IBM has finished polishing up the software-as-a-service version of Lotus Notes and will release it to the public Oct. 22, company officials told me.
Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging is the hosted flavor of Lotus Notes, the company's core business e-mail and calendaring client and the cornerstone of IBM's collaboration software.
Corporate employees access Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging directly via the Internet instead of from an on-premises application downloaded to their work desktops and laptops.
Data generated from the SAAS applications is stored and managed on a server at an IBM data center, which means businesses don't have to buy additional hardware or further tax their existing servers. This is a big deal at a time when businesses are tightening the belts on their budgets for the recession.
Moreover, the new service is supported by an IBM technical team and features two SLA (service-level agreement) options, spam and virus filtering, and services to back up and restore data in the case of an outage.
Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging will cost companies $8 to $18 per user per month and is meant for companies with 1,000 to 10,000 employees, though IBM through its infinite flexibility can tailor SAAS plans for smaller and larger companies, too.
This isn't IBM Lotus' first SAAS offering. Big Blue this month launched its SAAS-based Bluehouse collaboration extranet into open beta and offers the Sametime Unyte Web conferencing application.
SAAS e-mail apps are hardly new. Ask any Google Apps user who uses Gmail, Zoho Mail, Yahoo's Zimbra, or any of the flotilla of cloud-based mail and collaboration applications. Did the rise of these apps spur IBM to take Lotus Notes to the cloud?
Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of IBM messaging and collaboration software, denied this in a phone interview Oct. 21, noting that IBM is responding to customer requests for an alternative to on-premises clients.
""There are some folks who do a great job of running their software on premises, and it's the most economical solution for them. In these times, people are going to make those decisions based on economics. We found a bunch of people who wanted a virtual dedicated environment. They had other priorities in their IT organization, and they were just as happy if someone else worried about the messaging environment. It's that third group the hosted Notes is targeted to.""
IBM has other Lotus news today. Hotel giant Global Hyatt's thousands of employees in some 365 hotels will use IBM Lotus Notes 8.0 and Lotus Sametime 8.0 to help employees better work together. This effectively replaces what IBM said was a patchwork environment of older Microsoft and Lotus applications.
IBM overall is bullish on e-mail as one of the many UCC (unified communication and collaboration) apps. The company last March pledged to sink $1 billion into UCC over the next three years.