Incremental improvement versus the traditional upgrade cycle

Organizations have slowed the pace at which they upgrade their email systems.  The cost to deploy new releases to large numbers of clients and servers (for organizations that have not consolidated their infrastructures) can be quite high.  This poses a dilemma for those who want to quickly deliver new capabilities such as RSS news reading, enhanced security, enhanced search or archiving.

Two possible solutions to this dilemma are apparent...

The first solution is revisiting thin web-based mail clients.  In a thin client architecture, features can generally be enabled on servers and made available instantly to all users.  The take-up of web mail has been slow for a number of reasons (bandwidth constraints, inferior user interfaces, lack of off-line capabilities, etc.) but the options in this space are steadily improving .  I expect that more organizations will revisit web-based email for broad deployment in the coming year and some will decide to move in that direction.

The second solution is delivering client enhancements via add-on or plug-in software components.  Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook both provide a number of options for depoying functionality in this way without disturbing the core client installation.  Although this add-on model hasn't created significant new players yet, it has great potential as organizations continue to increase the time in between major software upgrades.

The major vendors are recognizing this dilemma as well and responding to it in a variety of ways - for example:

  • Google regularly provides enhancements to their web-based GMail beta according to no particular release schedule.
  • Microsoft recently aqcuired the Lookout search technology that is delivered as an Outlook plug-in.  Whether it remains a discrete add-on, is built-into the next release of Outlook, or merges with other search offerings is not yet known.
  • Newsgator, a popular RSS news reader, was also developed as an Outlook plug-in.  The synergy between communications and collaboration tasks such as email, newsreading, and instant messaging should be be fertile ground for enhancements and add-ons.

With fast-changing requirements around regulation, compliance, security and communication organizations cannot afford to wait an average of three to four years for new capabilities to be delivered in bulk by major software releases.  They must have the flexibilty to easily deploy them when and where they are needed.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. To comment, first join our community.