustering really is a fantastic feature of the product. Resilience built in to the product, multi-site disaster recovery across operating systems (if you need it) and a client solution which comes out of the box aware of the cluster topology. It’s also surprisingly easy to set up. Like Lotus Traveler, “it just works”. It’s another part of the system which you would think had been designed by Apple because of its simplicity yet power.
Notes Client Windows Login Integration is a Black Art
The customer is keen to minimise the differences for users between their previous environment and their new one. Thus, eliminating the need to login to Lotus Notes is a good thing to do. We opted to enable the “shared login” feature of the 8.5.2 client on the principle that it would do just that. We’ve had our problems as it seems to misbehave when we have rolled out user profiles with the ID Vault.
User Feedback has been Good
We anticipated resistance to the deployment of Notes and hence went to some lengths to emulate the behaviour of Outlook as far as possible. This excellent developerWorks article has proved to be very useful. Some settings, however, need to be set manually on the workstations and although we anticipated this, we’d like it to be much more automatic for the next 400 users. We thought people would be deeply entrenched in the ways of Outlook, but the feedback so far as been that Notes is reasonably intuitive and it has some appealing features over Outlook.
Co-Existence Tools Work Well
In the good-old-bad-old-days the MSExchange-Lotus Notes connector was the workhorse that kept the two systems talking during the migration. We’ve opted for SMTP mail routing and remote LDAP lookups between the servers to achieve the same, or at least, similar results. There are some limitations, of course, such as the fact that Outlook users can’t look up Notes user’s calendars and can’t share resources but most people seem content to accept that this is a transient issue. Using Directory Assistance in Domino, Notes users can get the email addresses of the Outlook users simply by typing in part of a name and pressing F9. Domino does the hard work of looking up Active Directory and returning the email address.
Web Mail vs Notes Client
We’ve also learned that for a green-field site, the benefits of Notes client vs web mail are wafer-thin. The quality of the iNotes implementation is such that it is quite acceptable for all day use and not a temporary-use after thought. We’ve found people more IT-savvy than we expected because they inevitably have their own Gmail, Hotmail or Whatevermail account and are used to sending and receiving mail through a browser. On the other hand the extra benefits of Notes for laptop and power users as well as the sidebar plugins with Sametime and Connections still make the Notes client a compelling choice.
The deployment of Notes and Domino represents great value for the customer. They get (albeit limited use) access to Instant Messaging (Sametime), Personal File Sharing (Quickr), Social Files and Profiles (Connections) as well as all the stuff that comes with Notes. They’re happy (so far!) and so are we!
Flies in the Ointment
So is it all good news? No, of course not, but the issues have not been significant. We’re wrestling with migrating lots of PST files in to Notes archives and occasionally getting the feared Red Box of Death (we have to use Notes 7 client to use the CMT migration tool) but have tracked this down to corrupt data in Outlook. Weird things happen from time to time and occasionally the Windows/Notes shared login steadfastly refuses to play ball, but in general, its going fine.