IBM's Project Vulcan Is Google Wave Meets Facebook Meets BI

News Analysis: Project Vulcan is IBM's stab at integrating its Lotus messaging and collaboration suites with CRM and ERP business applications, and providing reports on the data with its own Cognos business analytics. The kicker is that IBM is striving to do this from a single platform, blending on-premises applications with cloud computing apps and extending these to the mobile enterprise. Piece of cake, right? Vulcan, which IBM will open to developers through its new LotusLive Labs in the second half of 2010, is evolving.

ORLANDO, Fla.-There's been a lot of discussion about IBM's Project Vulcan, the next-generation collaboration platform the company demonstrated here at Lotusphere Jan. 18.

How does one describe Project Vulcan? Yes, it looked like Facebook and business intelligence rolled into one. Some initially speculated that Vulcan is IBM's answer to Google Wave.

But it became apparent that the nascent platform aims to let users share and take action on data from business applications rather than just being another collaboration application that allows real-time co-editing of documents and files. And Vulcan seeks to do this from one platform.

Consider IBM's Lotus portfolio. From the Lotus Notes e-mail client and Domino server to Lotus Sametime products for instant messaging and Web conferencing, there are a lot of different moving parts. IBM cross-integrates its products, allowing them to talk to one another.

But there is still really no one way to access these disparate applications from one palette, which is what Google did with Wave. Project Vulcan aims to do that, plus bring business data into the mix, Alistair Rennie, the new general manager for IBM's Lotus software group, told eWEEK in an interview Jan. 19.

Vulcan, which IBM will open to developers through the company's new LotusLive Labs in the second half of 2010, is still evolving. Rennie called it a "blueprint" and said he can only be so specific.

With that disclaimer, Rennie said the customer's goal is to have a more effective way to get to collaborative services and have those services intersect nicely with business capability.

So customers want to be able to take the data they create in business applications such as CRM, ERP and business analytics software such as IBM's Cognos, and share and communicate via IBM's Lotus Notes and Domino e-mail, Lotus Connections social software, Lotus Sametime unified communication and collaboration applications, and Lotus Quickr team content services.

Another goal of Vulcan is to enable these applications to communicate with one another whether they are on-premises-based or Web-based applications, which encompasses IBM's increasing hybridization of Lotus (for example, getting on-premises Lotus Notes to work seamlessly with LotusLive Notes' cloud).

Finally, he said, IBM wants to be able to extend all of the Vulcan capabilities from the desktop to its mobile enterprise offerings, where location-based services will play a huge role in helping users connect.

"The goal is to bring those things together into an integrated framework that provides a unified way for a person to interact and see things in context," Rennie said. "From a services perspective, it would include mail, unified communications, social capabilities and business applications."

Project Vulcan includes IBM's Lotus collaboration software, Lotus Connections and Cognos BI software. Think of Connections as the glue tying the collaboration applications and Cognos applications together, forming a one-two social analytics punch on top of the broader Lotus collaboration services.