Another Lotus migration:
Caltex details huge Office 365, Windows 7 rollout



news Petrol and convenience store retailer Caltex has revealed it has completed a large migration away from IBM’s ailing Lotus Notes/Domino platform and onto Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud email system, alongside other associated technology deployments such as an upgrade of the company’s desktops to Windows 7.

Caltex is one of Australia’s largest service station brands, employing about 3,500 staff in every state and territory around the nation. It supplies about 2,000 Caltex-branded retail outlets around Australia and also sells fuel directly to other commercial customers such as large mining and agricultural companies.

However, despite its extensive footprint, the company hasn’t always been using the latest technology to support its operations. According to a Microsoft case study published this week, as late as 2010 Caltex was still using an older, on-premise deployed version of IBM’s Lotus Notes/Domino solution. At that time, Caltex didn’t have a webmail component to Notes installed, so accessing email while employees were travelling was difficult. In addition, the company had no no instant messaging or web conferencing tools. About 10 percent of the workforce had BlackBerry devices.

“We were reaching the end of life for our existing solution,” said Steve Fox, chief information officer at Caltex Australia, in Microsoft’s case study. “To access email, you had to be connected to the corporate network, and even though we had a VPN [virtual private network], it was not very reliable. Many employees experienced connectivity issues when out of the office. And when mail stopped working, it could slow down PCs and laptops. These issues generated many calls to the help desk.”

To resolve the issues, in 2010 the company’s IT department kicked off a project to examine the best way forward. Right from the start, Fox was more inclined to go with a hosted or cloud-based solution, rather than another on-premise deployment.

“In previous email projects, 60 percent of my time was devoted to working on infrastructure,” he said. “But with cloud-based services, Caltex can concentrate on business change management. We wouldn’t have to worry about paying for and setting up hardware, enabling us to deliver the benefits of new technology quickly and at reduced costs.”

In 2010, Caltex evaluated Microsoft cloud-based business productivity tools, Google Apps for Business, and LotusLive, hosted by IBM Collaboration Solutions. At that time, Microsoft cloud services were known as the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite — now the platform is known as Office 365. “Caltex chose Microsoft cloud services instead of the other solutions because we wanted a vendor with a proven delivery in the enterprise space and a very strong product roadmap,” said Fox. “We also looked at functionality and financials, and Microsoft won on both accounts.”

The company’s first step was to retire Notes and migrate about 3,000 mailboxes to Microsoft Exchange Online (hosted in Microsoft’s datacentres). Caltex then deployed Office Communications Online to deliver instant messaging and presence functionality to staff. “It was a conscious decision for us to take small steps on our journey to cloud computing,” said Fox. “We had Lotus Notes for a long time, and I wanted to stage the delivery of new communication services so we could minimize disruptions and better manage the business change, focusing first on email and introducing IM.”

In early 2012, Caltex added to the program by deploying Windows 7 across its operations, as well as the Professional Plus 2010 version of Microsoft Office. At that point, the company believed it was ready to start planning an upgrade to Microsoft’s new and more comprehensive and integrated cloud suite, Office 365. The focus initially was to implement the Lync Online collaboration tool. “We knew that employees really wanted desktop sharing and web conferencing to enable more work-from-home scenarios,” said Fox.

To prepare for the upgrade, Caltex engaged Microsoft Cloud Vantage Services, as well as Kloud Solutions, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, to help with the transition. “The transition to Office 365 was excellent; it literally happened over one weekend in August 2012,” said Fox. “For the end user, it was a seamless experience.”

To date, Caltex has acquired 3,875 Office 365 licenses. All employees are using Exchange Online for mail and 2,700 employees are using Lync Online for IM, web conferencing, and video conferencing. Caltex also installed the Lync 2010 mobile client on approximately 750 company mobile phone. In addition to managing email on their mobile devices, employees can now use mobile phones for IM and presence awareness capabilities.

The next step may see the company adopt SharePoint Online; the company currently uses an on-premise deployed version of SharePoint Server 2007.

The deployments have had a positive effect on the company’s workforce, with more than 90 percent of staff indicating they were happy with the change to Office 365, and staff productivity has risen courtesy of the new collaboration tools. Travel costs are also down as staff need to travel less, and support incidents are also down due to the Windows 7 upgrade.

I haven’t seen this kind of deployment with Office 365 specifically that much, although there has been the odd Office 365 deployment in Australia over the past year that has been worth mentioning. I’ve heard rumours of a similar large scale deployment at facilities management firm Spotless, for example.

However, it’s in the integrated nature of Caltex’s deployment that you can see Microsoft’s secret enterprise IT sauce working here. Microsoft is becoming like Oracle in the enterprise: Once you get a little Oracle into your IT environment, you end up getting a lot, because it all works nicely together and not as well with individual solutions from other companies. I can see a lot of Australian organisations deploying more cloud solutions from Microsoft over the next few years as this effect continues to be felt.

One thing I think organisations such as Caltex will obviously need to watch out for is to have a contingency plan if things go south with Microsoft. The IT industry has seen plenty of examples over the past few decades where a company with monopoly-like power has tightened its fist over its customers and started imposing unreasonable conditions. Putting everything in Microsoft’s cloud may seem like a good idea now, but what happens in five years when Microsoft starts racking up the price increases and it becomes difficult to find alternatives, given the integrated nature of Microsoft’s technology?

Right now, Microsoft is a really good company in the enterprise — it’s playing nice, that I can see, and trying its best to do well by its customers. But Microsoft hasn’t always been that way, and companies change. I hope the company keeps on the straight and narrow, for its customers’ sake.

One final note: I do wonder how many Lotus Notes customers there still are in Australia. It seems like we hear about a major Notes to Exchange migration pretty much every month now.

Image credit: Dell, Creative Commons


  1. Microsoft are in a risky position right now, although they technically have a sudo-monopoly, open source alternatives are becoming increasingly viable alternatives. Adobe are in a similar situation but unlike Microsoft they refuse to acknowledge it.

    If Microsoft overstep they will finally crush the misconceptions that open source products are inferior and people will be unwilling to pay for their products anymore.

    I see Office 365 as a preemptive product placement to compete with Open Source solutions coupled with a support contract and Web based subscription products like Google Apps.

    The last thing Microsoft wants to do right now is rock the boat.

    • risky maybe in the consumer space, but enterprise is still king for microsoft, as it has been for many years.

      they’ve shown over many iterations of their enterprise products (exchange, sql and windows server in particular) that they understand what can keep a business running and how important it is for these products to work well together.

      you pay the extra for this level of integration and the support that comes with it…

      go with open-source if you can support it, but not everyone can. it’s easier to find an expert windows tech than a linux tech, expecially in the regional centres of australia.

      • That’s not entirely accurate. Almost all websites and associated systems run on Linux. It’s only in small business that have no experience with Linux/UNIX. Most large businesses I’ve seen go for a Hybrid setup so that the staff facing systems are Windows. Often this means Exchange because it works well with Outlook.

        MSSQL is rarely used in practice as well, if people want a database they typically go for Oracle despite the fact that Postgres is far more reliable.

        • mssql rarely used?? not sure where you get that idea from. plenty of small to medium enterprises use mssql all the time, partly due to oracle’s high prices.

          and websites only make up a small proportion of an overall business setup…

          not sure where you live, but if not in a regional area, you might be surprised about how much microsoft software is around…

          • *sigh* I thought it was obvious that the context I was talking about was large business for Oracle. I am aware of the licencing costs of Oracle being prohibitive to SMEs.

          • i can do without the *sigh*, thanks. it does nothing to further the debate.

            you’re still incorrect about mssql, even in terms of large businesses. plenty of multi-million dollar businesses, including government (particularly local) use mssql as a part of a microsoft-specific deployment of enterprise software.

            based on the mailbox numbers in the article, i wouldn’t even call this deployment a ‘large’ deployment….

          • Neither does engaging in thinly veiled Strawman arguments contribute to the debate.

            I never said no one uses MSSQL, only that Oracle tends to be more popular. Every business I’ve worked with use Oracle as the go to solution when they need a database. You may work in circles where MSSQL is the go too database, and unless you want to pull out market share statistics both our positions are therefore based upon anecdotal evidence.

            I personally don’t really care enough to go to that level of detail about this minor point you seem obsessed over, nor does that undermine my argument, which if you haven’t picked up, was that Microsoft don’t have the sudo-monopoly that Renai implied.

          • i’ve picked up your argument just fine, but that’s where you are wrong: they are very quickly building a sudo monopoly (again) with deployments just like the caltex one, mainly because of the excellent integration between their products and how those products fit into many business, both large and small.

            and if i am right, the ‘strawman’ argument regarding mssql started with you and the comments you stated about ‘mssql rarely being used in practice’ and ‘if people want a database they typically go for oracle’.

          • Do you even know what a strawman argument is?

            A strawman argument is where you respond to a statement that was never made and argue against it.

            You made the argument that MSSQL was popular because it is highly intragrated, I appended that argument with my point that Oracle tends to be more popular in Large Enterprise.

            You tried to counter that by saying that lots of SMEs use it. That is a Strawman. Based upon context it was obvious I was referring to Large Enterprise with Oracle deployment. I clarified that, and even admitted that it was anecdotal, meaning that if you would like to bring market data into the equation I would not refute it if MSSQL has a clear majority.

            The existence of a sudo monopoly implies that the competitive products are inferior and rarely used. Oracle is a direct counter example to this as it provides direct competition to MSSQL.

            If you want an example of a sudo-monopoly, like at Adobe. Although alternatives like GIMP exist they are widely regarded as a an inferior alternative.

            So based upon the above I have to ask, what is your angle here? Do you feel I’m some anti Microsoft troll because I can assure you that I still use their products like Exchange and 365.

          • no, a strawman argument is:

            ‘to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.’

            Not, as you say, to attack an argument that was never made.

            i just wanted to give another perspective regarding microsoft and the supposed ‘risky position’ that you proposed and what i thought of that ‘position’.

            let’s call it a day, shall we? apologies all round….

  2. One issue for MS Office 365 is that the data centre is in Singapore, which is stopping Govt & some enterprises from migrating to it, as they require their data to be housed in Australia & subject to Australian laws. .

    • This problem applies to all cloud platforms and will continue for a while. It’s ironic, one of the primary advantages of cloud storage is geographically diverse deployment of servers which is helpful for redundancy and business continuity.

      I can’t see this been solved until a trade agreement is signed that formalises the standard for allowing a certain product offering to be subject to certain regional laws regardless of where it is physically stored.

  3. Given that Caltex had not activated webmail, an extension added by IBM in 2001, there is little wonder that they felt they weren’t getting the best from their product. I’d feel the same way if I was using a 12 year old version of Microsoft Exchange.

    Lotus Notes is not a suitable email-only platform and its strengths lie in rapid web application development and workflow. If you’re not using these, then there’s really no reason to continue with it.

    I’m not sure that I’d consider Microsoft Office 365 a mature product though and I probably would have leant a little more towards Google’s offering.

    • “Given that Caltex had not activated webmail, an extension added by IBM in 2001, there is little wonder that they felt they weren’t getting the best from their product. I’d feel the same way if I was using a 12 year old version of Microsoft Exchange.”


    • Actually, Domino Webmail has been around since about 1996/7, before Microsoft had any equivalent, and way before there was Google or “the cloud”. I was at a company that had it rolled out to all their users in the late ‘nineties, for example. User installation is zero: you just give ’em a URL and a password. Programming is zero; it’s all out of the box stuff. Costs, minimal – certainly compared to a full rip and replace operation.

      So why didn’t they have it?

      It’s hard not to be cynical when one hears of stories like this, but it’s long been an axiom in IT that if you want your shiny “new solution” project signed-off, then ensuring that your current solution as unreliable and difficult to use as possible does you no harm.

      So, don’t bother with webmail. Instead, stick the full client behind an unnecessary VPN solution and when the users howl in pain you can cry “look, it’s broke! we need to replace it!” Your shiny “new solution” project is signed off in a jiffy – sure looks great on your résumé, doesn’t it? – and everyone’s a winner.

  4. Wow, so they did all of this instead of issuing the Domino command “Load http”. 100’s of thousands of dollars spent instead of issuing that command.

    It’s a joke right ?

    BTW. They are still running Domino and their Sharepoint rollout as been a complete disaster.

  5. Just wondering how Mr Fox – who’s company *was* running iNotes and Sametime – could make the statement that they did not have Instant Messaging or Webmail.

    I always find it amusing when organisations who force users to connect via a VPN to access a browser based ‘on-premises’ service happily move to a public web server.

    It would appear that there is a whole lot more to this story, including the inaccuracies in the Microsoft Blog post.

  6. Judging by the consulting work I get (via I would say there are still a surprising number of Lotus Notes environments out there. But, as you say, they are reducing all the time, with not many migrations onto Lotus Notes that I am aware of.

    Whenever I do a migration off Lotus Notes onto MS Exchange/Outlook the general user consensus is that they prefer Outlook – hard to ignore if you are the CIO. Amusingly, on a recent migration job, I discovered that half the user’s had secretly installed DAMO on their workstations in order to use the Outlook client against their Domino mailbox.

    It would be interesting to understand what the main driver was to migrate – moving to the cloud, or moving off Lotus Notes ?

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