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Lotus finally rolls out Notes/Domino upgrade

IBM will take the wraps off version 6 of Lotus Notes and Domino today (1 October) ushering in the first major upgrade in three years of Lotus' flagship corporate messaging and infrastructure software.

Lotus' last major Notes/Domino release, version 5 in March 1999, trickled out slowly to customers, many of whom resisted upgrading until long after the release. Y2K-related jitters and installation freezes contributed to the lag, but bug reports from early adopters also encouraged a wait-and-see approach.

Notes/Domino 6 is likely to have a smoother send-off, say analysts, customers and IBM executives, thanks to thorough beta-testing and an array of enhancements, from small look-and-feel tweaks to back-end infrastructure changes that can trim the costs of large enterprise deployments.

Several features in the new software are going to be very attractive to Lotus' traditional user base of very large, geographically scattered organisations, noted Ferris Research analyst Marten Nelson.

Nelson highlighted the significantly beefed-up network compression technology built into version 6. Anecdotal feedback from beta customers suggests that by speeding up replication and data transfer, the new compression technology can trim companies' bandwidth costs by up to 30%, Nelson said.

Also useful for companies supporting a large number of client installations is R6's "smart upgrade" feature, allowing administrators to push updates and configuration changes out automatically to users, he said.

"From a cost point-of-view, I believe there are features in (R6) that should be very attractive," Nelson said. "Is it going to fit all organisations? Absolutely not. What I would recommend is, analyse your current costs and project what the areas are that you can save on with version 6's features."

Lotus will use the launch event to focus on customers with sizable R6 deployments who can describe their experiences and boost the confidence of those looking to upgrade, said chief executive Al Zollar.

The new release is a hybrid of technology from IBM and Lotus Development Corporation, which IBM acquired in 1995 but left to run fairly autonomously for several years.

Last year IBM stepped up its integration of the subsidiary, reorganising Lotus internally and highlighting Lotus' role as one of four IBM software brands all built on common infrastructure.

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