Future versions of IBMs Lotus Notes client will benefit from the companys new server-managed software model, as Big Blue crystallizes its strategy for converging its Lotus Workplace suite with its Notes and Domino product lines.
Lotus Workplace Messaging and Documents are the centerpiece of a new IBM software model for managing and administering clients from the server theyre connected to. The model, which IBM unveiled last week, is intended to ease client administration and divorce client hardware and operating-system choices from the selection of back-office applications.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., announced Monday that dozens of ISVs, developers and systems integrators have signed up to develop customized offerings that take advantage of IBMs Workplace client technology. Among the partners IBM cited were Binary Tree Inc., Intellisync Corp., PalmOne Inc., Research in Motion Ltd., Siebel Systems Inc. and Relavis Corp.
Lotus Workplace is the next-generation messaging and collaboration technology developed by IBMs Lotus Software division. Most Lotus messaging customers today use the Notes client and Domino server, which IBM continues to develop in parallel with Workplace.
While current versions of Notes are not included in the server-managed client module, future versions of the software will bring it closer to Workplace and allow users to take advantage of the new model, according to Ken Bisconti, vice president of messaging products at Lotus.
IBMs development has been focused on providing a consistent user interface between Notes and Workplace—such as a welcome portal, integrated presence and instant messaging.
But ties between the products will strengthen in Version 7 of the Notes client. That release, due in the first quarter of 2005, will support the surfacing of Notes applications within Workplace as an Eclipse plug-in, Bisconti said in Cambridge, Mass.
Notes on Workplace
Version 7 of Domino also will support IBMs DB2 database as a data store, allowing common data storage for Notes and Workplace applications, Bisconti said.
Version 8 of Notes, currently expected sometime in 2006, will run on top of the Workplace client. Notes users will then be able to take full advantage of the dynamic provisioning and synching capabilities offered by the new software model.
“To the traditional Notes user, it will still look like Notes,” Bisconti said. “Workplace will run under the covers.”
Notes users will have access to Workplace applications and WebSphere Portal from within the familiar Notes client, Bisconti said. But perhaps more importantly, client management will be considerably easier, he said.
“One of the challenges our installed base has in rolling out new Notes releases is the task planning and spending of money, time and resources to upgrade clients,” Bisconti said. “With the managed end-user environment, that wont be an issue anymore.”
Bruce Elgort, manager of information services at Notes and Domino customer Sharp Microelectronics, said the Notes convergence with Workplace is still too far off for him—and most other Notes customers—to think much about just yet.
“Its just like anything else. How many people just upgraded to Notes 6?” Elgort said in Camas, Wash. “Now, theres going to be another major upgrade to Version 7, then another one to 8. Itll probably be like most migration events, where theres no compelling reason to migrate right away.
But Elgort said the Notes community would be watching carefully how the initial Notes-Workplace convergence takes shape in next years Nersion 7 release of Notes.
“Depending on how well [IBM] handles Notes fidelity in Workplace in Version 7, that may give people a strategy to upgrade to 8,” he said. “You hope by that time, its not something you have to think about, its something you need to do because the features and functionality youre getting are so great.”
IBM has said the Notes-Workplace convergence plan would require nothing more of Notes customers than to continue to upgrade to new versions of Notes. But that wont necessarily preclude separate licensing costs for Workplace for customers who upgrade to Version 8 of Notes.
“Were still a couple years away from determining the final package pricing,” Bisconti said, adding that the upgrade process would happen in a “natural, integrated way.”
“This wont be a significant migration event for our customers like weve seen in a lot of other areas of the industry,” Bisconti said, taking a swipe at IBM-Lotus arch-rival, Microsoft Corp. and its Exchange messaging platform. “This wont be like having to deploy [Microsofts Windows] Active Directory to move up from Exchange 5.5.”