Email Architect's Best Friend
Too often, I see companies still running SMTP services on old UNIX based machines, when the rest of their messaging infrastructure is Microsoft based. While I believe that Sendmail is a great product, it has it's limits and it's uses and I believe the time has come to reconsider the de-facto standard for Internet messaging.
I strongly believe that MSExchange is capable of outperforming Sendmail in many IT organizations. The advertised message throughput of Exchange (5.5 sp2) is 10,000 SMTP messages/hr. My own experience is that this can be well surpassed with many of today's faster chips. Many of the old Sendmail machines are not going to be able to keep up without costly upgrades to hardware and risky software upgrades. But the real reason to replace Sendmail with Exchange is the cost savings realized with lower administration costs involved in maintenance and the costs of support in terms of finding someone capable of the in's and out's of Sendmail.
While I believe that Sendmail still has a great place in the world of internet messaging, and while I am a great fan of the product and particularly it's flexibility, it is not always the best choice for a new solution, nor an existing one. It's time architects look at all their choices before setting up new infrastructure, and in many cases replacing Sendmail with Exchange as the main internet host for their domain.
I don't expect ISP's to drop Sendmail and go with Exchange as their primary mail hosting software, but for many companies, Sendmail was traditionally the only choice for email in the earlier days of the Internet. Sendmail's time-tested reliability made it synonymous with Internet mail among netizen's for almost as many years as there has been an Internet. ISP's still benefit from it since they mostly handle POP3 and IMAP clients and many of their staff is already familiar with Sendmail. As more of the corporate customers start doing business on the Internet, they increasingly find a need to have a corporate based email system and the ability to provide SMTP traffic over the Internet. Corporate customers demand reliability and flexibility, while also demanding a feature-rich, directory enabled GroupWare system. Exchange is the product that meets this challenge in increasingly more instances, and in recent years has gained in popularity to become the best seller in it's category (http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/55/news/legacy.htm)
Exchange is a directory-based, feature rich, high performance messaging platform that can handle the internet traffic of most businesses today and provide the platform for business communications through it's rich directory features. For many companies, this enables many new solutions that can save the company time, effort, and mostly money.
Consider the following scenario to help illustrate a good example of when it makes sense to make Exchange the primary SMTP server for a company:
CompanyA has an Internet domain that they use for email and web pages. They are using CompanyA.Com for their email addresses. CompanyA has approximately 1000 users and has been a Sendmail shop primarily for many years. Recently, they deployed WINTEL desktops to their users, and installed a NT domain, and a couple of Exchange servers. The users wanted Exchange for it's ease of use, and the directory it provided to handle phone numbers and other user information. The current situation is that CompanyA is using Exchange for internal email, but having to administer the Sendmail machine in order to receive Internet mail. Since they are not migrating their domain, this also requires a re-write of the addresses, and in their case, a .~forward file for each user. To make matters more difficult, there is a group of 20 users, who refuse to migrate, and instead want to remain on the old domain, using UNIX desktops to view mail. This creates 1000 nightmares for mail delivery. At this point, it would do this company well to revisit the email situation, and move Exchange to the primary role of Internet email routing. It's a clear-cut case to let the New Top Dog take over.
This is a common situation that many IT professionals find themselves in. The common argument is performance and reliability of a Microsoft product. In my time as a SE for Microsoft, I have great reliability and have the utmost confidence in using a properly configured and backed up Exchange machine to handle Internet email for most situations in today's email systems.
BIOGRAPHY of Al Mulnick
Al Mulnick is currently a contractor working in North Carolina. He designs and deploys email infrastructure for medium and large companies primarily using and integrating Microsoft products. He is currently finishing up a project for a large financial organization.
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