Gartner Teleconference: What are IBM’s Workplace and Lotus Strategies and What Happened At Lotusphere?

Wednesday 16th February, 2005
I just attended a Gartner Teleconference in which analysts Tom Austin, Gene Phifer, Maurene Caplan Grey, Lou Latham and Ken Chin gave their views on the recent strategies coming out of IBM and LotusSphere.

They very much seemed to agree with the message that "Notes is not dead" and saw a good future ahead for Notes based applications. They do see big changes ahead though and they see the Notes client as we know it becoming part of the Workplace universal rich client. This will not only incorporate the Workplace technologies and all the backwards compatability we require from Notes via a plug-in, but will also be easy to deploy and run on alternative OS platforms such as Linux. This is clearly a huge marketplace advantage.

Whilst IBM see this as a "legacy extension" not a migation, Notes -> Workplace migrations tools are apparently already becoming available from 3rd party vendors. Whilst IBM apparently have no plans to supply any of these tools, Gartner predict IBM will make a u-turn on this in 1.5-2yrs and make tools available. I guess IBM are keen at this time to convey the message that this doesn't need to be a "rip & replace" migration.

They do however see little distant future for LotusScript as people move over to DB2 based systems, but for the forseeable future .nsf files should be around for quite some time. Apparently "the last thing they [IBM] want you to do" is move your mailfiles onto DB2 because it just doesn't have the performance tweaks it requires yet.

Gartner reckon that "IBM has changed the strategy for the better" and that feedback from IBM/Lotus customers was very positive this year after LotusSphere with people very enthusiastic about the future and most of them understanding the message. IBM Business Partners see some great opportunities from new technologies like the "3 CDs and a 30minute installation" Workplace Services Express. (WSE)

They were very positive about Workplace technologies and really see a good strategy there, although there was some concern about the current "lack of ISV support" that IBM were trying to address.

I asked how they saw the extensive hardware requirements for WSE fitting into the target SMB market, after all fast hardware is not cheap. I got feedback that the hardware required to run WSE successfully isn't really that great and they don't see it as a major hurdle. What they do see as an issue is the people costs as SMB's may not have the skillset required to deploy these technlogies effectively. I can only see this as good news for IBM Business Partners.

Ken Chin saw some technologies like Domino.doc as reaching end of life, being replaced by DB2 content management, but after a question from the audience Gartner stressed that "end of life" for IBM was generally very different from other vendors and they tend to support products for many, many years after they stop making major releases. When they say "end of life" they just mean that there won't be any more major releases. I can only agree with this, let's face it, I learned that Lotus Domino 5 is still available for OS/2 the other day with 5.0.13 available for the long redundant OS platform.

I asked "Have Microsoft produced any roadmaps around Exchange that the IBM strategy could be compared to?"

I got a pretty realistic response that 10yrs ago Exchange was the centre of the universe but now it's not and as such shouldn't really be used as a benchmark to compare vendor strategies with. They did say however that "what MS has produced thus far lacks the vision and openness of the IBM strategy". They explained that whilst MS were a little ahead on presence integration in areas like MS Office, they were at least a year behind on other strategies like conference integration. Concern was expressed about MS support for hardware devices and lack of OS support in general, customers being stuck with Windows.  They also gave the impression that MS was stuck on traditional fat client technology, not newer thinner rich clients that are easier to deploy and have a smaller footprint.

To close, with another question, I drew them back to the end of the Notes client as we know it and it becoming a plug-in for Workplace. I understood that it would be able to do my existing messaging and applications from Notes and that these may well become Workplace messaging and Workplace applications but my concern lay with Calendar & Scheduling (C&S) and resource reservations. How do these move over to Workplace? Is there a migration strategy? Maurene Caplan Grey explained that Workplace has full C&S but, when I explained that my concern was co-existance with existing systems it became an interesting question. Whilst iCal was an open standard and invitations from one system can easily be sent to another, e.g. a Notes invitation could be sent to a Workplace user, there is no "freebusy" standard available. Looking up freetime between users on the separate Notes/Workplace systems may well be a problem, even if they're using the same client. Tom Austin agreed this could be an issue as you can't just migrate a 100,000 seat company overnight.

The future is certainly getting exciting for IBM customers, thanks to Gartner for their thoughts and views.

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