IBM Unveils New Social Media Solutions at Lotusphere
January 23, 2012 Alex Woodie
IBM is moving its LotusLive hosting service for Notes onto its SmartCloud infrastructure and calling it SmartCloud for Social Business, the company announced at last week’s Lotusphere. The company also unveiled several new software and services that will be sold under the SC4SB umbrella, including new releases of its flagship social networking platform IBM Connections; an embeddable version of the Lotus Notes social networking features; a new productivity suite called IBM Docs; and new clients for Blackberrys and the new Windows Phone.
Business software vendors like IBM are trying mightily to hook their horses to the social media train that has emerged from the consumer side of information technology to become a driving force in business IT as well. Nobody on the business side of things seems entirely sure how best to employ the social networking technology, but one thing is for certain: that they need to be active in social media and add social media-type functions to their software.
To that end, IBM has been working over the last couple of years to transform Lotus Notes into a platform for social business software. The latest iteration of this transformation was on display last week in Orlando, Florida, the site of the annual Lotusphere conference. The biggest announcement may have been the unveiling of SmartCloud for Social Business, the new product umbrella for IBM’s LotusLive offerings.
Enter the SC4SB
LotusLive was the name of the hosted versions of several Lotus products, including LotusLive Notes, the hosted fat-client version of Notes; LotusLive iNotes, the Web-based version; and several ancillary LotusLive products such as Engage, LotusLive Connections, Events, and Meetings, which allow users to share files, chat via instant messaging, conduct polls, and use other collaborative functions. (It’s worth noting that LotusLive, and now the SC4SB, are separate from the primary social networking components of the Lotus Notes and Domino suite, including IBM Connections, Sametime, and Lotus Notes Traveler.)
IBM is adding one new service to the SC4SB product suite: IBM Docs. The cloud-based office productivity suite offers word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities and will pose a challenge to hosted versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as Google Enterprise productivity software. IBM says IBM Docs is now in beta and is slated for availability later this year.
Besides IBM Docs, nothing changes for LotusLive customers, except that the new SC4SB name will gradually replace the old name over the coming months. The change tucks LotusLive snuggly into the IBM SmartCloud, a complete line of hosted infrastructure, apps, and services, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), that IBM launched about nine months ago.
The IBM SmartCloud is primarily based on IBM X64 servers and related technology, although Power Systems running AIX and Linux are also available. IBM has yet to announce a SmartCloud running the IBM i operating system, although according to this IBM website, System i is listed as a supported platform in SmartCloud Enterprise and the soon-to-be-released IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+. While IBM i doesn’t run some of the main social networking components of Note and Domino–namely IBM Connections, Sametime, and Lotus Notes Traveler–IBM i has historically been one of the most popular platforms for running Notes and Domino, so it would seem to make good business sense to support IBM i with the SC4SB (not to mention IBM Connections, Sametime, and Traveler, but that’s another story).
IBM also announced a beta of the next release of IBM Connections, a Web-based product that IBM originally launched as Lotus Connections in 2007. IBM Connections (and its hosted version, LotusLive Connections) allow teams of users to collaborate through Web spaces, blogs, wikis, forums, and shared libraries. The software sports hooks into the Lotus email, contacts, and calendar software, as well as IBM’s various BI and content management systems, including Cognos, FileNet, and Content Manager.
The next release of IBM Connections will have more analytics built into the software. IBM says the new software will automatically flag important items that appear in the user’s activity stream (also known as a “news feed”). These items could come from any third-party applications that IBM Connections can, well, connect to.
For example, if an insurance claim held in an organization’s SAP system requires attention, the user will be notified of the need through his activity stream, and with a single click jump right to the SAP screen or begin related business processes. Other applications that could be in the activity stream include Facebook and Twitter posts, weather forecasts, videos, or log files.
IBM is also launching IBM Connections Enterprise Content Edition, which provides more powerful content management and workflow capabilities than the standard version of the software. The new version builds on the basic version of IBM Connections with stronger workflow capabilities and integration with the FileNet content management system. It also brings better integration with desktop systems, including Microsoft Office and Outlook, Lotus Notes, collaboration tools like Lotus Symphony, and even good old Windows Explorer.
IBM announced Lotus Notes and Domino, Social Edition, which the vendor says is a social-enabled version of Notes that allow users to “act on any work flow process directly within the email inbox.” The new software will prevent users from having to navigate to a third-party website to access content (such as reading files or watching a video) and will make users “more efficient when engaging in activity and more responsive to day to day tasks,” IBM says.
IBM also announced two mobile clients. It intends to support the new Windows Phone with a beta release of Notes Traveler for Nokia and HTC devices later this year. IBM also added a new program for enabling Blackberry users to access email in the cloud.
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