Lotus Development Corp.s K-station, which is the first component of the companys knowledge management project (code-named Raven) to take flight, gives IT managers an easy way to create intranet portals so employees can organize company information.
The biggest strength of K-station by far is its tight integration with other Lotus products, including the Notes messaging system, Domino mail server and back-end directory. However, this strength is also the softwares biggest weakness because shops that dont have Lotus products in place will have to invest significantly to get this system running, making K-station a product that eWeek Labs can recommend only for sites already running Notes.
K-station aims to provide a single Web page users can go to for all of their information and to enable them to collaborate online with team members.
In tests, we were impressed with K-stations ability to customize portals where users can consolidate information from the Internet and their e-mail in-boxes and then share it with members of their workgroups.
K-station, which started shipping last month, is priced at $120 per user, with volume discounts available. Discounts are also offered to educational institutions.
The K-station server operates on Windows NT or 2000 on PCs with at least 200MHz Pentiums, 256MB of RAM and 10GB hard drives. The client requirement is Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer 5.01 Web browser or a later model.
Setting up K-station was not terribly difficult, but we had to install and populate a Domino directory and mail server, a Domino administration console and a Lotus Sametime server. (Sametime is the companys proprietary instant messaging server.)
K-station uses Dominos directory server and replication capabilities to store user and workgroup profile information—a cool management consolidation feature for sites with Domino in place that gives IT managers a single source from which to manage security.
In many ways, K-station is similar to Microsofts knowledge management offering, code-named Tahoe. But one striking difference between the two systems is that K-station lacks a search engine, which makes it less powerful than Microsofts product.
According to Lotus officials, the search engine, created during the Raven project, will be sold as part of a separate product called Discovery Server, a back-end database that should be available this quarter.
Using K-station, workers will find it easy to customize a personal portal that centralizes their access to information.
From a personalized portal Web page, we were able to share documents with co-workers and could see which team members were logged on. We could also easily view shared documents and initiate Sametime instant messaging sessions with co-workers with the click of a mouse.
IT managers shouldnt hold their breaths waiting for this to happen.