Today we got the executive green light to proceed with changing from a Domino platform to Exchange. The business prefers Exchange for a messaging platform. (even though IMO IBM Domino is fine - if it aint broke, don't fix it but it was not my call).

I have been put in charge of Domino to Exchange process goes smoothly as possible. I have also been told to put together costs for this project. I have some questions and concerns re: network design, licensing, costs:

The current setup is as follows.

1 HQ office (100 users), 1 secondary office (50 users), 5 branch offices (under 10 users).

  • 5 different email domains
  • Windows Server 2003 functional level with a few 2008 R2 Servers
  • Lotus Domino Notes Servers (one in each office)
  • Ironmail Appliance
  • Public Domino Web Mail server
  • Majority G5+ Proliant Servers
  • Domino Blackberry Enterprise license and server
  • No VoIP phones

What are the basic hardware requirements for Exchange 2007 or 2010?
Can I simply purchase a single physical server? Will each office require an Exchange server or possibly additional servers (roles)?
How is email routed to the smaller branch offices?
Standard or Enterprise licenses?

The business has been running Domino (messaging and application services) for over 10 years and also want Exchange to support email services, Blackberry, Outlook Web Access, possibly support for iPhone devices.

Thank you Serverfault universe.


Wow, that is a lot of questions with a huge scope. I don't mean to be rude but I think your best approach is going to be to research most of these questions extensively yourself and build up a very complete picture. It's not something we can really cover properly for you in a single thread. A migration like this is a big undertaking, it'll need time & budget & project management, not to mention keeping one eye on politics and not pissing off your users ;)

Anyways, I'll speak to some specifics which you may not be able to easily find elsewhere. I (and 1 colleague) migrated a Domino 6.5 environment across to an Exchange 2007 system in May 2008 at an organisation of 250 people, in the UK. These points were all learned along the way when we did that migration:

First - Architecture

In ex2007 you need to grok the various roles. I would recommend that you deploy a hub transport, information store, and client access roles at your primary site, an information store at your secondary site, and no roles at your branch offices. Instead, use RPC over HTTPS or existing VPNs to connect back to the central exchange.

However you need to tailor the above to your organisations needs and limitations. If you have weak WAN links but a strong Internet pipe at the secondary site, and they run under a seperate email domain, you might want to deploy a hub transport there. If your business is security-focused, you may wish to deploy an Edge transport in your DMZ (but this is not mandatory). Depending on your hardware you may need to purchase new servers (you need 64-bit kit for ex2007 as a minimum) and/or bump up the RAM. Ex2007 loves RAM.

Second - Preparation

Your biggest pain point here is if Domino is being used for 'non email' business purposes. Domino is a jack-of-all-trades database system and is often used for things like document stores or form-input databases. You should focus on decomissioning all non-email uses of domino, primarily by identifying stuff that's not even used any more and removing the NSFs, or for stuff that is in use, migrate to something else e.g. extract the documents and put them on a file share. This takes time, but you can address it in parallell with your main migration, and if necessary keep the Domino server around for a while even after the email roles have moved to Exchange.

Third - Migration

Invest in the Quest migration tools. You're mainly paying for Quest's support, and they'll help you out through the course of your migration and won't stonewall you if your question isn't strictly related to the Quest apps - They have a lot of migration experts who have tackled your scenario 100s of times over. Worth their weight in gold.

Other stuff

Blackberry - Talk to your account manager at RIM (if you don't have one, your supplier will). They will be able to supply you with a 'temporary' enterprise BES CAL set for the duration of your migration. So you purchase the Exchange version of BES, build it alongside your Domino BES. Then you apply your existing BES CALs to the new server (no need to re-purchase the CALs!) and apply the temporary licenses to the old BES server. This gives you a 30-day period in which you have co-existence, you save money by migrating your CALs, and the temp CALs they give you should be free or a fairly nominal cost.

Clients - For the user side of the migration, leverage the rich OWA in Ex2007 in cases where your users don't yet have Outlook available or configured. This is good becuase it:

  1. Gets users used familiar with OWA.
  2. Requires no migration dependency on client-side existence of Outlook.
  3. Is low-maintenance which means you don't get dragged away from the migration work to fix client issues.

Cruft - Standardise and reduce as much of your system as you possibly can before you begin migrating. Remove all mail NSFs for users who have left the company, and clear up any instances where managers are still accessing them. Update all database designs to your current version (if you've previously upgraded Domino and still have old templates lurking). Get management to review BES usage and clear off users who don't really need it. The more non-core data and configurations you can remove before you begin, the easier your migration will be.

  • Thank you for sharing your own thoughts and experience with your similar undertaking. Your advice is valuable and quite detailed which I'll go over several times along with the hours of research to be done. Once the project was over, were your end users satisfied with Outlook in comparison to Notes? – RSXAdmin Apr 1 '10 at 0:34
  • Varied between the users. Many of the employees at that company were around retirement age, and Domino had been embedded there for a decade or more. With those folks the focus has to be on minimising disruption and keeping things seamless. All mail coming across from the old to the new client was better than a 'clean slate' approach. Mail folder structures needed to be preserved. Smaller issues like the reading pane position and message ordering differences will crop up - And being able to reconfigure outlook to match the old view is something you should be able to do on-the-spot for users. – Chris Thorpe Apr 1 '10 at 0:44
  • 2
    On the other hand, we got the executives and managers on-board as early as possible, and this cascaded a positive vibe down to their reports. We migrated users in team groups so that people who worked together received the new client at the same time. They help each other out. Our IT staff were all first-adopters which meant they could evangelise & troubleshoot competently when everyone else was migrated. Overall the feedback we received about the new exchange/outlook setup was that it was more responsive and just as usable as notes. Stability was equal, also. – Chris Thorpe Apr 1 '10 at 0:47
  • 2
    Some handy stats: end-to-end we took 4 months to plan, execute and close-off the migration, with 2 dedicated staff and 1st-line assistance/front-line work from 5 helpdesk folks. We migrated about 250 mailboxes varying in size from 50Mb to 15Gb, and during the migration phase we moved about 10 mailboxes a day, after-hours. Starting with only a few for the first few nights, closing off any issues experienced, then migrating more per night as confidence grew. – Chris Thorpe Apr 1 '10 at 0:50
  • Hi Chris, it's me again. I am currently in the planning stages and the tips you gave are valuable. You mentioned you moved about 10 mailboxes a day therefore some users were still using the old platform. How did both your Domino 6 and Exchange environments coexist with each other? Did the end-user run into any problems with email functionality? – RSXAdmin Apr 25 '10 at 14:53

Hardware-wise Exchange should run fine with similar specs to what you're currently using, especially as you don't have too many users. Depending on your link speeds you should be able to get away with a single central server and running the clients in cached mode, and I would definitely redesign it for a single email domain even if you don't do that.

Exchange standard should also be fine here.

The trick is to firmly remove your Domino hat and don't even think about trying to reproduce the same functionality as you are used to in Exchange. It will end in tears. Work with Exchange rather than against it and you'll get along just fine.

The biggest differences you're going to be hit by are the move from NSF files to Exchange stores (don't even think about using PSTs) - which are somewhat less flexible - and re-integrating all of your third-party apps and appliances. Migrating mailboxes will cause you some pain; there are various tools available that will make it easier, and I suggest that you splash out and buy one. I've used SysTools Export Notes and can confirm that it's quite reliable. Migrate from NSF to PST as step 1, then import the PST into the Exchange store via Outlook or ExMerge.

If you're switching from the Notes client your users will love you forever. I've experience with both Domino/Notes and Exchange/Outlook, and I can ensure you that the Notes client is actively hostile towards the end-user by comparison to Outlook.

Server-side you'll find that Exchange needs somewhat more nursemaiding than Domino, but you'll be trading that off in exchange for proper integrated authentication, not having to fool around with ID files and good central admin of clients.

  • Thank you for your valuable advice. I will carefully choose an application for the NSF to message store conversion. Many users want Exchange/Outlook so I am hoping they will satisfied with the end result. – RSXAdmin Apr 1 '10 at 0:35

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