Visualize Social Networks with IBM's Atlas

New relationship visualization tools ratchet up IBM's social networking push for the enterprise.

Determined to lead the market in creating social networking tools for the enterprise, IBM introduced a new set of social networking visualization and analysis tools for businesses.

IBM Atlas for Lotus Connections helps users answer questions about key experts on given topics and how they are connected. The software also gives users access to other users contacts.

Atlas comes at a time when the use of social networking tools in the enterprise is gaining momentum as a way to help users better connect, communicate and collaborate with each other. IBM officials demonstrated the software during a Made in IBM CIO Virtual Labs Day at the company's New York headquarters Dec. 18.

Atlas is the culmination of four years of development within IBM Research to help recognize more value from the aggregate of social network data collected over time, Chris Lamb, senior product manager for Lotus Connections, told eWEEK before the event.

The suite includes four components-Net, My Net, Find, Reach-that help users better navigate their personal and corporate networks by presenting a graphical representation of connections and the relationships among various groups.

Read more here about the convergence of social networking and virtual reality tools.

The Net component renders the visual representation of the hubs among topic experts, as well as informal groups that have developed while working on similar projects.

With Net, users can identify communication gaps or bottlenecks among groups. This is particularly helpful in finding new employees who have joined a company via a merger.

My Net is a version of Net geared for a user's personal network. For example, My Net can help sales and marketers understand and manage their social networks to help close deals.

Reach is the social dashboard feature in Atlas that lets users navigate among six degrees of separation that divide them from a colleague. The point of Reach is to show users the shortest path to reach an expert, and rank the expert based on the level of interaction across the network.

As the name implies, Atlas' Find tool extends searches beyond the corporate directory to include results based on social data such as reporting structures, blogs and communities.

With Find, users can customize their search criteria based on location, corporate structure or degrees of separation. These search results are sorted based on the collaborative ranking assigned to a topic expert.

Atlas is primed to work with IBM's Lotus Connections social software platform, which Big Blue introduced Jan. 22, 2007, to improve communications in the corporate world with profiles, blogs, bookmarks and other tools. Atlas is an add-on service priced according to the size of an enterprise installation.

IBM introduces Lotus Connections. Click here to read more.

"This is a great 'social productivity' tool for end-users-and that will help Connections overall-given recent debates on enterprise software being 'sexy,'" Burton Group analyst Mike Gotta told eWEEK. "End users benefit if they can tap a friend and leverage a relationship that the organization has in order to get something done."

In related news, IBM said the latest version of Lotus Connections, 1.02, is now available. This suite now includes an API based on the REST (Representational State Transfer) and Atom standards that allows other applications to leverage the Lotus Connections services.

Also part of the new Connections mix are plug-ins for Lotus Notes, Lotus Sametime, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Explorer and IBM WebSphere Portal, as well as support for the SUSE Linux operating system, Mozilla Firefox 2.0 browser and Microsoft's Active Directory.

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