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Against the odds – the true story of SAP’s remarkable e-mail migration

During the first quarter of 2013, SAP Global IT wrapped up a project which saw 93,000 e-mail accounts migrated from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010. Despite the fact that these types of IT projects are very common, what made this venture truly unique was the challenge to migrate all e-mail accounts also to a new Active Directory domain at the same time – resulting in the need to support co-existence between two Active Directory domains and Exchange environments. Add to that the requirement of supporting thousands of mail enabled mobile devices and suddenly the odds of success become daunting. While employees were happy to get larger mailboxes (300% increase) and attachment limits, we had to develop a solution that made it possible to support co-existence without any user impact. We succeeded in completing the upgrade with no serious issues reported – an endeavor unique within the technology industry.


It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and this phrase certainly applied to the recent mail migration project at SAP. Combining both a domain migration and e-mail migration is not usually the preferred approach, in our case it was unavoidable. The team could not rely on case studies from other companies to point us in the right direction. Working with our partners, the way forward was discovered by including a specially configured 3rd party device between the two environments which made co-existence a reality. Below is a network diagram of the final configuration:



On the surface it didn’t feel like upgrading to Exchange 2010 would be that difficult. However, once we considered all the moving pieces, it became clear the effort involved would be significant. At SAP Global IT, the project was completed in two years. While the number of accounts we needed to move was large, the project team also needed to consider mobile devices configured for e-mail, new acquisitions, shared mailboxes, delegation …I could go on but you get the idea. Our project would impact every employee but should not result in a loss of service.

This was accomplished by incorporating the following strategies:

• Getting support from the Executive team to provide the required resources up front

• Defining clear roles and responsibilities with the project team

• Don’t ignore your smartphone users …open channels of communication with relevant mobile vendors early to identify and resolve issues

• Start small and don’t migrate in big numbers until you are completely confident in your migration strategy

• Make it easy for employees to provide feedback. Utilize internal social media tools if available

• Identify employees with delegation settings and migrate them in sync

• Spend the effort to design easy to understand documentation and create the necessary awareness of the upcoming changes

• If possible, offer employees additional benefit by increasing mailbox size or attachment size limit


The 3rd party solution that was key to offering co-existence also allowed us to migrate end users in phases without any sync issues between clients living in either domain. Another hurdle for us was the inclusion of mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Samsung devices using Android. Taking advantage of the features included with SAP Afaria made this complex task easier – minimizing effort required by the end user to continue receiving e-mail on their smartphones after the switch to Exchange 2010.


Though you may not find yourself in a similar situation where a co-existence model is necessary for an Exchange upgrade, it is worthwhile to perform the recommended steps to make your project a success. With e-mail being so heavily relied upon –avoid the temptation to rush the implementation and test your processes thoroughly. If you’re dealing with two separate AD forests like us, you can proceed with the confidence that it’s indeed possible while keeping your customers happy.

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