IBM Adds IBM i Support To Traveler And Kills Lotus Name
December 3, 2012 Alex Woodie
Great news for IBM i shops: IBM will enable Traveler, the email and messaging server for mobile devices, to run on the IBM i operating system as part of the forthcoming Notes/Domino version 9.0 platform, the company has announced. Big Blue also said that, with the launch of Notes/Domino 9.0 Social Edition in the first quarter of 2013, it will no longer use the Lotus name, marking the end of the 20-year-old, sunny yellow brand.
IBM takes a tremendous amount of flack for its seemingly endless re-branding exercises, and at least some of it is well deserved. IBM’s marketers did botch the 2008 name change from System i to . . . whatever the platform is called today (IBM i for Power Systems isn’t a name; it’s a phrase). And Lotus Notes/Domino users still smart over the attempt to kill Lotus back in 2005 and replace it with Workplace; the name Lotus was soon back in use–until now, anyway.
But this re-branding may be smarter, and may keep the name Lotus in the grave for good. For starters, the old Lotus concept of collaboration among users has been usurped and surpassed by social media. IBM is embedding social media tools–such as the “like” button, in-line comments, easy file sharing, following “friends,” and the relentless focus on mobile devices–into the old Lotus product to take collaboration to new levels, and to keep the product relevant to millennials who expect business software to (sorta, kinda) work like Facebook.
IBM had originally planned for this next release of Notes/Domino–in private beta since the 2012 Lotusphere show last January–to be called version 8.5.4. (There still will be a version 8.5.4 release, but it won’t have any features, IBM says.) If the release number represents improvement, then the new release is, like, one one-hundredth better than the version 8.5.3 release it’s replacing. It sounds more like a service pack than something you might want to buy for your business.
But this next release brings a wealth of new capabilities, social and otherwise, that are designed to help people work together more effectively. Ed Brill, director for social business and collaboration solutions at IBM and the Notes/Domino product manager, realized it would be folly to bury it as an obscure “dot” release, so it was wisely moved up to version 9.0.
In his blog Brill writes: “A version number increment is designed to do several things: create buzz in the market; . . . convey vendor confidence in the product and its value; indicate longevity of the product; and signal the delta in new features and capabilities. Thus, it only makes sense to call a version that adds embedded experiences, a modernized user interface, new mail and calendar features, the Notes browser plug-in, SAML support, Traveler support for Windows Phone 7.5/8.0 devices and on the IBM i operating system, new XPages features, and more. . . . 9.0.”
But why stop there? Version 9.0 presented the perfect opportunity complete the transformation of Notes/Domino into an “official” IBM Software product, which has been going on for a couple of years. The user interface with Notes/Domino 9.0 Social Edition (what some call just “Social Edition”) now resembles other IBM Software products. The yellow is gone, in favor of IBM blue.
The challenge for IBM is how to use new social media tools in the context of Notes/Domino, which is used by 50,000 businesses worldwide. “How do you keep that investment in Notes/Domino relevant as you move forward to becoming a social business?” Brill asked in a November 13 webcast announcing version 9.0 “This ideal of contextual collaboration is really realized in the forthcoming version of Notes/Domino.”
IBM has gone all-in with social media with Notes/Domino version 9.0, as this release brings various social media tools to bear on the day-to-day tasks that people do within Notes/Domino. Average workers spend 25 percent of their days in their email inboxes, playing “whack-a-mole” in response to problems, Brill says.
To that end, Social Edition brings big changes to email. From their Notes and iNotes email inboxes, users can now share documents, “follow” people, “like” things, and make comments. They can drag and drop files, and approve requests from others. It looks a lot like Facebook, with a blue corporate hue. “The point is, you can see that within messaging,” said Notes and iNotes program director Scott Souder during the webcast: “We’re injecting social into messaging, and messaging right back into social.”
The other big “like” from IT Jungle with Notes/Domino 9.0 Social Edition is support for Traveler running on the IBM i operating system. Traveler is a push email program that enables users to access their email on mobile devices, including the iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, and Windows Phone.
Previously Traveler only ran on Windows and Linux servers. That meant that any IBM i Notes/Domino customer had to run and manage a separate Windows or Linux server–or really, a pair of them to provide the required level of reliability–if they wanted to push email from their IBM i-based Domino server out to Blackberrys, iPhones, and Android phones. That is a giant hassle for anybody who has invested in Domino on the IBM i platform, which is actually a good number of people.
The announcement redeemed the work of Steve Pitcher, who spearheaded a campaign to get more native IBM i support with products in the Notes/Domino stack, particularly the newer social-enabled ones. “I’m extremely excited and grateful that IBM intends to support IBM Traveler as part of Notes and Domino 9.0,” Pitcher told IT Jungle via email. “I would imagine the rest of the IBM i and Power Systems community are as ecstatic as I am to be able to consolidate yet another workload on IBM i, further simplifying and strengthening our environments.”
Pitcher says the support for the upcoming Blackberry 10 mobile OS in Notes/Domino 9.0 will hopefully allow him to unplug two Windows servers that are used to run Blackberry Enterprise Server at Scotsburn Dairy, the Nova Scotia company where Pitcher works as a systems administrator. There is still some uncertainty in what will be supported (such as that it appears that legacy Blackberry devices will not be supported in Traveler). “Hopefully that info will be cleared up soon,” he says. “If that’s truly the case, I can personally kill two Windows servers with one stone.”
Now that Traveler is coming to IBM i, that leaves two Notes/Domino products left on Pitcher’s Christmas list for IBM i, including IBM Connections and Sametime Mobile Manager. Over the past year, Pitcher has enthusiastically thrown his energy into mobilizing the IBM i community over the lack of support for these products. Going forward, it sounds like Pitcher going to take a quieter, more tactful approach to achieve his goals.
Pitcher is not claiming credit for anything IBM has or hasn’t done. But his actions certainly seem to have helped get the point across that it would be a shame to bypass IBM i with the latest social media and Web 2.0 technologies in Notes/Domino, and for that the IBM i community should be grateful.