IBM Boosts Presence, Awareness with Lotus 6.5

IBM is racing to integrate presence and availability awareness technologies with its latest release of Lotus Notes and Domino 6.5, which ships on
Tuesday, Sept. 30.

When it arrives, the suite of new messaging tools could intensify the rivalry between Big Blue and Microsoft on office productivity tools, as both roll out new presence and availability awareness technologies.

Microsoft is pinning its strategy on the rich-client Office 2003 suite as the future of productivity applications. IBM, meanwhile, is betting that the future face of those applications will be as portals — in fact, as Web service components that can be assembled into customized portals according to an organization’s
needs, Timothy Kounadis, a senior marketing manager with Messaging
Solutions, Lotus Software, in the IBM Software Group, told
internetnews.com.

“We’re always trying to step up the competition with Microsoft, and I think
6.5 is the next salvo in that,” Kounadis said.

He added, “Our perspective is it’s all about open standards; browser
interfaces along with rich clients. Web services is the lynch-pin to both
strategies together.”

The major push in Lotus Notes and Domino 6.5 is to integrate Lotus Instant
Messaging (formerly known as Lotus Sametime) functionality, in an effort to
give users presence capabilities that let them know when co-workers or other
colleagues are online, Kounadis said. From there, they will have the
capability to initiate an instant messaging session directly from their
inboxes or from a collaborative application.

Kounadis noted that a lot of technical enhancements have been made to Lotus
Domino Designer 6.5, which allows developers to build Lotus Notes and Lotus
Domino collaborative applications. Developers can now use Designer to add
presence capabilities to applications.

“Think of a CRM application that has people’s names in it,” he said. “You
can take those names and bring it live. All you have to do is bring up that
CRM application inside of Designer.”


Kounadis explained that presence capabilities can be added to any
application, as long as part of the application runs inside a Notes or
Domino application layer.

“That’s huge,” Erica Rugullies, a director with Giga Information Group, told internetnews.com. “It also fits into IBM’s collaboration
strategy — the collaboration functionality as services that can be embedded
in applications. Not only are they making it embeddable within the Lotus
Notes and Domino applications, but also within enterprise content management
applications as well. This is something that will be spread throughout IBM.”

Kounadis noted that the Lotus Enterprise Integrator (LEI) has also been enhanced,
giving bi-directional access to back-end relational databases and ERP
systems. Support has also been added for partitions, additional databases
and Linux.


While 6.5 doesn’t take IBM all the way to that ultimate Web services
conclusion, it is a step in that direction, Rugullies said.

“The key here for this release is that it is an interim release between 6
and the new Lotus products based on DB2, WebSphere and J2EE ,”
Rugullies said. “They are moving in that direction.”

Rugullies pointed to the portlet creation tools that IBM has added. “They
are making it so that Domino applications and servers can be accessed from
Java Server Pages (JSP) applications. This is where they’ve been focusing a
lot of energy. It’s a huge technology shift.”


Version 7 (though that may not be its name, as IBM continues to integrate
Lotus Notes and Domino with its overall Lotus Workplace strategy) is
expected in 2004. One of the major pushes for that release will be increased
flexibility on the back-end, with Notes data living inside of DB2, Kounadis
said. He noted that more details would be made available at Big Blue’s
LotusSphere show.

Microsoft also sees Web services as an important part of the future of its
efforts in the productivity suite space. The difference is that it is
embedding that work, and collaborative functionality, in the operating
system, while IBM is tying its efforts to middleware, Rugullies said. But
whether Microsoft’s or IBM’s vision wins out — or both coexist — Rugullies
said that third-party vendors of proprietary collaboration tools need to
begin laying both short-term and long-term strategies now, as the two
companies increasingly push collaborative technologies into infrastructure.

“They need to understand what’s happening and think through a strategy,” she
said. “Short-term, if they can garner revenues from offering proprietary
collaboration tools, that’s great.”

But she noted that if a company is looking to jumpstart efforts in the space
with an acquisition, and that acquisition will take two years to integrate,
it may be time to rethink the strategy. Long-term, she said, vendors of
proprietary collaboration offerings should begin looking at the
possibilities of opening up their platforms to support infrastructure
collaboration components from the likes of IBM or Microsoft.

The 6.5 release also has a slew of other upgrades that bring the client more on
par with capabilities users of Microsoft’s Outlook rich client enjoy,
including integrated search, calendaring & scheduling, email follow-up
flagging, reply to and forward icons, the ability to block mail from
particular senders, and a rules wizard.


But whereas Microsoft’s offering — based on Office 2003, Office Live
Communication Server, Office SharePoint Services and other technologies —
is aimed squarely at the Windows platform, IBM is seeking to differentiate
itself by extending its offerings to the Linux platform with the Domino Web
Access (formerly iNotes Web Access) and Domino for Linux on IBM zSeries
eServer products. With these products, IBM said it now has end-to-end
support for collaboration on the Linux platform, with both client-side and
server-side software.

Kounadis noted that Linux users will have to use Domino Web Access (which
users access through either the Internet Explorer or Mozilla browsers)
rather than the Notes rich-client, which Big Blue has not re-engineered for
Linux. However, he said, users give up nothing by going with a browser
client as opposed to a rich client because the two offerings have absolute
parity when it comes to feature sets. As an example, IBM singled out the
fact that Domino Web Access now has the ability to encrypt and read
encrypted mail from Notes bi-directionally; it also has the ability to apply
digital signatures.

“Now they can have the features they want on the platform they want,”
Kounadis said. “We think this is going to be really exciting for customers
that view the power of Linux and see how Linux can help them drive down
costs and increase flexibility.”

“It’s a no-compromise solution,” Kounadis added about the features of Domino
Web Access as compared to those of Lotus Notes. “You’ll get the same
functionality on Domino Web Access running on Linux. Domino Web Access is at
feature parity with the Notes client, including offline reading of your
email.”

Additionally, he said the fact that Domino is now available for Linux on
zSeries should interest organizations looking to consolidate servers.

“It really revolves around flexibility,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons
people love Notes and Domino. People don’t want to be tied into a particular
platform, a particular solution, a particular implementation model. Rich
client, portal, mobile device — our world is one of flexibility and
openness. Microsoft’s world is one of Office-centricity and everything
happening inside of Office. You can’t always say that Office should be the
primary place of collaboration. You need to provide much more flexibility
than that.”

Lotus Notes 6.5 now supports Windows XP Professional Edition, Windows 2000
Professional Edition with SP3, Windows NT version 4.0 with SP6a, Windows 95,
and Macintosh OS X.

Lotus Domino Web Access 6.5, which offers the same features as Lotus Notes
but with a browser-based client, now supports Windows XP, Windows XP
Professional, Windows 2000, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 98, Windows
95, Windows NT 4.0, Red Hat Linux (version 7.2 or 8.0), and SuSE Linux 8.0
(United Linux 1.0). As for browsers, Domino Web Access 6.5 supports Internet
Explorer 5.5 and 6.0, as well as Mozilla 1.3.1 (Linux client only).

Domino Web Access means that IT departments won’t need to go to the expense
of buying or setting up clients anymore. However, for organizations that
want to stick with Notes, Kounadis said IBM is offering the Smart Upgrade
feature it first implemented with Lotus Notes 6.

“It automates the client upgrade process,” Kounadis said. “One of the
biggest costs of moving to a collaborative infrastructure is upgrading all
of your clients. Upgrading the client is the biggest cost hit. Smart Upgrade
allows you to basically push client upgrades from the server to the client.
There’s no need to go around and install the 6.5 client on everyone’s
desktop.”

Lotus Domino 6.5 is now available for Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows
Server 2003, Windows 2003 Advanced Server, IBM iSeries (formerly AS/400)
V5R1 and later, IBM zSeries (formerly S/390), z/OS V1R2 and later, AIX
4.3.3x and 5.1 and 5.2, Sun Solaris 8 and Solaris 9, Red Hat Advanced Server
2.1 (uni-processor only), UnitedLinux 1.0 SP2, and Linux for zSeries —
UnitedLinux 1.0 SP2.

IBM said the Domino Messaging Server 6.5 starts at $1,145 per processor, and
Domino Enterprise Server 6.5 at $2,964 per processor. The Domino Utility
Server 6.5 is available for $15,067 per processor. Lotus Notes 6.5 with
Messaging license starts at $89.82 per user, and Lotus Notes 6.5 with a
Collaboration license starts at $125 per user. Lotus Domino Web Access
starts at $62.80 with a messaging license per user. Lotus Domino Web Access
with Collaboration license starts at $97.12 per user. The Lotus Domino
Collaboration Express starts at $119 per user. The Lotus Domino Utility
Server Express starts at $5,000 per processor.


As a special promotion, IBM said that all Lotus 6.5 customers with active
maintenance agreements will be entitled to receive a 20-license pack of IBM
Lotus Instant Messaging, as well as a 20 user license of WebSphere Portal
Express, at no additional charge. That promotion is good from Oct. 1, 2003
until Dec. 31, 2003.

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