Cloud Computing, Customer Wins, Microsoft Bashing Will Be Key at IBM Lotusphere

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-01-15

Cloud Computing, Customer Wins, Microsoft Bashing Will Be Key at IBM Lotusphere

IBM Lotusphere will kick off in earnest Jan. 18, with thousands of high-tech customers, partners, press and analysts flocking to Orlando to discuss the state of collaboration software viewed through the Big Blue lens.

More than 145 million corporate employees are using IBM's Lotus Notes e-mail software, which is now used in more than half of the Fortune 100 companies, Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of IBM messaging and collaboration software, told eWEEK before the show. The other half of those Fortune 100 companies use Notes rival Microsoft Exchange.

Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler said Lotus has been revitalized under new general manager Bob Picciano, who replaced Mike Rhodin last, and confirmed what Cavanaugh said. Schadler added that IBM is strong in large enterprises, while Exchange has more traction in the small and midsize business range.

Market share estimates vary widely for Exchange and Lotus Notes. Gartner Dataquest's most recent report from 2008 shows Notes narrowing the gap on market leader Exchange, with IBM's Notes owning 40 percent share worldwide and Microsoft grabbing 48 percent for Exchange.

IDC's annual market share analysis of collaborative environments puts Microsoft's market share at 52 percent, with IBM's market share slipping 5 percent to 37.7 percent. A Ferris Research survey of 917 organizations worldwide found Exchange in 65 percent of those shops.

IBM won't let such figures dampen its annual Lotusphere parade. Cavanaugh said IBM will play up the newly released Lotus Notes 8.5 and the newly minted Lotus Symphony for Mac OS X computers, but one of the other major themes at Lotusphere will be cloud computing and SAAS (software as a service).

Cloud computing is when software is accessed over the Internet rather than installed on corporate servers and desktops. IBM hosts the software on its own servers. The cornerstone piece of IBM's cloud offering for Lotus is Bluehouse, the company's SAAS collaboration suite.

Bluehouse lets companies put social networking tools, including profiles, activities and Dogear bookmarking technology from IBM's Lotus Connections suite, in front of their customers. The next iteration of Lotus Connections, currently in Version 2.0, will also get some lip service at the conference.

Cloud Computing, Customers, Partners on Tap

IBM unveiled Bluehouse at Lotusphere 2008. Though fairly amorphous at the time, it became clear that Bluehouse would be a big foray into the cloud for IBM. Bluehouse is an open beta and it's quite possible IBM will take the beta tag off the suite, though Cavanaugh declined to say what IBM would discuss at Lotusphere regarding the software.

Schadler told eWEEK that besides Bluehouse, IBM's cloud approach at Lotusphere will be consistent with its approach throughout 2008. "IBM is saying, 'We'll give it to you any way you want it, including in the cloud.'"

Expect to hear an update on Atlantic, the joint software product that integrates IBM Lotus Notes software with SAP's Business Suite, giving users better collaboration tools for their enterprise applications.

IBM also plans to unveil key customer wins for its Lotus Notes, including The Coca-Cola Company (Microsoft Exchange serves Coca-Cola Enterprises, the bottling company), Nationwide, Global Hyatt and others that helped the Lotus software division average 16 percent growth for the last three quarters, Cavanaugh said.

In addition, Cavanaugh said IBM will surprise attendees with new partnerships, particularly some that IBM watchers wouldn't normally expect. For example, he pointed to the recent launch of Lotus 8.5, which was available on the Mac right out of the chute in addition to the normal Linux and Windows operating system support.

Expect Lotus to get more Mac-friendly. Cavanaugh also hinted that Lotus Notes is getting more Web 2.0-friendly, leveraging widgets and mashups.

What else will get play? Schadler said IBM's three-year, $1 billion commitment to UCC (unified communications and collaboration),  in which IBM's Lotus Notes e-mail and Lotus Sametime instant messaging, voice and video communications are combined with other real-time collaboration tools, is beginning to bear fruit.

"Sametime is richer than it ever used to be," Schadler said. "Presence has extended beyond just online to help find where you are in the building and through your mobile device."

Given the current recession, one can expect IBM to also talk up cost advantages of using Lotus software over alternatives to Microsoft. Expect the cloud computing theme to play large there.

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