Novell Cool Solutions

Exchange vs. GroupWise – Unplanned Downtimes!


October 29, 2008 12:30 pm





At GWAVACon EMEA last week I heard a very nice and true story from a very interesting person. I did ask him, if I could publish this story and he gave me the OK for that, but he did not really want his name to be published. However many people at least in Europe know this person, he is the one, who is always registering first! Of course he has been the first to register for the Open Horizons EMEA Summit in November as well….. So looking forward to see you there again, Mr…….. But now lets focus on this true story.

So, the following is not something, I have been changing to make it a real nice story. I got this information from “Mr. 1st to register” and did not change a single word. It shows, why GroupWise is (still and forever) the best choice in terms of unplanned downtimes:

I met a friend of mine in early June. He’s also an e-mailadmin, though his company is running Exchange. We came to talk about unplanned downtime, and he told me that they had less than five hours unplanned downtime in May, referring to their e-mailsystem. I said that it was similar to our unplanned downtime, but it was about four hours for my company. So he said: “-Wow, you mean four hours unplanned downtime for the whole month…???” I replied: “-No, not for May, but for the last seven and a half years…” End of story.

Isn´t that a fantastic story? But it fits 100 % to my first blog entry about my favourite dutch word. GroupWise is stable and robust and will never stop working. But of course “Mr. 1st to register” is also part of this success-story as well. He is doing the administration of GroupWise and this is of course one of the best indicators, that he is doing a fantastic job. Looking forward to see you again in November in Buunderkamp at the Open Horizons EMEA Summit. I owe you a big beer (or whatever you would like to drink) for this nice story.

Author: Herbert Lefering (nickname Herbi)

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  1. By:Anonymous

    I read this with a small chuckle as my Groupwise server abended today.. For the record however the “down time” was about 10 min. I waited 5 to see if it was going to shut down on a down command and then I had to be a bit more drastic. After I brought the server back up, I checked the abend log. My server last abended early January of this year, which I’m guessing was also just a matter of minutes of down time. So maybe I have 10 minutes this year unplanned.

  2. By:Anonymous

    Find it funny as well when I talk with exchange admins having large unplanned downtimes compared to what we have. We run groupwise on a cluster system so downtime is almost non-existent and thats including updates etc.

  3. By:Anonymous

    I have been working with GroupWise for about two years now. Prior to that I was primarily in Exchange environments with a year stint at a Lotus Notes site. (It was the Itty Bitty Machine company, and they HAD to run Notes – they owned what used to be Lotus.)
    Anyway, I am one of 4 people who manage, from top to bottom, GW here. By that I mean client issues to Post Office/Domain/server issues. We recently upgraded from 7.0.2 to 7.0.3 and did a top-down rebuild, as one example. For 30 domains and 48 POs. Did I mention we have about 17,000 email users?
    I compare this, for instance, to the last MS Exchange environment I was in. Seven MS Admins, two of which were full-time Exchange Admins, server side only. Plus me (the only Novell Admin – now THAT’s a good story on its own; 250 NetWare servers – me. 50 MS servers – 5 admins plus 2 Exchange admins).
    There wasn’t a month that went by that email wasn’t down for at least a couple hours – or days. Oh, did I mention that was for only 2500 users?
    As far as the Notes environment, that was a disaster. To be fair, though, a big part of the disaster was it was the wrong tool for the job, as well as that we were used as a test-bed for a new version of Notes. Couple that with its very user un-friendliness, and you can picture the dissatisfaction.
    However, the downtime wasn’t as bad as the Exchange environment, but still, it seemed to be off-line at least once weekly.
    I have been involved in email systems from MS-Mail and Eudora (?) in the early days, to GroupWise and Exchange in contemporary times, and I cannot help but marvel at GW availability, scalability, and ability to run on average hardware.
    To illustrate, when a possible migration to Exchange was studied, the report (prepared by the Microsoft devotees in the organization) matter-of-factly listed the hardware requirements for such a move as being three times the number of servers presently devoted to GroupWise, and doubling the WAN links in order to support the odius synchronizing requirements needed by MSExchange; it was either that, or accept email message versions being up to an hour apart between primary domain and satellite facilities.
    Personally, based on my experience with both, the MS booster report estimate on resources needed is low, especially the hardware. Even more telling is the omission of any mention of increased support personnel requirements. As a noted car dealership owner around here says in his cheesy TV ads – “HUGE! HUGE-AH!”
    I’ll take GroupWise, thank-you.

  4. By:Anonymous

    I’ve been both an Exchange and GW admin now. I always read these “horror” stories with a grain of salt. I used to have Exchange issues up until I learned to use the software and maintenance best practices!!! I truely beleive that Novell’s success is in better training we get and the fact it being Novell (Less people using = more experienced valued personel).

    The “problem” with Exchange (IMHO) is not Exchange itself, but the fact that many Admins (at least the ones causing the “nightmare senarios”) haven’t been properly trained. With the “easy” windows appearance most people feel like they can take a class and be Exchange Admins in a week.

    The truth is, in both the MS and Novell world, you need to have highly dedicated people who are trained and motivated to succeed in the usage of that product. Up until I came to a NW/GW shop I’d only run Exchange (5.5 to 2003) and never had these weekly outages. In fact, when I clustered Exchange 2003 I can honestly say that I had 99.999% reliability.

    Anon in Seattle

  5. By:Anonymous

    Maybe we should also compare planned downtime.
    As far as I know Exchange can not compress the databases without the email being offline. GroupWise does this as part of its GWCheck process online and has done this for years.
    Our company in New Zealand has downgraded to Exchange.

  6. By:Anonymous

    Nov 7’s comment is so true: “The “problem” with Exchange (IMHO) is not Exchange itself, but the fact that many Admins (at least the ones causing the “nightmare senarios”) haven’t been properly trained.”

    Email is a very old technology – it predates the first web pages – and common stacks are based on very mature code. Both Novell and Microsoft offer incredibly stable and robust platforms that can easily deliver 99.999%+ uptime, and relatively painlessly scale to many thousands of mailboxes, especially when modern clustering and virtualization technologies are added to the mix.

    This is provided that the admins know what the heck they are doing…

    I have seen first-hand a Novell shop with an inexperienced a largely ‘self-taught’ admin with plenty of ‘experience’ and maybe a training course or two under his belt. This lack of skill for a so-called full-time admin is a rarity in the Novell world, but very common in the Windows world. As November 7 asserts, the “easy Windows appearance” attracts a lot of undesirables.

    The company in question has almost daily outages on a low-hundred number of mailboxes, running on top-tier, top-dollar hardware. The admin responsible maintains this “solution” as his full time job, and additionally blows six-figures on consultants annually to make the stack even more absurd and unmanageable. The VAR’s have no desire to actually correct the problem: with this guy, they see an opportunity to sell more useless hardware and charge more absurd fees, and they take it. The fact is: a BSD box running postfix on an antiquated PII or PIII desktop could easily deliver higher QOS than this “solution”.

    All said, November 7 is right on the money. I’ve seen it first hand. Skills and training are everything. If Novell has a strength, its that its people *tend* to have received formal training and better experience. But friends, don’t let your guard down. PEBKAC is no myth and can undermine even the most robust of solutions.