IBM Lotus Brings Connections to the Cloud
June 30, 2009 Dan Burger
IBM has the hots for social networking applied to collaboration in the workplace. In the past six weeks or so, IBM announced it will introduce social networking to two of its largest internal groups: the developerWorks and business partner organizations. Last week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, IBM announced its latest social networking for business tool, LotusLive Connections, which becomes generally available today in a cloud near you.
A product that combines collaboration and cloud computing, LotusLive Connections is an IBM love child. If there’s one thing Big Blue adores more than social networking, it’s cloud computing. Imagine the smiles of delight on the faces of IBM Lotus executives when the conference selected LotusLive as “The Enterprise 2.0 Cloud Computing Technology Buyers’ Choice Award” winner over Google, EMC, and other vendors’ cloud technologies. The award was based on the votes of conference attendees.
Before moving to the cloud, Lotus Connections was earthbound. By that I mean it was designed to run inside the firewall–installed, deployed, and maintained by the organization using the software. LotusLive Connections is in the software as a service (SaaS) model. Its availability is not tied to any IBM hardware or software, which means it’s free of any Lotus-related baggage that prevents some people from even considering anything named Lotus.
Lotus Connections, which has been available for approximately two years, is a Web-based product. It can be used for extranet collaboration, but it is typically deployed inside companies. Sales force collaboration over a wide geography, for instance, is one use. For many uses, companies don’t want the external world into their internal services for a variety of reasons.
The strength of Connections’ social networking is its increased leveraging of the intelligence within a community. It does this by combining a variety of collaboration tools such as blogs, wikis, shared libraries, forums, and personal contacts based on common interests within the context of the business.
The distinction between Lotus Connections and LotusLive Connections is there so companies can decide whether they want to run Connections on premise or to subscribe to it as a hosted application. A benefit that comes with the cloud version–LotusLive Connections–is that it allows a company to be up and running with a program that could connect its business partners in a shorter period of time.
The terminology is a bit tricky, but LotusLive Connections uses the underlying code base for Lotus Connections, which has its 2.5 release going into production. Because the release dates of the two products are not in synch, some pieces of Lotus Connections will not be available in the LotusLive version. Two of those features are blogging and bookmarking. There are also features in LotusLive that are not available in the software that is run on premise due to the products’ individual production schedules. The two lines will ultimately be converged.
The price point for LotusLive Connections will be “just under $10 per user per month,” according to Sean Poulley, vice president, business development, online collaboration services. Compared to Lotus Connections, the software product that requires hardware and a time commitment to manage it, Poulley believes the hosted version proves to be an economical choice. He points out that IT budgets are weighted toward people, operations, and administration to the tune of 80 percent, which leaves only 20 percent of the budget for software and hardware.
Poulley says the Lotus Connections products are the fastest-growing product that we’ve had in software group period, and that the customers are not all coming form the existing customer base.
“We are changing the definition of what a Lotus customer is,” Poulley says. “Matt Cain, at Gartner, suggested ‘the combination of Lotus Connections and LotusLive was reigniting the Lotus business,’ which it is.”