Vulcan Demonstrated as Next-Gen Collaboration Platform

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-01-19 Print this article Print

I went through a demo with Charles Hill, IBM distinguished engineer and CTO of IBM Lotus. Hill showed me how to preview a file from the LotusLive SAAS (software as a service) platform, where we could see comments generated in Lotus Connections and act on them.

The Vulcan homepage included updates from the Notes collaboration environment as well as status updates from Connections. People were easily findable through Vulcan's social search capability. Users can find a user profile and click a button to trigger a Sametime chat session and share files via Sametime with one click.

The Vulcan Notes calendar was functional. Files were easily shared across the platform, and Hill was able to switch from the on-premises version of the client to the Web-based version with single-click ease.

After clicking on an alert, Hill was whisked to a mashup of Cognos BI charts with social information from Connections.

"The idea is to blend together business process capabilities with an understanding of what people are doing day-to-day as they collaborate with each other," Hill said.

First impression: This is a complex, daunting dance, but one that could prove quite valuable for IBM and its customers if IBM pulls it off. Currently, no vendor is offering anything like this.

Part of the reason is that most companies don't have their own suites of collaboration, social and BI applications to stitch together. This task is already Herculean. Imagine trying to do it with sites from different companies. It can be done, but would take years and would be extremely fragile.

That is what makes Vulcan potentially very special. Is it fair to compare Vulcan to Facebook? Yes and no.

From the demo, the interface certainly looked a bit like Facebook, but remember IBM is building Vulcan for enterprises, so there are all sorts of permissions and underlying security parts moving underneath. Vulcan is far more private than public, for obvious reasons.

How is Vulcan like Google Wave? Other than the fact that it aims to combine collaboration and communication applications in one standard platform, it's not ... yet, anyway.

Rennie told me IBM is working on something called Project Concord, which is a Web-based version of the Lotus Symphony word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. This will include real-time co-editing of documents, which is where the comparisons to Wave come into play.

Vulcan will approximate some of the real-time ethos of Google Wave. However, Wave doesn't have a strong social component and business analytics is nowhere to be found in Google's broad collaboration portfolio, so the similarities between Vulcan and Wave end at the real-time collaboration Vulcan will have.

Again, though, Concord is not ready for inclusion in Vulcan any more than Vulcan is ready to come to production. Don't expect to see any production deployments of Vulcan until 2011.

One other interesting note: IBM's opening guest speaker was none other than William Shatner, he of "Star Trek" and fame. Rennie then closed the show with the announcement of Project Vulcan. No IBM official will comment on the obvious irony.


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