posted 14 Mar 2005 in Volume 8 Issue 6
Trend tracker: Lotusphere
By Chris Harris-Jones, research director, information management, Ovum
I attended the annual Lotusphere conference in January and a major theme was the importance IBM placed on continuing to develop and sell both Lotus Domino and the computing giant’s growing collection of workplace-collaboration technologies – now known as IBM Workplace Collaboration Services (WCS) 2.5. A driver for this emphasis is the continuing confusion among many users of the relationship between these overlapping product families. The publicity for IBM Workplace through 2004 had led many existing Notes Domino users to believe that there was, at best, a two-lane highway in terms of development.
This was strongly denied by IBM and this year’s Lotusphere was also the first time I had heard so many senior IBM executives talking about ‘convergence’. They were also keen to state that Notes Domino users would not have to go through a complex upgrade to WCS at any point in the future. IBM expects Notes Domino to be around, and to be supported, for decades yet.
Notes Domino and WCS have clearly defined development paths for years into the future, and these paths intersect at numerous points. It is already possible for WCS to utilise Notes through a plug-in; Domino will be able to use many WCS components in release seven (due mid-2005). WCS currently uses the Websphere Portal as its user interface, and release seven of Notes will be able to do the same. None of this means that users actually have to change to different software – rather the planned upgrades will retain full backwards compatibility. While software upgrades are often not a trivial undertaking, they are usually far less painful than migrating to a totally different product.
I expect IBM’s collaboration offerings to move towards a ‘bag of functions’, founded on its company-wide componentisation strategy. There is increasing cross-over of functionality and code between the Notes Domino and IBM Workplace products. IBM is encouraging new users to go down either path as most appropriate, rather than force everyone towards WCS.
From a technical standpoint, however, there are some major issues. WCS, for instance, is fully Java and most of Notes Domino is well pre-Java, which will present some challenges. From the user’s point of view, though, all the products on offer are focused on helping you to do your job more effectively. IBM is making a good stab at delivering the level of integration that most users will need.
In some ways, therefore, the user perception that there is a two-lane development highway has some validity. However, those two lanes have the same goal – a better collaborative experience – and IBM is working hard to ensure that the lanes converge. This is good news for Notes Domino users, but convergence will nevertheless be a long and difficult activity. Let’s hope there are no major accidents along the way.