11.10.08

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Why Microsoft Doomed Exchange… and E-mail Too

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Mail, Microsoft at 11:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Anti-competitive ‘traits’ of Microsoft Exchange are nothing new to us [1, 2] and I’ve had my share of complaints too.

One reader got in touch with us (privately) after yesterday's post about the White House. He wanted to express and share an opinion: “So the Whitehouse is clubbing Microsoft Exchange into the place where a mail server should be used instead. My first reaction is that is a way of helping to ensure that any subsequent investigations are hampered and that evidence is destroyed.

“At the top levels of politics I can see how the plausible deniability that the catastrophic failure of Microsoft gimmicks bring.”

“Additionally, Microsoft is often blamed for SPAM, which is caused by its many compromised ‘deployments’ (about 320 million zombie PCs).”We thought it would be useful to group together references that show why GNU/Linux and/or Free software servers beat Microsoft Exchange [1-9], as well as bring to light fairly recent incidents (from the past year or two) of Exchange disasters [10, 11]. There are several other important issues, e.g. [12, 13], so people don’t rush to adopt Exchange [14], to say the very least.

Microsoft is, in general, risky to one’s E-mail resilience, as demonstrated in [15-19]. Additionally, Microsoft is often blamed for SPAM [20, 21], which is caused by its many compromised ‘deployments’ (about 320 million zombie PCs). This has a negative effect on ISPs, overall reliability, and cost of services that we all pay for [22].

Large amounts of SPAM render E-mail next to useless [23, 24] and Hotmail — deservedly enough (for its proprietor’s sin) — takes the toll [25, 26].

It’s all a big mess [27] and Microsoft has just rebuilt Hotmail [28] to discriminate against GNU/Linux users and annoy its existing clientèle.

_____
[1] R.I.P. Exchange?

Over the years, many of Microsoft monopolies have been successfully attacked by open source: Linux on the server; Apache for Web servers; Firefox for Web browsers; and so on.

[...]

Cisco is buying PostPath, and that is going to kick Exchange in the head. You see, is an open-source based server program that doesn’t just do e-mail and groupware, it actually has reverse-engineered Microsoft Exchange’s protocols. Result: To someone sitting at a desk looking at your copy of Outlook, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

[2] Open source could doom Exchange, one IT pro believes

The following post is a guest blog from new Google Subnet blogger Garett Kopczynski who this week launched Network World’s Google Watcher blog. Kopczynski is an IT professional for the city of Keene, N.H., and has been involved in the transformation of the IT group as it increasingly explores cloud computing and Google Apps. He writes: I am seeing the evidence of a fundamental shift to open source. The clunkiness of the IT world I have experience with brings to mind the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and mammals waited in the wings. As people are exposed to the possibilities of server side applications and program alternatives, I think they will feel less obliged to go with the current standard. AOL, for instance, was the easiest option for Internet in the 1990′s, and yet it is no longer an indomitable presence. Open source could spell extinction for the current IT standards.

[3] Microsoft Exchange dumped for Linux-based clone

After conducting an evaluation of alternatives, the hospital decided not to upgrade to a newer version of Exchange. Instead, it went with a Linux-based Exchange clone that it felt could meet the needs of its 700 users without forcing them and IT to learn a whole new system.

[5] Why Exchange could be in trouble

Because Exchange is a whole other world, and, even with the large Exchange community, I find it equally opaque at times.

So, for now at least, we went to the tried and true Postfix+Courier-IMAP solution that is ever so common in UNIX shops, companies that are open to using Linux, and ISPs.

[6] Open source email is the future – Synaq

“We continue to receive very positive feedback from clients that have committed to a migration from traditional email platforms, Exchange and other messaging infrastructure. Clearly, there is an association between Linux-based technology and benefits such as improved operational efficiency, higher levels of infrastructure management and control, as well as lower total cost of ownership,” he adds.

[7] Multifunction Open-Source Solutions

For example, 23% of the nearly 1,000 IT managers and C-level executives who responded to the survey said they planned to migrate from Microsoft’s Exchange Server (www.microsoft.com) and replace it with a Linux (www.linux.org) or open-source messaging platform in the next 12 to 18 months.

[8] Small Player Scores Big Open-Source Win

In the scrappy open-source software world–where software is developed in the open, rather than within the confines of corporate patents–successes are hard-won and often come in small chunks. Typically it’s a few thousand government employees in Munich, Brasilia, or Amsterdam who begin using the Linux operating system or the Open Office suite of business programs, shunning comparable offerings from the likes of Microsoft.

But a deal announced Feb. 26 was on an entirely different scale. 1&1 Internet, the world’s largest Web hosting company, said it will roll out 1 million e-mail accounts this year running on Open-Xchange’s open-source software.

[9] A Hybrid Approach to E-Mail: The Best of Both Worlds

Given corporations’ existing investments and their potential need to support additional Microsoft Exchange-compatible applications in the future, this hybrid open/proprietary approach will only work if it allows users to drop in an e-mail server without making changes to desktops or infrastructure.

[...]

A better approach employs a product that is compatible at the network-protocol level with the existing infrastructure. Outlook on the desktop will “think” it is talking to Exchange when it is really talking to the new Linux e-mail server, and end users do not know they are on a different server. IT professionals get a Linux e-mail server with higher performance, that uses lower-cost storage, and that works with existing datacenter applications such as Active Directory.

[10] Virgin Media taps Microsoft in lengthy email outage

A mysterious configuration problem was identified on one of VM’s eight email server clusters last Wednesday. Microsft engineers have struggled to identify the cause, forcing several reboots.

[11] [Australia:] WA infrastructure dept close to e-mail disaster

Western Australia’s Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) has revealed its Microsoft Exchange-based e-mail system is suffering frequent outages that are creating a risk of embarrassing public data loss.

[12] Read the Exchange 2007 small print

Hmmm. Simplification? Sounds more like a way for Microsoft to wring more dollars from customers, to me.

[13] Exchange 2007 facing integration issues with other Microsoft software

In a nutshell, Exchange 2007 can’t run on Microsoft’s most current virtualization software, Exchange’s management tools won’t run on the just released Vista desktop operating system and the 64-bit messaging server is not compatible with Microsoft’s forthcoming 64-bit server operating system called Longhorn.

[...]

In any case, users are already reacting, especially in regards to virtualization, which has become a hot bed of networking activity, as well as, a major area of competition for Microsoft with VMWare and open source Xen on Linux platforms

[14] Users, analysts: No rush to adopt Exchange 2007

Windows Vista isn’t the only recently released Microsoft software that will give users headaches when they upgrade their systems. Corporate users, partners, and analysts said upgrading to Exchange Server 2007 from previous versions also may be a lengthy and painful process for companies, which may want to take a wait-and-see approach to the new software.

[15] Microsoft shipped OneCare unfinished?

Since shipping in May, OneCare has failed industry tests and exposed users to attack because of a security flaw in the antivirus engine. The application also incorrectly flagged Gmail as a virus and in some cases quarantined or even deleted complete in-boxes when a single e-mail was laden with a virus.

[16] Microsoft quietly patches Windows Live OneCare to fix Outlook problems

As noted by various Microsoft watchers, the OneCare-Outlook problems are not new. A number of customers have been reporting “OneCare ate my e-mail” problems since late January.

[17] Vista: What To Do When You Cannot Delete a Message in Windows Mail

A number of users are experiencing problems with Windows Mail and deleting messages from the Inbox and Outbox. The message will first become unviewable in the reading pane and will then generate an error when you try to delete it.

[18] Microsoft looking into Hotmail, Messenger problems

Microsoft engineers were looking into problems with Windows Live Hotmail and Live Messenger on Thursday after users reported problems getting onto the services.

[19] Vista: What To Do When You Cannot Delete a Message in Windows Mail

A number of users are experiencing problems with Windows Mail and deleting messages from the Inbox and Outbox. The message will first become unviewable in the reading pane and will then generate an error when you try to delete it.

[20] Full circle: How Microsoft is trying to eradicate email

There are millions of these systems out there, according to an article from USA Today. Millions.

The mainstream media consistently use the term “computers” when they make forays into this realm. Yes, they are computers, but they’re not just any computer — they are all running Windows. All of them. Let’s not mince words here: Botnets are comprised of compromised Windows systems. Thus, Microsoft’s massive security failures are at the very core of the spam problem.

[21] Microsoft is the world’s biggest cause of zombie remailers

In China, it would take about one and one-half years wages (for the average Chinese) to buy a legitimate copy of Windows Vista. If you could find it here.

Microsoft is the biggest cause of zombie remailers in the world, because they make noises, but do not do anything to address the real digital inequities in the world.

[22] Comcast starts blocking email willy-nilly

After much shouting Comcast has lifted the block on the IP range. But this seems to be a problem with several US ISPs. For example, one ISP in Florida and another in California are convinced that every email from Bulgaria must be spam and is refusing to receive mail with a .bg ending.

[23] It’s ME vs. MICROSOFT – Who Will Win ?

Now, the only problem with #1 is that IT DOES NOT WORK. When Microsoft blackholes your email, or bounces it with “550 Your e-mail was rejected for policy reasons on this gateway.“, no amount of client whitelisting is going to help (I tried it). This leaves me with option #2 – well I say “F-You Microsoft, I’m not paying for YOUR STUPID MISTAKES!”

[24] If Intent Can Be Proven, Microsoft Could Face Millions Of Mail Fraud Charges

The final results bore out the “conventional wisdom.” If emails were donuts, Hotmail would be HomerSimpsonMail. I don’t need to reiterate the figures, there they are in blue and red. But for a Hotmail account to destroy up to 81% of all emails with attachments prior to their delivery to a “generic” ISP email account is nothing short of absurd, as these Hotmail accounts were not the free variety, but the fully paid ones. Compare those figures to the ones where the generic ISP email accounts exchanged emails with attachments and you will clearly see the difference. The worst performance was in making 2% Vanish.

[25] Hotmail’s antispam measures snuff out legit emails, too

Hotmail users and email server admins, beware: you may be unknowingly caught in the crossfire of Microsoft’s war on spam. Unintended casualties include legitimate emails from domains with well-established reputations, which are systematically blocked with absolutely no notice and little recourse.

[26] Hotmail still riddled with spam

Microsoft has admitted that up to 98 per cent of messages sent to Hotmail addresses are spam.

[...]

The findings will disappoint Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who predicted at the 2004 Davos World Economic Forum that spam would be “eliminated” within two years.

[27] Botnet army’ behind tenfold rise in ‘attachment’ spam

“No one but the spam group knows how many PCs they can control with this spambot, it is assumed to be a high five figure number. If each of the PCs is instructed to send 200-300 spam messages containing a PDF attachment the spammers can send hundreds or millions of spam messages in a day – equivalent to 25 percent of all spam sent on a given day.”

[28] Hotmail engine overhaul

The redesign effort, even its more ambitious aspects, is not a total wash, however.

[...]

With Hotmail, Microsoft was at the end of its development rope. Every new feature basically had to be “hacked” into the code.

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