Cisco and the war for, um, hosted email
Anything GooIBMsoft can do...
Cisco Systems tossed itself into an increasingly contentious market last week with the debut of its very own hosted email service. Yes, contentious.
Business email, so it seems, hasn't been interesting in an extremely long time. Like breathing — you rarely notice it unless it stops. But now its become a veritable clash of the titans between Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco. Each company is eager for their own piece of the web-hosted email racket, which has become the new gateway drug to buying expansive enterprise collaboration software.
Our latter entry into the hosted email circuit is — and we shudder to say this about ever-consuming Cisco of all things — somewhat of the underdog. The company is not particularly known for software. Except for WebEx. So there may be some wisdom in its branding the service "WebEx Mail." It immediately pins the service with a web conferencing platform and Cisco software-as-a-service platform that a good number of businesses actually know about.
But WebEx Mail still has the smell of fresh meat when compared to rivals.
"Cisco does not have a ton of experience in email in general and hosted email specifically," said Bill Pray, an analyst at the Burton Group. "There are going to be some learning curves for them. This will be a journey — it won't be an overnight sensation or success."
Pray, however, feels Cisco's hosted mail excursion does have some promising prospects.
Despite rubbing up against the venerable likes of Google's Gmail, IBM's Lotus Live iNotes, and Microsoft's Exchange Hosted Services, the market is still young and growing with plenty of customers ripe for the plucking. And there doesn't seem to be a size limit on operations willing to go cloud these days either — the city of Los Angeles moved to Google Apps, for chrissakes.
And, really, what are companies even looking for in email? Lower cost and reliability arguably are the only real underlying factors here. (Until they've been wrangled into a broader collaboration suite at least). Cisco does have a decent reputation for reliability. Low cost? Well, Cisco does have a decent reputation for reliability. The company told us having an "enterprise-grade" system built from the ground-up for hosted email is going to be one of it's biggest pitches for the service.
"We based our introduction of WebEx Mail on the fact that we actually are a software company — although we may not be known for it," said Alex Hadden-Boyd, boss marketeer at Cisco's Collaboration Software Group. "With the acquisitions we've made of a number of software companies in the past three years, including WebEx, PostPath, and Jabber, we've really evolved that."
She argues that Cisco does have a background in email from its borging of PostPath, which she described as a "very successful" email vendor — albeit with a smaller niche clientele. The acquisition of PostPath also allowed Cisco to make a pretty shrewd move with WebEx Mail.
Convincing potential customers to switch from in-house email to shoving it all into the cloud is still the name of the game at this point. Using PostPath voodoo, Cisco's email client is currently the only non-Microsoft solution to offer protocol level (MAPI) support for Microsoft Outlook. While others can plug into an Outlook client, they do this through plug-ins on the front end. Native Outlook support provides the company with an good argument because a company wouldn't have to immediately switch clients across all its employees.
Next page: Sticking toes in the cloud
Too much technology, not enough techs.
There are too many computer users, and not enough people who actually understand how computers work. Humanity hasn't grown along with it's technology. Scammers (and marketing folks ... same thing? You decide!) are separating fools from their money.
I, me, personally, have had my "friends & family" email system up and running, non-stop, for over two decades. It is not exactly rocket science.
Note that I said "system". When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, my box under Bryant Street in Palo Alto lost power long enough to exhaust the UPS. New York took up the slack. When the 25th floor of the World Trade Center went away on 9/11, my server in a small closet at Sun went with it, but the Palo Alto server took up the slack. In both cases, servers in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Auckland, New Zealand did their job of mirroring the main servers. So did the small box at Great Aunt Mabel's, in Duluth, Minnesota (just in case). (The NYC server's replacement is currently housed in Nyack.)
The system also runs Usenet, ftp, and Web servers. Maintenance takes (perhaps) 5 minutes a week, and most of that is clearing logs if nothing important seems to be happening.
If I can do it for myself, on the cheap (under $150/year), why does the corporate world seem to think that basic connectivity has to be massively expensive, to the point of having to pay someone else to take care of it?
The answer is that there is too much technology, and not enough techs ... and the fact that marketing rules the world (as seen by Management). Technology is a cost center, and marketing makes money. QED.
Fortunately, some of us grok otherwise, and will continue to fan the "sometime less is more" flame ...
When I "invented" the Internet back in 1995, I provided all services from a single 90 MHz pentium. As demand increased, various aspects of ISPing were offloaded.
The first to go was Email filtering as the levels of spam got beyond my native bandwidth, we became customer #67 (ISTR) of POSTINI.
Then web hosting, DNS, and eventually the entire suite of Web Stuff migrated to external providers, or leased computers in a data center.
Today our email is handled by www.FUSEMAIL.com, they offer services such as device syncing, mailing list management, and DNS. We rebrand it so that it still appears to the customer as if it were our own service. (Disclaimer: I am a happy customer of FuseMail, and have no sales or ownership position.)
I host my own websites, but on a leased server in a Data center which costs less than my bandwidth did when i was doing it in house.
For the big iron companies to join the move to cloud services is natural... But they have a good distance to go to catch up to the leaders. Even cloud pioneer Google chose to purchase Postini rather than attempt to start from scratch.
Postpath + Mac
We bought the standalone Postpath product years ago and are still using it
Their current version still has no Mac support (beyond IMAP) .. it emulates Exchange 2003, but does not emulate Outlook Web Access, so neither Entourage nor recent Mail.app can get full groupware functionality...