back to article University of Cambridge to decommission its homegrown email service Hermes in favour of Microsoft Exchange Online

The University of Cambridge has said that it will decommission its on-premises Hermes email service in favour of Microsoft's Exchange Online. Currently both systems are in use. The surprise, perhaps, is that the university still runs Hermes, an old-school email server. Email services are burdensome to run, with many issues …

  1. Alan J. Wylie

    Here are some photos and a description of Hermes over the years.

    It's a sad day for Exim

    1. john.jones.name
      WTF?

      less than ideal

      Security wise it would be less than ideal if they transitioned all their MX records to exchange online, some dept's would have T&C's they could not use i.e. software security research into vulnerability of Microsoft products means data can be compromised when flowing through Microsoft's network...

      plus Microsoft while it has said they will support DANE for some office365 they have not committed for all which would disavow some grant applications while Exim has supported that option for years.

      All of Cambridge's email data transmission would flow through Microsoft and they can use that Meta Data... if you think adverts targeting you are creepy...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: less than ideal

        I remember back in the 90s when MSFT built them a nice new CS building and the T&Cs for all staff effectively blocked working on open source.

        1. john.jones.name

          Re: less than ideal

          There are no T&C's on the William Gates Building stop being provocative and spreading misinformation

          The mail being delivered solely through Microsoft networks is an issue.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: less than ideal

            No it wasn't just on the Gates building it applied to everyone.

            In a purely coincidental simultaneous announcement staff were required to agree that the University had rights to all intellectual property they created and they weren't allowed to enter into any other agreements.

            It was pointed out that this meant they couldn't work on GPL software or transfer any of their work to the public domain. But it took several years of campaigning by academics for the university to admit that this was a problem.

            If you are under censure by the DoJ for naughtiness it isn't unreasonable for people to assume naughtiness in your actions

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: less than ideal

              But it is not true that this had anything to do with Microsoft. It had much more to do with too many cases of individual academics becoming millionaires on the back of research that had been done on university premises, with university equipment, and with the support of hard-working and not very well paid university staff, including computer technicians.

              1. NeilPost Bronze badge

                Re: less than ideal

                So that’s where you have a standard agreement to split the IP/patent rights and everybody wins.

                Stifling innovation otherwise.

                Not everyone will grown up and build ARM but that’s a great example of what can happen within the Cambridge ecosystem twice removed washing it through Acorn and the BBC Micro programme.

            2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "IETF standards – at least not competently"

              MS in a nutshell.

              Close to 40 f**king years as well.

              1. Mike 137 Silver badge

                Re: "IETF standards – at least not competently"

                It's worse than that. MS mail clients don't even generate plain text parts for HTML emails properly. It obviously uses the HTML as the source and incompetently strips out the HTML tags. Incompetently because it ignores line ends that immediately follow HTML tags, leaving them in place. Consequently the plain text part includes masses of vertical white space, making it very hard to read and impossible to print without copying to an editor and reformatting.

                Looks like they just do a linear search, deleting everything between '<' and '>' inclusive, but this is such a simple problem to solve: just check whether there's a CR/LF (or whatever alternative line end) immediately following the '>' tag close and if so delete that too. Might have to allow for white space between the two, but that's not hard either. They obviously haven't heard of regex (or at least they're not very good at it).

              2. Mike 16 Silver badge

                Re: "IETF standards – at least not competently"

                I recall several years back when a MSFT spokeperson blurted out, in answer to a question about when some MSFT product (probably Exchange) would conform to standards:

                "We're Microsoft _WE_ set the standards".

          2. Flywheel Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: less than ideal

            There are no T&C's on the William Gates Building

            I'm sure there were, but they were probably extremely obfuscated and hard to find...

            (note the icon)

            1. rg287

              Re: less than ideal

              Everybody knows they're in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

              Don't forget to take a flashlight - the cellar lights will probably have gone.

          3. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: less than ideal

            it seems reasonable to me that ANY decent service provider that can handle email for a domain would do. I recently switched to a Linux-based shared hosting provider (with ssh access), and it's UBER CHEAP, and mail config is super simple, and it handles POP, IMAP, forwarding, and web-mail, with or without any automated spam filtering. And a ZILLION other providers have similar services, for similar prices. [OK maybe a major university will need a 'Rolls Royce' plan and dedicated hosting, but even still, it's CHEAPER and EASIER than in-house, and in MY Bombastic Opinion, better than what they picked...]

            So, WHY are they going with Micros~1.Exchange again?

            From the article: "the knowledge and expertise needed to keep it running are in very short supply."

            So, what *ARE* they teaching these kids in school, today? [apparently NOT the right things]

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      It's a sad day for Exim

      Why? I didn't see anything about Cambridge terminating its support for Exim.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Well, when you no longer run Exim servers, you can't really still claim support for Exim as an institution, can you? Development-wise, possibly.

        Exim... one of the greats in mail servers. I used to have lots of fun with mine...

    3. Korev Silver badge
      Flame

      In case you don't see it, at the bottom of the page there is a link to a page with some nice pictures of a "Thermal event" on one of the Solaris boxes that used to run Hermes. The system was well designed so there was zero impact to the end users.

  2. oiseau Silver badge
    WTF?

    MS' deep pockets

    ... issues centred on spam and malware management, compliance with regulations, security, and support issues ...

    Right.

    And you think Office365 will do better, yes?

    Don't be daft.

    I cannot but to assume that someone has crawled into MS' deep pockets.

    Closing down on-premises email may be the right thing to do from a business perspective ...

    A university is not a goddamn business, no such perspective needed.

    I'm referring to a real university like Cambridge, not a scam like Trump's.

    Hermes had a better availability record than either Gmail or Exchange Online, with a "single two-hour outage" in recent years.

    Surprise!!!!!

    This needs an urgent revolt on behalf of staff and students and the resignation of all those involved in this utterly stupid move.

    It is a dishonour and an affront to the memory of Turing and his team.

    O.

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: MS' deep pockets

      "A university is not a goddamn business, no such perspective needed."

      I guess there was enough of a gap in time between the axing of the grant/introduction of tuition fees and the browser wars for those who were students at the right time to not remember when universities weren't actually a business, but to still develop a chip on their shoulder about Microsoft.

      I was lucky enough to be in the penultimate year of the grant - and just escaped tuition fees be the skin of my teeth. I watched the final throes of our higher education system being dismantled and turned into a business - all in the name of "equality".

      What the govenments of the time (both Tory and Labour) did to the University system between 1992 and 1998 - now that's the real dishonour and affront to the memory of Turing and co.

      1. CB__

        Re: MS' deep pockets

        Agreed, and same here, but wasn't it a great time to be at university -- a very special few years when the world-wide web (and other internet services) were beginning to transition to the mainstream. We were fortunate to be able to witness it all from the forefront.

        1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

          Re: MS' deep pockets

          Yes, and develop a deep founded hatred towards anything digital or binary (the mathemetical kind).

          To know computerstuff because it was mandatory, not because it was magnificently brilliant.

      2. bigtreeman

        Re: MS' deep pockets

        The world has changed from the 80's and onwards.

        Will the world pandemic give us the chance to reset to a better and fairer world, not run by corporations and greed.

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

          Re: MS' deep pockets

          "Will the world pandemic give us the chance to reset to a better and fairer world, not run by corporations and greed."

          Not very likely since giants like Amazon, ISPs, are all thriving. Instead it's the small businesses that are losing as they have drastically reduced business, if they can open at all.

          One can hope though: While the quarantine had a lot of ill effects (no pun intended), it was nice to see things slow down and become more family oriented instead of everyone rushing around. And the Earth's environment certainly benefited from having drastically less pollution being emitted for a while. I can almost see where we'd all like to be, but no idea how we can get there without a lot of people losing out and suffering.

        2. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: MS' deep pockets

          Will the world pandemic give us the chance to reset to a better and fairer world, not run by corporations and greed.

          ROTFL! I get a couple of bridges to sell you if you're interested

        3. Outski

          Re: MS' deep pockets

          "Will the world pandemic give us the chance to reset to a better and fairer world, not run by corporations and greed."

          I think Betteridge's Law applies here.

        4. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: MS' deep pockets

          Will the world pandemic give us the chance to reset

          Well, Wales's largest youth organisation certainly hopes so. Each year they put out a "message of peace and goodwill" to coincide with the Eisteddfod held during Whitsun. This year's Eisteddfod didn't happen, of course, but the message was still put out - and reflected the current situation.

          Versions here in 57 different languages.

          M.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: MS' deep pockets

      The paper shows Exim is technically better than Hermes and cheaper. Exim is also "made in Cambridge".

      Naturally, manglement goes with Office 3xy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MS' deep pockets

      A university is not a goddamn business

      Umm, I think you'll find it is.

      UK students pay tuition fees of £9k pa. Students from outside the UK pay a substantial amount more. (and if you have to ask the price you can't afford an MBA) Universities now talk about competition - from other Universities both at home and abroad. That's just the teaching side of things.

      Then there's the research grants/contracts, consultancy, etc.

      So a University is most definitely a business and it has to look at the services it offers its customers (studemts, researchers, etc) and the money it charges. A name (Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, etc) will only carry you so far.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MS' deep pockets

        No - Scottish students attending Scottish Universities pay no tuition fees. RUK students coming to Scotland do, as do Scottish students attending non-Scottish Universities.

        But yes, universities are businesses - otherwise we wouldn't have reports like the one last month saying how many institutions are struggling financially due to the current pandemic.

      2. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: MS' deep pockets

        Education has been moneterised in the misguided pursuits of a dash to “50% to higher education”.

        It’s as much of a viable business as the NHS where the ‘customer’ is funded by the taxpayer in some shape or form. The recovery of monies on student loan scheme would shock the people who ran Enron.

    4. Alan Bourke

      Re: MS' deep pockets

      Boom, there it is, the mandatory 'everything is a conspiracy' post.

    5. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

      Re: MS' deep pockets

      The demise of a civil society through U$A practises.

    6. aqk
      Headmaster

      PROTOCOL VIOLATION! Re: MS' deep pockets

      I'm sorry, but your comment must be deleted.

      You did not use the official acronym for Microsoft here on "TheRegister". You must always use M$ when referring to Microsoft, not MS.

      Three more such errors and you will be banned from ElReg.

  3. Scott 29

    Been there, lost that battle

    It never was an open decision. It is MS telling you how vital Exchange is to running their other product X is and how bad it’ll perform unless you adopt Exchange. Then, after you convert, their product X is still a decade behind what Google offers and has a crap UI, and you can’t convert back because you’ve exhausted all your resources to migrate onto their platform and everyone is struggling to keep it from dying every weekend.

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Been there, lost that battle

      Personally I thing the G-Mail/G-Suite mail web interface completely sucks ass.

      I much prefer fat Outlook via the slightly suspect G-Suite sync.

    2. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Been there, lost that battle

      +1

      For having deployed both solutions in two different companies, Exchange Online is a PITA compared to Google Suite, and the user experience is far below.

      1. SAdams

        Re: Been there, lost that battle

        It must be an age thing - I’m assuming you’re younger than, say, 40?

        I’ve been using email systems since the 80s, and I find Gmail’s web interface a complete mess. Its very slightly less turgid when you disable the threading, but still a mess even for simple tasks like replying to messages.

  4. hmv Silver badge

    But It's Shiny!

    I too ran something similar to Hermes (if far smaller) - a couple of Exim-based MTAs for a much less esteemed university, and a mailbox server for a few grumpy people who wouldn't put up with the flakiness of the commercially supported mailbox server. Funnily enough I'm still running Exim to handle all those bits that the cloud-migration decided was too much like hard work.

    Cambridge will gain features but lose flexibility.

    And as all their mail admins will be reduced to pointing and drooling, they'll find that getting and retaining highly technical staff will get worse - we like doing interesting stuff.

    1. James 139

      Re: But It's Shiny!

      And as all their mail admins will be reduced to pointing and drooling, they'll find that getting and retaining highly technical staff will get worse - we like doing interesting stuff.

      It is the same problem in proper development circles. Surprising to most, drivers and lower level services are not written in VB, C#, PHP or JavaScript, yet most of the teaching, and UI work, has shifted that way.

      Makes it tricky to hire useful staff, and even more challenging to explain to recruitment agencies that "C or C++ is mandatory", but at least they seem to have heard of those, so the disappointment in their voices is nice to hear.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: But It's Shiny!

      we like doing interesting stuff

      It's been a long and slippery slope.

      Back in the old days there wasn't much alternative to rolling your own: Phoenix involved writing an alternative to IBM's woeful TSO and repurposing a bunch of PDP-11s as async terminal concentrators. Teaching was largely done in BCPL, which was of no specific commercial value as a skill, but the compiler writer was conveniently on hand. Other commercially niche languages that formed part of an undergraduate course included LISP and Algol 68.

      There is an argument for having your researchers and students contribute to real projects with impact on real users - it can be a great teaching and learning experience - but you'd be unlikely to get research funding to support operational services and a decent developer could get significantly better paid elsewhere, so it no longer works economically. Equally, given the rate at which programming languages come and go, there isn't any reason why you might want to teach those that are currently commercially valuable - it's the principles that count - but try telling that to someone paying 9K a year for their course.

      I'm sure it's a similar story with Microsoft Office - students expect to be given it "free" as part of their course - so it's made available when it would be a useful lesson for most students that other office suites are in fact available, some without cost.

      1. CoaxCoax

        Re: But It's Shiny!

        Also it's a liability. The university now faces vastly more external threats than it did in those days.

        Leaving aside which mail server would do a better job of preventing a ransomware attack (and this would be not just about the server's own vulnerability, but about its ability to integrate with virus scanners to stop infected mail getting through), if the university were to fall victim, would it want to be seen to be running an off-the-shelf system or a bunch of homebrewed stuff?

        1. YetAnotherJoeBlow

          Re: But It's Shiny!

          "to be seen to be running an off-the-shelf system or a bunch of homebrewed stuff?"

          Like Linux?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But It's Shiny!

          Except of course there are other providers of off-the-shelf mail systems. Google being one of course, amongst others.

          Unfortunately, as mentioned by other people, management tend to go with the name that "everyone" else is using, which in the UK means the majority use Office 365.

          Where I work we moved from a different off the shelf provider to Office 365 several years ago, and we used to run exim gateways and servers with Spamassassin on - according to the logs we kept, we rejected about 3 times more emails as spam/malware than we did after the MX records were changed to point to 365. (or, as frequently tagged Office 356)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: But It's Shiny!

            Funnily enough the University provides GSuite as well. It's a nightmare when the team you're supposed to be working with is fractured across multiple ecosystems.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: But It's Shiny!

        Same with Adobe, I find.

    3. steelpillow Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: But It's Shiny!

      And does it connect back to Mummy for its regular dose of furniture polish, passing back, er - ahem - nothing, nothing at all, of business or personal relevance to its users?

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "gain features but lose flexibility."

      Yes, along with "Extend, enfold and extinguish"

      The core Microsoft "values"

  5. cipnt

    £35 / user?

    They know G Suite for Education is free, right?

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: £35 / user?

      The first hit usually is!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: £35 / user?

        Aye. They start you on the Microsoft stuff and before you know it you're on a grubby mattress down a back alley turning tricks for whoever and shooting up the Microhard stuff.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: £35 / user?

      MS A1 licenses (which give you an Exchange Mailbox) are free to education.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: £35 / user?

        That will explain why my Uni and all the other ones I deal with are already O365/Exchange.

        Cambridge aren't breaking any new ground here.

        1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

          Re: £35 / user?

          to my horror my uni also does the MS email.

          I just discovered since I enrolled on a new course.

      2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: £35 / user?

        I see my simple fact has a downvote. I wonder why? Is the fact wrong? If so, say why it's wrong. If the fact doesn't match your reality distortion field....

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: £35 / user?

          Downvotes really don’t matter.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: £35 / user?

        MS A1 accounts are OK if you don't actually need anything like, y'know, actual real apps (Outlook, Word, Excel, etc). The web-based apps are kinda fun and OK for the basics, but good luck there if all your file data and storage is on-prem for reasons.

        Microsoft has *two* separate computing environments, on-prem (old) and cloud (new), and mixing them is at the least just a new kind of Hell, and at worst is not actually possible or reliable (Onedrive or Teams on RDS, anyone?)

        A/C because I'm not admitting to using this stuff in a public forum.

        1. Kevil

          Re: £35 / user?

          Why would you want to run teams or OneDrive over RDS? They are both web native clients, which have no requirement to be in your on-premise environment.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the knowledge and expertise needed to keep it running are in very short supply."

    What an admission for a university to make.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      knowledge and expertise in very short supply

      Now that accountants have taken over most universities, they are generally incapable of even conceiving that a piece of well established homebrew software supported only on Sunday afternoons by a talented but incoherent genius may in fact be vastly cheaper and better than a large barrowful of crap from Microdaft (or somewhere worse). Where I have an account, it turns out that despite the official system being Exchange, the IMAP and SMTP servers will talk to Thunderbird, so I never, ever have to touch the MS crap.

      AC because I really, really don't want to upset the applecart.

  7. cschneid

    It grieves me that the tools with which the world was built are being discarded due to fashion.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      "Discarded"

      It grieves me that the tools with which the world was built are being discarded due to fashion.

      Why? Are we still working with punchcards and programming System/360 mainframes?

      Change, is life. And in Tech change is expected. We move on.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: "Discarded"

        Change, is life. And in Tech change is expected. We move on.

        That may be, but this is sort of like moving from a nice house in the country to a city flat with CCTV all around. Not all change is good, and change for the sake of change is almost never useful.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: change for sake of change

          You see, I consider that a truly odd position to take factoring in our long-term involvement with tech.

          Has EVERY change in tech been an absolute, unquestioned step forward?? Not a single person alive could ever make that claim.

          With humans EVERY step forward comes with gotchas, or partial steps back. We go forward, make some mistakes, learn along the way, fix what we messed up, and move on. That's life.

          Those expecting perfection, or even worse proposing one product or system over another in the fanatic belief that 'their' system is more 'perfect' than the other, are silly at best, rabid fools at worst. EVERY product has pluses and minuses that should be carefully and objectively weighed prior to, and even after, their involvement.

          Having your own mail server farm is not a silver bullet. Farming out to the cloud is not a silver bullet. Each much be carefully weighed for each individual case and the best decision made to the best of human ability.

          In this case the uni decided that the cloud was a worthwhile investment versus in house. But everyone here is refereeing that from the sidelines without any insight into the complex factors that made up that decision. You have the right to hold the personal opinion that it wasn't the best choice, but you can't say that personal opinion is the only correct one.

          From the limited information provided the uni's decision sounds reasonable from a long-term fiduciary point of view. The costs of the cloud subscription can be planned, and more importantly passed on to students as a line item charge directly if so desired. In house servers are a depreciation asset with constantly reoccurring costs, plus labor charges for human maintainers, that cannot be line-itemed as it is property of the uni and therefore considered intrinsic to the system (the uni).

          1. P. Lee Silver badge

            Re: change for sake of change

            >The costs of the cloud subscription can be planned,

            Haha. Like any cloud provider can’t change them with a click. Compare that to in-house floss.

            >and more importantly passed on to students as a line item charge directly if so desired.

            And here we have another problem: the consumer doesn’t get a choice.

            It’s dumb. Just charge students a fee and fund your own system. The the uni can reap the rewards of past development, rather than MS.

            How can a science-based uni not have, or not be interest in cultivating, the skills to run the most basic computer services? Surely you’d do that as a strategy even if the economics of it were dubious on a standalone basis.

            I suspect a fancy dinner was involved.

            1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

              Re: change for sake of change

              I suspect a fancy dinner was involved

              And I hope you have a bloody good lawyer as you're implying Microsoft bribed Cambridge.

              1. YetAnotherJoeBlow

                Re: change for sake of change

                "And I hope you have a bloody good lawyer as you're implying Microsoft bribed Cambridge."

                Of course we all know that Microsoft would never condone such circumstances.

              2. oiseau Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: change for sake of change

                ... hope you have a bloody good lawyer as you're implying Microsoft bribed Cambridge.

                Hmmm ...

                Either you forgot to use the mandatory joke alert icon or live in a bubble.

                O.

            2. Wellyboot Silver badge

              Re: change for sake of change

              You'd be hard pushed to find a better fancy dinner than those provided by the Cambridge colleges on a regular basis.

              1. browntomatoes

                Re: change for sake of change

                The Inns of Court, City Livery companies and some parts of the armed forces give the Oxbridge colleges a good run for their money in this respect. (Not to mention some of the grander diplomatic missions and the Royal palaces of course, but I assume those are a bit too specialist).

                1. Wellyboot Silver badge

                  Re: change for sake of change

                  Yes, I believe one has to have been attending the Courts / Livery / Military do's for a while before any palaces start offering invites.

            3. oiseau Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: change for sake of change

              I suspect a fancy dinner was involved.

              Suspect?

              Fancy dinner?

              With MS involved?

              Ha!

              O.

          2. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

            You see, I consider that a truly odd position

            ", fix what we messed up,"

            now that's where you're mistaken

          3. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

            Re: change for sake of change

            I maintain my own car.

            Cheaper then any workshop.

          4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: change for sake of change

            "the uni's decision sounds reasonable from a long-term fiduciary point of view."

            Fiduciary in what respect? It pushes students' email into the arms of various branches of the US govt. via the CLOUD Act.

            1. TXITMAN

              Re: change for sake of change

              Just to be fair, the USA spies on UK citizens and vice a versa with sharing all around.

      2. cyberdemon
        Devil

        Re: "Discarded"

        Change, is life. And in Tech change is expected. We move on.

        True to an extent. But when that change takes something that was entirely free, individual and democratic, and consolidates it into the hands of a few all-powerful corporations, it leaves a decidedly bitter taste.

        And these corporations become single points of failure. If Office 365 or Google were to suffer a major outage, then so would all of the western economies. They are that prolific.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: Single point of failure

          Very true. But the uni's own mail server farm is a single point of failure as well, from the perspective of the users.

          So it isn't a downgrade really, but a side-move. You trade one form of "reliability", your own technical expertise to keep the farm up and running 99.999%, or a cloud provider's.

          Look, normally I'm against putting way too much hype and belief in the cloud solving your problems, but here it is adding flexibility. A 4-year uni has to deal with a 25% user turnover rate every single year. That requires a significant investment in available user support, security monitoring and server maintenance, never mind the potential bandwidth growth factoring everything from increasing technologies like larger attachments to larger student enrollment.

          Planning out an in-house server farm that accounts for all that, plus paying the, say minimum 2 technicians, paid at say £45,000+ each? Now you're talking real money over the life span of the server farm.

          People are taking the position that doing the servers in house will be a tremendous benefit to the uni, but will it really, from both a user and economic sense? Farming the project out to Microsoft also means farming a good 80% or more of the end user support problems out to Microsoft as well; that 25% user churn undoubtedly causes many support tickets, and now many of those will become Microsoft's problem, not the uni's.

          So unlimited bandwidth and user number growth; less maintenance overhead; less in-house support needed; low to no initial investment; no massive server electric bill; no server room costs or overhead; no continuing upgrade fees...

          For static requirements, static loads or at least foreseeable, in-house has benefits. But for a public system where things can change, and change into the unknown, is them choosing cloud really such a massively bad idea?

          1. NATTtrash Silver badge

            Re: Single point of failure

            Aren't we getting too much into the details of things? Isn't it more about an university being an independent institution, not hindered, or if you want, bound by "real life" interference and alternative motives? Should it not just simply pursue (and teach) "science", whatever that may be? After all, we all know/ have personal experiences that biz and science aren't that compatible (always).

            I know, I know, accuse me of sniffing too much idealism, but we all have seen examples of "compromise", diluting original objectives, right? And let's be honest, biz isn't really known for being really progressive (when it might hurt bottom line).

          2. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Single point of failure

            Well, there are the days when outlook is down and you're left twiddling your thumbs for that email. And you're left relying on third party assurances about data security that you can't rely on (when persuaded to shut down our departmental email server and join the cloud service one we asked if we could get details of those policies, the most we got back was a paragraphs about where it was processed, which was soon rendered irrelevant as it became clear US companies could be compelled to hand over data anyway).

            Also it's Cambridge, user support needed was minimal, I don't remember a single student who couldn't figure out the Pine terminal in the JCR. I institutions which use outlook the local team still handle things like password resets, not MS "support".

            (Finally, a 4 year degree does not mean 25% annual user turnover, otherwise there'd be nobody to teach them.)

          3. Wayland Bronze badge

            Re: Single point of failure

            Maybe that's the point of doing it, to maintain the ability to run an email server. The correct term is Technology, which is a concatenation of Technical Knowledge. Handing this over to Microsoft represents the loss of knowledge, which for a University is an admission of failure.

            Having said that, Universities have already failed and should be dissolved along with the BBC. So looking at the bigger picture this is good news as it means the full demise of Cambridge Uni will follow.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Single point of failure

              Technology actually means "the study of artificial systems".

          4. dgeb

            Re: Single point of failure

            > A 4-year uni has to deal with a 25% user turnover rate every single year.

            Another poster already pointed out that the existence of staff means that it isn't 25% - but regardless, the problem with this argument is that if you have that turnover, you already have to have tooling suitable for handling it (and you have auth for other systems too, which would still exist). The benefit comes when you have a much lower turnover and thus cannot justify the effort of making the tools for yourself, but can benefit from sharing the cloud-y ones.

            > Planning out an in-house server farm that accounts for all that, plus paying the, say minimum 2 technicians, paid at say £45,000+ each? Now you're talking real money over the life span of the server farm.

            But PPSW at least isn't going anywhere - so you aren't saving the staff costs, the scope of the job is just somewhat smaller.

            >So unlimited bandwidth

            Hermes is on the CUDN - so the local users have no WAN bandwidth impact anyway. Moving it away *creates* a bandwidth burden that did not exist, it certainly doesn't solve it.

            > low to no initial investment

            Given it already exists, there is no initial investment either way

            > no continuing upgrade fees...

            Maybe I misunderstand what upgrades you are referring to, but since it is an OSS stack, there aren't any software licence upgrade fees.

            > For static requirements, static loads or at least foreseeable, in-house has benefits. But for a public system where things can change, and change into the unknown, is them choosing cloud really such a massively bad idea?

            Actually I mostly agree with you, except that this seems like a pretty stable, predictable load, so it fits the former category rather than the latter.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Single point of failure

              > But PPSW at least isn't going anywhere

              I wouldn't bet on that remaining the case, actually.

              (Posting anon. for a reason.)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Single point of failure

              > But PPSW at least isn't going anywhere

              That wouldn't be something to bet on, from what I hear.

              (Anon. for a reason)

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Discarded"

        "And in Tech change is expected"

        The standards involved in email haven't changed. The technical changes seem to involve not implementing them properly according to the former Cambridge admin. This is not the sort of change to be encouraged.

  8. cjcox

    It will consume you

    Probably the worst thing about any usage of any flavor of Microsoft Exchange is that once you're in.... you're in. And you can never ever leave. It will consume you and force you do to use more and more and more and more Microsoft systems and services over time.

    With that said, if you've already drank the Microsoft Kool-aid, it's a slam dunk.

    1. Sudosu

      Re: It will consume you

      I think it is more like Slurm than Kool-Aid...

      https://futurama.fandom.com/wiki/Slurm

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Meanwhile, way down deep in the basement, there was a strange stirring ....

    Cloud email was a double win for education as it not only removed an administrative burden but was also offered at low prices, with the big vendors no doubt hoping that students would get hooked on their tech and go on to recommend it in business.

    And with the big vendors no doubt not hoping and/or not realising that students would get hooked into their tech and go on to reconfigure its payloads for the commission of certain of their businesses and certain businesses.

    Aint that presently one of the Major Current Greater IntelAIgent Game Plays of Today? Tomorrow? Yesterday?

    :-) cc Dom Cummings [if he is both into and up for such shenanigans] ...... to name but one possible excitable client/right dodgy commissioner.

    And that aint no joke. I Kid U Not.

    1. Cliff Thorburn

      Re: Meanwhile, way down deep in the basement, there was a strange stirring ....

      I wonder if the Hermes service is as capable at packet loss as its parcel delivery service?

      Or perhaps the cat stroking Gates chosen government actor with the illusionary halo is diverting said packets via the Redmond slurping data stream washing whatever slush funding in a nothing to s ee here manner past the talons of the SEC and other normally attentive authorities?

      Enlightening post response previously amFM, there is no threat by the way, just a desire for restitution after many years, even a decade of APT ening behaviour leading to catastrophic derailment and loss of chance whilst at the test pilot tentacles of shady secret spread betting, and stalking, in a daily Clockwork O ran ge repetition.

      Lesser, less evolved, none forced evolutionary individuals in none Sol circles would have surely ended up in padded cells and possibly worse, so for such, in itself proves success outside the expectations of popstar puppeteer MK Ultra end goals.

      Fait accompli?, did Adams fate end so differently avoiding rather than defending the poison Apple?, thinking differently was indeed the end goal was IT not? ...

  10. karlkarl Silver badge

    "Hermes is a reliable system that has served well, but the knowledge and expertise needed to keep it running are in very short supply."

    Rather than splurge continuous money to Microsoft for a fairly basic service, why not spend some cash now to future proof and simplify the working system.

    I don't believe for one second the outlook server farm behind the scenes is any more "modern" or well developed than Hermes. They just have a more fancy logo on the front end and an endless supply of advertising.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Modern

      The point is, from the perspective of the uni, is that Microsoft's server farm is both maintained and updated more regularly, thanks to the payment 'investments' of millions upon millions of users, versus the single upgrade investment in the in-house system.

      The uni will need to spend several thousands of pounds, plus many thousands of yet-uncounted man-hours to upgrade the uni's servers and get a system that, whilst fully owned, will be stuck at that technology level until said time that they will be willing to go through this all over again. Paying Microsoft - or any cloud provider, for that matter - eternally also brings with it the expectation of far more frequent hardware upgrades, less intrusive software patches as they are done to the best of ability behind the scenes, and with easy future growth potential.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Modern

        And it also hands all of your intellectual property discussions to an overseas company beholden to the USA gov laws, and allows them to dick around with the UI and T&Cs as they please.

        What, you can just change supplier? Er. going back to your own system won't be possible as that boat long will have since sailed and if you look at moving to, say, Google, you find they are worse.

        1. Matthew 3

          Re: Modern

          Microsoft's standard terms for Universities are agreed with JISC, and mandate data storage in UK datacentres. Most Universities block the use of the handful of Office365 apps which don't (or can't) meet that requirement, such as Yammer.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Modern

            "Microsoft's standard terms for Universities ... mandate data storage in UK datacentres."

            With the CLOUD Act that doesn't really make much difference.

        2. TXITMAN

          Re: Modern

          Storing all of your email with the US Government Utah Data Center has its advantages. Only problem is retrieval as the NSA is tight lipped.

      2. NATTtrash Silver badge

        Re: Modern

        "The uni will need to spend several thousands of pounds, plus many thousands of yet-uncounted man-hours...

        Yep, you got a point there. And that's exactly what all the greybeards here are going on about all the time: (the philosophy you need to do everything, including) doing science on the cheap.

        And as professionals we all know it isn't just science.

        So that's it? That's the justification? We should all push continuously to turn the world in one big Lidl?

        1. MarthaFarqhar

          Re: Modern

          As well as the whole internal versus external costs, University management now use the "it's not us, blame them" if anything goes wrong. If you don't own the service, you aren't responsible for the problem, so you don't take the blame.

          Even if though you as a management group chose that solution.

          The way for IT in Higher Ed is going the way of Facilities Management in Buildings and Estates. Why buy the tools and expertise when you can rent? When it all goes wrong, not your fault, not your problem, time to find a new supplier, on the merry-go-round we go.

          1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

            Re: Modern

            It's a narcissistic modus operandi to not accept responsibility and to shift it to others as much as possible.

            I say narcissism and fascism will win, despite my disapproval.

          2. Robert D Bank

            Re: Modern

            times a million, that is EXACTLY the issue. The very same happens with outsourcing, it allows local management to just sit back with a cigar and point a finger. It is a cancer, a continuous diet of fat and sugar, nice and easy until your heart pops. And all the staff below take the same fucking attitude. We will quickly overtake the 3rd world in the race to the bottom of the intellectual void.

      3. pmb00cs
        Headmaster

        Re: Modern

        Yes the Uni will have to spend thousands of pounds on the in house system. Wages for technical and support staff, electricity costs, hardware replacement cycles. It soon adds up. According to the article to approximately £10 per user per year. Somewhat less than the £35 per user per year also stated in the article as the cost for the Microsoft 365 subscription the university is apparently stumping up for. Interestingly some of the £10 per user per year will not be saved, as at least some technical staff will need to be retained by the university.

        Hopefully the decision isn't as simple as spend £35 per user per year to not quite save £10 per user per year. Because if it is that's a really fucking stupid decision.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Modern

        I'm beginning to think that you must have stopped reading the article before you got to this paragraph:

        McBride also stated that Hermes had a better availability record than either Gmail or Exchange Online, with a "single two-hour outage" in recent years. He also said that the cost of Hermes, estimated at around £10 per user per year including staff costs, compared favourably to the cost of the EES licence, which he said was £35.00 per year excluding staff costs (but including additional services).

    2. Wayland Bronze badge

      Why did they shut down the coal mines, why did they sell all our gold in a fire sale, why did we join the EU? Interdependence! As a nation we are weaker when we give away our power. The University is weaker when they forget their hard won knowledge.If the UK wants to integrate with the global system it has to become weaker.

      1. Outski

        Point of order: the sale of gold was to prevent a catastrophic loss from a globally systemic Japanese bank who'd taken a disastrously short position on gold. The ECB and the Federal Reserve couldn't act quickly enough, so Brown requested that the BoE dump enough gold on the market to crash the price, hence preventing the collapse of said Japanese bank.

        Brown was way under-appreciated as Chancellor, a very savvy economic strategist, albeit not suited to be PM in the era of 24/7 rolling news coverage.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A plague on all M$ houses!

    This is quite the brutal own-goal for Cambridge - as well as depressing news for fans everywhere of the University's impressive Philip Hazel et al and Exim. The in-house mail system is/was impressive - a model.

    Freedom software doesn't get advertised I guess. When the suits took over I endured a similar gutting move as a sysadmin of another uni - no doubt still paying a high price and with poor control over mail flow - proof the evil empire and its financial greed do not drive good software nor provide good service. Only genuine enthusiasts do that.

    I shall happily continue Exim at home and anywhere else given the chance for as long as poss. Computing for computing's sake!

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: A plague on all M$ houses!

      Amen.

  12. herman Silver badge
    Devil

    IT Edumakasjun anyone, anyone?

    You would think that a University can train people in IT and how to run a mail server on UNIX, but apparently not. It shows that a University IT edumakasjun is much overrated.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't Microsoft a security risk?

    All that lovely research data heading off to Redmond and then the US Government?

    If I was engaged in any cutting edge research I'd keep it well away from any Cloud service.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Isn't Microsoft a security risk?

      All that lovely research data heading off to Redmond and then the US Government?

      Unfortunately, yes.

      O.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Isn't Microsoft a security risk?

      I don't think that any IP that needs to be protected, or indeed any sensitive information should be sent in unencrypted form by any email system, internal or not.

  14. Blackjack Silver badge

    You won't believe this...

    But AOL emails still work.

    Not that I have been using it or something but I was able to log in the thing.

  15. robert.harris

    Emd of Cambridge SMTP development

    It is simply an act of vandalism.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Emd of Cambridge SMTP development

      Er, have you looked at the git history for Exim? The last commit from a cam.ac.uk address was April 2012. Cambridge stopped developing Exim 8 years ago.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Emd of Cambridge SMTP development

        I'd call that a stable build.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Emd of Cambridge SMTP development

          The modern IT environment would call that a data breach waiting to happen.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: Emd of Cambridge SMTP development

            The modern IT environment

            is HIGHLY overrated

  16. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    Why ?

    If I can run multiple mail servers while seriously lacking in A levels and no desire for a degree (my partner has one in chemistry and is now a well paid bean counter, i have lots of random technical qualifications over 25 years and we are on a similar wage / just under £100k between us) is it so hard to expect a university to do it...

    Read the small print, the student run servers amongst other things include 'lifelong email forwarding after you leave the university' that's nice. I expect the university will still be there long after MS has disappeared. The students will probably invent the next best thing and still be pushed aside because corporate greed.

    Anyway since when is it OK for all our email to be read by our American overlords? Huawei are not allowed to do it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why ?

      Difference is your various mail servers are likely not able to hold up in comparison to the demand put on the staff (2/3 of them for at least the last few years) maintaining Hermes, for in excess of 40,000 user accounts, whilst only having a single unplanned outage (one that wasn't even the email system at fault) in many, many years - can you?

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Why ?

      In a word: Scale.

      Running one or two email servers is trivial. I've done it.

      But this setup is running email for 40,000 or so mailboxes. You don't run that on a couple of AWS/Google/Azure VMs. You need real tin - and not just a couple of cheap 1U boxes. You'll need a setup to spread the load across multipe servers - plus a front end to make it look like one system to the users. You'll want some sort of HA/DR system. You'll want backups. You'll want management of this cluster of machines.

      Finally, as you get bigger & more complex your number of failures will increase.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Why ?

        Look at Alan J. Wylie's link at the top, you can see Hermes' setup from fifteen years ago with exactly that setup.

  17. Zarno Bronze badge
    Unhappy

    Call it blunt...

    Call it blunt, but if they can't keep it going because the "knowledge needed" is in short supply, they aren't teaching their pupils properly.

    1. bigtreeman

      Re: Call it blunt...

      thank you.

      I had to get to the end of the comments for someone to notice the elephant in the room.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Call it blunt...

      Anonymous only because I am employed by one the institutions that make up the collegiate university.

      The students generally have more important things to do, like focus on their own studies, no matter how flawed you deem them to be.

      Also, they are no longer just pupils, but paying customers. Do you make your customers maintain your legacy software, just because they might need the "knowledge", even if it has little to no real world application outside of an academic environment?

      1. rnturn

        Re: Call it blunt...

        So no CS/EE majors ever need a campus job? I wish that had been the case when I was a starving EE student.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Call it blunt...

          I believe Oxbridge students are not allowed to take paid jobs whilst studying for their degrees. Also, their time is so cramed with lectures, supervisions, essays, reading, course work, etc that they don't have time for a job. And if you think they spend their holidays partying all the time, you're badly mistaken. Oxbridge students work their butts off.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Call it blunt...

            their time is so cramed with lectures, supervisions, essays, reading, course work,

            Don't forget those long boats. They don't row themselves you know.

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Call it blunt...

      In theory, practise & theory are the same.

      In practise, they're different.

      You can teach students as much as you want about, say, email. But the only way you'll truely learn is on the job, And how many people nowadays see email sysadmin as a career path?

      1. rnturn

        Re: Call it blunt...

        Colleges/Universities != trade schools

  18. LionelB

    So the creeping Microsoftisation of UK universities continues apace. My research group were recently invited to participate in a consultation on the future of my institution's HPC facilities. During the "interview" with us users, the "independent" consultancy "hired" by the university admitted they were paid by MS rather than the university. Strangely, they are pushing for a cloud-based solution... that's "cloud" as in "Azure". Ho hum.

  19. -tim
    Facepalm

    So another one falls

    I hope the researchers don't mind Microsoft going through their research and making useful suggestions to other researcher via "AI". In the publish first of perish culture of universities, I figure this would have been shot down.

    I have stopped interviewing recent students from universities with large corporate style administration since it is a waste of my time. I have suggested to some of the recent graduates of what used to be outstanding schools to ask for a refund for their tuition.

    1. GiantKiwi

      Re: So another one falls

      You'll soon struggle to get any applicants then. They're were all going that way a decade ago, it's now the old boys club that are finally following the new kids.

    2. G Olson

      Re: So another one falls

      "...a trend where these choices tend to prioritise the needs of the administration over the wider institution.." From inside the institution, this is the mantra and business justification. For the Administration, By the Administration, Of the Administration. Academics and Research have no priority for the Administration.

  20. duncangareth

    Speaking as a mail server administrator

    The lack of compliance (or respect) on the part of Microsoft for IETF standards has been a problem for years. The excuse that email servers are difficult to administer is nonsense. It is likely that the so-called "business model" dictates that the beancounters are unwilling to invest money in training competent system administrators.

  21. CPU
    Holmes

    And the difficulty in training new people on the old Hermes system is..? Sounds like a cost cutting (getting rid of people) exercise to me.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Right move; wrong vendor?

    If it's a PITA they'd rather not have, then fair enough. But Microsoft isn't great. The spam handling is awful. Consider the office 365 account I had with a US based employer. I was getting spam from anti vaxxer cranks, religious nuts, gun nuts, health nuts, conspiracy theorists and all manner of Trumpanzees. All while very legitimate email was going into the spam folder. I have the same issue with my personal Outlook account to this day. How many times must I mark emails from Doctor fucking Bitcoin as spam? I have no such issues with Gmail.

    In fact, I don't think Microsoft is generally a good fit on campus. Surely universities should be encouraging tools that better facilitate collaboration. Especially remote collaboration since that's the only kind of collaboration most of us are going to get for the next year or two. The only win Microsoft have in this area is with Teams. The rest of their toolset is pretty poor.

  23. laughthisoff

    Old and other mail servers

    I ran a bunch of CommuniGate Pro servers for years. It was unfortunately commercial (and, latterly, expensive) software, not open-source, but they were like tanks. CGP just sat on top of a bare-bones Linux-with-networking stack and just ran... and ran... and ran... and ran.... so much so that one of them lasted a good decade longer in production than it should have done. The vendor added some wobbly microsoft-facing bells and toys to it over the years in order to try and compete beyond their competency, but we never used those. We just stuck to your standard SMTP/IMAP/POP3/LDAP schenanigans. It never broke. As near to a 'bulletproof' set-it-up-and-walk-away system as I've ever run for anything. (Just my experience).

    SB

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a very sad day, but unless some cash can be found to support the hermes staff, it's pretty inevitable. It's important to remember that hermes costs more than just money to support - one of my friends was personally responsible for keeping Hermes running for years and years a decade or so ago, and the personal cost to him was immense. He worked 70-hour weeks plus, and it nearly cost him his liver as a result...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Due to their size Microsoft & Google have the ability to provide round-the-clock supervision of their mail system.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    McBride is for the chop

    It sounds to me that they don't like having McBride around, he knows too much. They would feel a lot happier if email had nothing to do with them and so the Uni could not be held responsible.

  26. cpage

    Microsoft email is awful

    That is just such a bad decision. I have an email account at another university which switched to Microsoft's servers and systems some years ago. It is a truly awful replacement from what we had before. Although I can still read my emails on a desktop computer, accessing it from my Android phone requires me to jump through so many hoops it is effectively impossible.

  27. Individual #6/42
    Angel

    Begging for cash

    I had a look at the Student Run Computing Facility website. It is hobbled by a reliance upon donations which come to around £300 a year. If any greybeards are up for supporting these guys may I direct you to srfc.net/donate/ .

  28. dickiedyce
    Coat

    "Razor blade of life..."

    Where is the current mail server housed I wonder? Here perhaps: https://www.cst.cam.ac.uk/william-gates-building ?

    Incidentally, I still have my red bound-copy of the Phoenix manual. Ah, as Prof Lehrer would say, bright college days...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GDPR is a driver

    One of the driving forces for the move to the Microsoft "solution" across the UK HE sector has been GDPR and the promised scale of fines for those falling foul of it.

    For all its faults the MS route offers features such as encrypted storage and remote wiping of devices. The email system that is offered as part of this, spam filters aside, is OK, not brilliant, but OK.

    Even Oxbridge are facing cash flow issues with COVID at the moment so this will have helped with the decision to move away from the old system.

    1. whitepines Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: GDPR is a driver

      And putting all the protected data in the hands of a US company, bound by the CLOUD act, helps with this exactly how?

      Remember, what people have thought were clever GDPR workarounds like this one have been shot down by the EU courts in the past. And when (not if) that happens here, Cambridge will have a very large fine to pay. Responsibility stays with the data processor (Cambridge) under the GDPR, not the external service provider (Microsoft)!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GDPR is a driver

        My understanding, from my workplace, is that the contract with Microsoft specifically says that the data will remain within EU - in our case that means a Microsoft data centre in Ireland. If for some reason it went to the US, it would be Microsoft in breach of contract.

        1. whitepines Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: GDPR is a driver

          1. CLOUD act overrides public marketing and contractual statements

          2. Assume the CLOUD act is invoked for some bit of user data. Yes, Microsoft is in breach of contract but they likely argue some variant of force majure. The EU still fines the organization under the GDPR, which is quite fair since that organization chose Microsoft knowing these issues could arise. Microsoft walks away with a slight bit of reputational damage they can patch over with marketing, and the organization is out the entire cost of the fine and either any required migration away from Microsoft or repeating, increasing fines as the GDPR continues to be violated in the future.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strategic Plans for EDU's don't state they should run email services, or servers.

    Please show me a university strategic plan that states the mission is to run email and/or the servers underpinning those systems. Email is a commodity service, and if said service can be run for less with a third-party like MS or Google, and those saved resources deployed to something differentiating or strategic to the university, that's a plus.

    I read nothing about Hermes that makes it unique against today's cloud email services. Even Its mirroring system, while unique in the day, is overshadowed by the per-mailbox or message local and geo redundancy of O365 or Gmail. These services are highly resilient in ways Hermes would never be, and I'd wager Hermes lacks many of the security controls its modern cloud equivalents have.

    I also chuckled about the RFC/Standards comments. Since the dawn of anti-spam and other necessary technologies, most systems are far from handling email per standards. Email standards were, after all, created at a time when the default posture was to trust everyone, and that just doesn't exist today. I also felt the defense of POP/IMAP was misplaced, when those protocols matter less and less today, and most people have long since turned support off in favor of their service's dedicated client and optimized protocols. Like Hermes, they are relics of a past time.

    Hermes is a lesson in "Who moved my cheese," where the cheese moved long ago, and Hem and Haw (those running Hermes) just figured the cheese would show back up. The rest of the world had already moved on and discovered the new cheese.

    Last but not least, email is a hub to many of the other services that exist in these cloud ecosystems. Being able to tie together email, with teams, flow, analytics, messaging, and other technologies is the most compelling reason to make this change. Hermes could be the best email platform ever, but it it can't integrate with modern collaboration tools, then its worth is significantly diminished.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Strategic Plans for EDU's don't state they should run email services, or servers.

      agree with you, smacks of jobs for the boys to me, its their baby and they want it to stay. Email is a commodity service. I take it Cambridge don't generate their own electricity or buy and service their own vehicles, of course not, they're commodities. The trouble with things like this is you land up being totally reliant on a few people to support and develop a key system, then they retire or get hit by a bus or are on holiday when a sh1t storm happens and you're fecked!

  31. martinusher Silver badge

    First Exchange, then Teams...Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.....

    This is what happens when a university starts to think of itself as a business. Business uses Exchange/Outlook because its part of a labrynth of MS Office Tools that capture customers for Microsoft. I suppose we shouldn't complain about MSFT's successful business strategies but as a sometime user of these products I have only two words to describe them -- "They Suck". They're a vortex of meaningful meaninglessness -- everything a productive member of the workforce needs to spend a busy day getting absolutely nothing done (and like a lot of modern applications, their bloat and over-reliance on inefficient network protocols means their performance is invariably less than snappy -- klunky, more like it).

    I'm a great fan of old fashioned text based email. Its true that you have to be able to write to communicate, you can't just send a picture or short video, but the upside is that the bandwidth needed to message is miniscule and its lack of 'active' (push) content means its very difficult to get phished. Sure, its a bit old fashioned, but then my work is primarily in generating product, not PowerPoint presentations explaining why the product is six months late.

  32. Chris Hills

    If only

    If only there was some kind of institution that could teach people how to operate computer systems. Ah well.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What the govenments of the time (both Tory and "Labour*") did to the University system between 1992 and 1998

    Fixed that for you.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lifelong email forwarding after you leave the university

    As long as you leave the university on the university's terms.

  35. Rafael Moslin
    Thumb Up

    No surprise

    UIS have to deal with two things, first a mess of extremely dated in house applications written in all sorts of languages, nice web front ends often hide the chaos below the surface. Secondly, it's two departments brought together and half the staff hiss at the other as they pass in corridors. I see this less about how good Hermes may or may not have been and more a move to mainstream IT support models.You can have as many Perl scripts as you like, but UIS is trying to deliver a service and be a service provider when many think it's their own fiefdom.

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