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Lotusphere: Blue is the New Yellow

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 16th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 16th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Berlin.

As has been the custom all these years, IBM once again unleashed a flood of information, both in the general session and throughout the event.  For those allergic to information overload, Orlando was a dangerous place.

The news, from a somewhat modder, hipper, Lotus, which trotted out the Blue Man Group (one had to wonder why it took Big Blue over a decade to book them) and Dan Aykroyd to further underscore the message of collaboration and this year’s theme of resonance.  Last year, incidentally, we said that “yellow is the new black.”   Regardless of color, the tools coming from Lotus allowing knowledge workers to share knowledge and collaborate are stronger and more powerful than ever.

Indeed, resonance can be “very very powerful,” Lotus GM Bob Picciano (attending his first Lotusphere following his appointment to the top position eight months ago) pointed it out in the opening session.  When it’s working at its full potential, he added, it will “absolutely shatter windows.”

With Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie present, IBM celebrated the tenth anniversary of the BlackBerry mobile device by unveiling a new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform, that supports Web conferencing, file transfer, public groups, and enhanced presence.  BlackBerry addicts, excuse me, users, can also open Lotus Symphony word processing documents attached to e-mail or Sametime, with eventual access to presentations and spreadsheets.   They can also download, edit, and post to Lotus Quickr team software.

The new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Connections social software platform integrates with e-mail, camera, media player, and the browser, and supports blogs, activities, and communities.  It also supports enhanced profile information including name pronunciations and pictures.  Previously, users on BlackBerry devices could only access Connections’ profiles and tag tools.

But there was more, lots more.

Lotus Sametime
IBM also announced Lotus Sametime 8.5.  Not surprisingly, the new version sports a brand new user interface.  It also includes a tool kit that allows customers to use Sametime to add collaborative capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and click-to-call, to their business processes.  Sametime features enhanced meeting support, including an Ajax-based zero-download Web client and the ability to add participants by dragging and dropping names.  Other enhancements include improved audio and video, persistent meeting rooms, better support for the Mac and Linux platforms, and the ability to record meetings in industry standard formats.  The Sametime Connect client includes connectivity to profiles within Lotus Connections and pictures from contacts in Lotus Notes.  Sametime Unified Telephony ties Sametime to corporate telephone systems and allows knowledge workers to give out one phone number and set up rules that allow them to be reached based on various conditions (if one is in a meeting, the call could go directly to voicemail unless it’s one’s manager, in which case it would ring on the mobile).

LotusLive
After a year of public beta using the code-name “Project Bluehouse,” IBM announced LotusLive.  The new cloud-based portfolio of collaboration tools and social software supports e-mail, collaboration, and Web conferencing. LotusLive is built using open Web-based standards and an open business model allowing companies to easily integrate third party applications into their environment.  Two LotusLive services are available from the site, Meetings and Events.  Meetings integrate audio and video conferencing; events supports online conferences including registration.

The IBM Web site also lists LotusLive Notes, or IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging in more formal IBM parlance, but unlike Events and Meetings, you can’t sign up and start the service online.  The only button to click is the one that says “Contact Sales.”

Partners for LotusLive: Skype, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com
IBM also announced that LotusLive will support Skype, LinkedIn, and salesforce.com.  LinkedIn members will be able to search LinkedIn’s public professional network from within LotusLive and then collaborate with them using LotusLive services.  Salesforce users will be able to use LotusLive’s collaborative tools in conjunction with the customer and opportunity management tools available in the Salesforce CRM application.  LotusLive users will also be able to call Skype contacts from within LotusLive

LotusLive Engage
IBM also announced the beta of LotusLive Engage, a “smarter” meeting service according to IBM.  Engage is a suite of tools that conflates Web conferencing and collaboration with file storage and sharing, instant messaging, and chart creation.  It allows knowledge workers to continuously engage – not just for one meeting – in a community-like environment.

IBM and SAP present Alloy
IBM and SAP announced their first joint product, Alloy.  Previewed at last year’s Lotusphere under the code name “Atlantic,” Alloy presents information and data from SAP applications within the Lotus Notes client and Lotus Notes applications.

If you want to look back at news from past Lotuspheres, feel free to click back to 2008, 20072006, 2005, or 2004.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Lotusphere: Yellow is the New Black

Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 15th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 15th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Europe.

IBM unleashed a fire hose of announcements at the opening general session.  We’ll try to walk through the most interesting ones here.  It’s a lot of material but you should read through it regardless of whether you use mostly IBM tools or mostly Microsoft tools as there are implications here for all.

One memorable moment from the conference’s opening session: Mike Rhodin,  the general manager of Lotus Software, aped Steve Job’s keynote from MacWorld in which Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by pulling it out of an envelope.  Rhodin pulled the new (and very yellow) Lotus Foundations server out of an envelope.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8.0.1
While this may sound like an insignificant maintenance release, it most definitely isn’t.  There are some significant enhancements to be found in it.  (Of course, the move from dot-zero usually allows companies to start deploying the new version as many of them are allergic to dot-zero releases.)

8.0.1 includes several significant updates including My Widgets and Traveler.  My Widgets (which some, including IBM execs, call a Web 2.0 feature) uses a technology called Live Text that identifies patterns and phrases and associates them with an appropriate widget. (Live Text is similar to what Microsoft calls Smart Tags.)  One example would be the recognition of an address within an e-mail message and the ability to automatically display directions from the recipient’s location to that address.

Another example is retrieving real-time flight information by clicking on a flight number in an e-mail or itinerary.  Knowledge workers can add (via drag-and-drop) an almost unlimited number of widgets including Google Gadgets, feeds, Web pages, or custom programs to the widgets panel in the Lotus Notes sidebar.

8.0.1 also includes Domino Web Access Lite.  This is a browser-based e-mail client optimized for low bandwidth environments.  It’s AJAX based and includes in-line spell check, rich editing, and Google Maps integration.  The standard version of Domino Web Access has a much faster startup time.  Finally, 8.0.1 adds 35% compression for mail files.  Lotus is introducing some compression with 8.0.1 and further compression with 8.5 (see below).

Lotus Notes Traveler is a very cool client for Windows Mobile devices that provides automatic, real-time replication of e-mail (including attachments, calendar, contacts, etc.) to the mobile device.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5
8.0.1 may be hot off the press but IBM is not sitting still.  Notes and Domino 8.5 will support AJAX, style sheets, and RSS or Atom feeds.  It also supports better ID management, compression technologies that can reduce storage requirements by up to 35% for attachments on Domino servers, and also reduce overall disk space requirements for databases by up to 35%.  Lotus will also update templates for discussion databases and document libraries and introduce Domino Designer 8.5, the first Designer client based on the Eclipse and Lotus Expeditor frameworks.  This will provide a full palette of AJAX-based controls that you can drag-and-drop directly into Notes and Domino applications.

Lotus Protector
IBM wouldn’t skimp on naming, this is really called IBM Lotus Protector for Mail Security, but what’s key here is that this is a hardware appliance (in bright yellow) that provides virus and spam protection through the IBM Proventia Network Mail Security System.  Protector also uses IBM Internet Security Systems’ threat mitigation and information security technologies and the IBM ISS X-Force research and development team played a significant role here.

Symphony
Beta 4 of IBM’s desktop productivity tools, based on an open programming model, will be available by the end of this month.  The new beta allows software vendors to connect documents to applications; documents can access and manage applications such as the issuance of a shipping order or an invoice directly from a spreadsheet.  Information flows both ways; inventory data can pass into Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets for analysis.

Companies will be able to use the workflow inherent in Notes in conjunction with composite apps that are built using the Symphony tools.

IBM is making available a series of plug-ins including IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte Meeting, Lotus Sametime Unyte Share, and IBM WebSphere Translation Server on the Symphony community Web site.

IBM Applications on Demand for Lotus Notes
IBM Applications on Demand for Lotus Notes provides a hosted and managed environment for Notes and Domino as well as Sametime, Lotus Connections, and Lotus Quickr tools.

IBM Lotus Mashups
Mashups allows knowledge workers to create enterprise mashups such as ad hoc visualizations created by blending information or data from both enterprise repositories and the Web.

It includes a browser-based tool for mashup creation; ready-for-use widgets; a catalog for sharing and locating additional widgets and mashups; a builder for the creation of widgets that can access enterprise systems.

IBM Lotus Connections 2.0
The new version of Connections features a new home page built using Lotus mashup technology which aggregates and filters social data from the five Connections services, namely Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Dogear, and Activities.  This allows knowledge workers to see what’s new across their professional networks and find the information they need to finish projects.

Lotus has also enhanced the community component of Connections with discussion forums and the ability to link to various wikis including Lotus Quickr, SocialText, and Atlassian.

IBM Lotus Quickr 8.1
Lotus Quickr is IBM’s Collaborative Business Environment for teams.  The new version adds content libraries, team discussion forums, Weblogs, wikis, and new connectors to information sources.  IBM will release Lotus Quickr Entry, which will serve as a entry-level version of the platform.  IBM Also announced plans to integrate Quickr with various enterprise content management systems such as IBM FileNet P8 and IBM Content Manager.

Lotus Foundations
IBM hasn’t focused on smaller organizations, which it defines as businesses with five to 500 employees, in years.  Lotus Foundations is intended to be a line of Linux-powered software servers that are offered through IBM Business Partners.

IBM is counting on simplicity – the server software will require little technical expertise and will be autonomic – to appeal to this audience.  This means it should install without requiring an IT department to deploy and administer it.  The first Foundations offering will be a server with the Lotus Domino mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, backup and recovery, and office productivity tools pre-installed.

A key component of Foundations comes out of IBM’s acquisition last week of Net Integration Technologies, a privately-held company that provides a simplified business server software solution for small businesses.  It’s not a coincidence that the company’s platform supports e-mail, file management, directory services, back-up and recovery, and office productivity tools.

Atlantic
IBM and SAP announced a joint offering, code-named “Atlantic.”  Atlantic will integrate information from the SAP Business Suite into the Lotus Notes client, allowing knowledge workers to remain in one environment for more of their work.

Bluehouse
Another interesting if somewhat amorphous announcement was the beta of a Web-delivered service with the code name “Bluehouse.”  Bluehouse provides extranet services (file sharing, instant messaging, social networking, Web conferencing, and project management) that allow smaller companies to collaborate with one another.

Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution
IBM will offer an integrated Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution with support for Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system from Canonical.  Ubuntu is popular for thin-client and desktop/laptop applications (as opposed to servers).  The client is based on Lotus Notes 8 and Lotus Symphony.  The client supports e-mail, calendar, unified communications, as well as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities that support the Open Document Format (ODF).  It’s built on Lotus Expeditor, which is based on the open source Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

Full support for Ubuntu within Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony is planned with Lotus Notes 8.5 in the second half of 2008.  The Lotus Symphony office productivity suite is included with Lotus Notes 8 and is also available as a separate download, at no additional charge.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

IBM’s New Workplace (Part II)

Monday, August 7th, 2006 by Jonathan Spira

MOVING FORWARD WITH IBM WORKPLACE

This is the second of a two-part look at IBM Workplace.  Click here for part one.

IBM Workplace is not something you can buy; rather, you have to buy into IBM’s vision for a strategy and vision that is predicated upon delivering role-based clients that include collaborative tools.  IBM sees the Workplace concept as eventually permeating all of its collaboration and knowledge sharing offerings.  In the meantime, however, customers will purchase either IBM Lotus Notes/Domino or IBM WebSphere Portal Server.  Both are part and parcel of Workplace and are starting points on the road to the IBM Workplace vision.

The dynamic nature of the Workplace offerings (Notes and Portal) allows knowledge workers better customization when using the software.  As a result, customers are able to get what they are looking for depending on the overarching platform they are using.  Knowledge workers running Lotus Notes can depend on the Workplace strategy in order to provide a true Collaborative Business Environment.  Knowledge workers operating WebSphere Portal use Workplace to access a composite application framework and to unify content applications.  Also with WebSphere, knowledge workers are integrated with the Domino Server as a back-end mail server while also receiving the benefits of Workplace services such as realtime communication, workflow, and content management.  All of these products are integrated, which allows for easy interoperability and consistency – a cornerstone within the Workplace strategy.  IBM realizes the need for companies to capture and utilize their knowledge is unprecedented, and the solution lies within the strategy of the software rather than the title.  Workplace is the epitome of IBM’s collaborative strategy and will serve as a guiding vision for years to come.

Workplace is also an excellent example of IBM’s SOA philosophy.  On top of that, Workplace functions in accordance with the ODF standards.  The ODF standard was recently ratified at the end of last year by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and will provide consistency and growth for future platforms.

ODF is an XML-based document file format that allows end users to edit and create documents, regardless of the application vendor.  ODF offers consumers a choice between itself and proprietary document formats found in Microsoft Office components.  The openness of the ODF means that, unlike Microsoft, IBM’s product is interoperable with a variety of software; ODF can operate within its own format as well as within Microsoft Office or earlier versions of OpenOffice.  The fact that IBM adopts the ODF is promising for knowledge workers needing to communicate with a wide variety of companies that may or may not have IBM or ODF products.  ODF also ensures that companies will have more consistency and accessibility within their own documents.  The inclusion of ODF within a Collaborative Business Environment allows companies to make decisions based on business requirements, notwithstanding the vendor of the platform or the format of the software.

Workplace is designed around IBM’s activity-centric computing methodology.  What this means is that the platform is organized around activities performed rather than tools used.  In order to do this, Workplace provides an “activity thread,” which is an ongoing log of the sequence of interactions between employees on a project or among a team of employees working toward a common goal.  By providing this information, the technology takes care of the organizing and sorting of the relevant material so employees can reach a goal faster and more effectively.

The “activity explorer” program is the first tangible expression of the activity-centric philosophy.  The activity explorer allows knowledge workers to create, perform, track, and save their progress within the threads concept.  Knowledge workers create a document and share it with other employees working on the same project.  From there, employees can reply to the document with work of their own.  The activity explorer keeps a log of this activity so that progress is visible; it also has a presence awareness feature so employees can see who is viewing which document and what changes are being made.  The activity explorer also provides such options as shared computer screens, resembling the features of electronic whiteboards.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst of Basex.

IBM’s New Workplace (Part I)

Monday, July 31st, 2006 by Jonathan Spira

THE ROAD AHEAD

IBM Workplace is the company’s high-level product strategy for Collaborative Business Environments.   Comprised of IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, IBM WebSphere Portal, and IBM WebSphere Everyplace Deployment, IBM’s Workplace offerings are designed to meet the knowledge economy needs of three sets of customers:

  • Existing Notes/Domino customers
  • Existing WebSphere Portal customers
  • New IBM customers

For Notes/Domino customers, the Workplace concept will really come into its own with the launch of the next version of Notes and Domino, code-named “Hannover.”  Hannover uses the WebSphere Portal to deliver composite applications without the help of WebSphere Portal.  However, Hannover can work with WebSphere to deliver composite applications more efficiently. 

For WebSphere Portal customers, IBM promises a Collaborative Business Environment optimized for J2EE-based portal-centric organizations.

 Workplace extends a composite framework to IBM’s offerings under what IBM refers to as Workplace services.  These include

  • Portlet Factory
  • Web Content Management
  • Enterprise Search
  • Electronic Forms
  • Workflow
  • Real-time Collaboration
  • E-mail messaging and calendar and scheduling
  • Document management/team spaces
  • E-learning

Hannover, the next generation of Notes, makes Notes a true Collaborative Business Environment by converting current Notes, Sametime, and portal applications into composite applications via a significantly enhanced user interface.  The Eclipse-based client is server managed and provisioned, and runs not only in Windows, but also on Mac OS and Linux.

As a result, Hannover users benefit from a real-time communications and collaboration platform that supports them on virtually any device (from laptop to handheld device) for everything from e-mail and enterprise applications to locating expertise and knowledge within an organization. 

Future Fusion: WebSphere Portal and Notes/Domino Hannover

One quality of the WebSphere Portal is its integration with IBM Lotus Notes in order to provide numerous business tools within a single environment.  When Hannover is released (which is to be by 2007), the line between where WebSphere ends and Notes begins will become increasingly blurry.  Many applications and features of the two platforms are being adopted by one another, such as Hannover’s SOA model containing both composite applications and a portal model.  With functions such as these, Hannover will have portal qualities of its own while also being integrated within WebSphere Portal. 

With this said, the question for the future remains: What will separate the two platforms after 2007?  The steps IBM is taking to integrate WebSphere Portal with such platforms as Notes are admirable, but will it lead to increased customer confusion once Notes makes the transition to Hannover?  One thing that will be certain is, due to the open standards within both platforms, interoperability between functions will be a given.  These standards include workflow standards (BPEL), instant messaging standards (SIP), document standards (ODF), and many others.  Another feature within Hannover is the heavy emphasis on activity-centric computing methodology.  With this new methodology, communication between WebSphere and Hannover will become even more important for a knowledge worker’s success.  As both platforms grow, their functions will become richer, but IBM needs to make clear of the distinctions between the two.

To be continued next week. (Click here for part two.)

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Lotus Takes the Plunge

Thursday, January 30th, 1997 by Jonathan Spira

Lotus is talking about cool solutions with hot technology.  Albert Brooks opened the General Session advising a plunge into the pool of knowledge.  Why water?  Water is powerful and crystal clear and symbolizes connectivity.  The Pool of Knowledge is the theme for this year’s Lotusphere.

Lotus’ products have continued to raise the bar for openness.  They certainly lead in I-net client innovation, standards adoption, multi-function integration and  usability/UI integration.  They also continue to lead in mobile computing.  Their upcoming products, code-named ‘Lookout’ and ‘Maui’ will continue this trend, it would appear.

Two years ago at Lotusphere, the integrated browser in Notes was the hot thing.  Last year, the ability to select a browser for hotlinks was introduced.  This year, since Microsoft has componentized the IE browser, we can take the browser and bring it into the Notes environment.  This is way cooler than plugins.  On the server side, an IBM System/390 running Domino can support 10,000 simultaneous connections.

Lotus shared their plans for Java components (similar to the existing Active-X) components.    They also showed off how the Java components are truly cross-platform, using an IBM network computer to prove the point.

In short, Domino looked hot.  The sustaining power of Notes is on the server side and Notes object store.   But as Microsoft and Netscape hurry to create client/server groupware, Lotus can rest assuredly on its decade of experience in the area.  Microsoft and Netscape are claiming innovation through their adoption of protocols; but protocols are not features  True innovation comes from understanding what customers want and building that set of services.  This is where Notes is truly at its best.

Notes itself has become a stunningly successful integrator for information from a broad variety of sources.  Spanning time and place.  Handling information from persistent to the ephemeral.  Various delivery options from real-time to deferred.  Tools that take into account the information overload realities of the current information environment, television, telephone, voice mail, e-mail, etc.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).


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