Lotus stakes its future on Workplace

Executives from IBM's Lotus software unit sketched out the strategy behind IBM's year-old Lotus Workplace platform, and reassured...

Executives from IBM's Lotus software unit sketched out the strategy behind IBM's year-old Lotus Workplace platform, and reassured users that IBM will not abandon its core of Lotus users building on the Notes/Domino architecture.

"Our strategy is to increase our leadership, not walk away from it," said Lotus general manager Ambuj Goyal, who was speaking at the Lotus's annual user show in Orlando.

Regarding competitor claims that the company will orphan an installed base IBM estimates at 100 million end-users, Goyal said, "Let me tell you categorically, nothing could be further from the truth."

Still, the opening session made clear IBM's commitment to Workplace as its future for Lotus development. The company's plan is to steadily increase the interoperability of the Workplace architecture with that of Notes/Domino, so that existing Notes users can eventually migrate to Workplace without losing access to existing Domino-developed applications.

Toward that end, IBM used the presentation to demonstrate tools in the latest version of Lotus Notes and Domino allowing developers to pull Domino applications into a portal-based Workplace deployment. The company also previewed its forthcoming Lotus Workplace Builder software, intended to simplify component-based application development.

last year, IBM introduced the first version of Lotus Workplace, a new architecture for Lotus applications that draws heavily on other technology in Big Blue's portfolio, including its WebSphere middleware technology and DB2 database.

Workplace's Java-focused design allows a flexible, modular approach to crafting an organisation's collaboration and messaging system, but the architecture is very different from the Domino-based design IBM acquired through its 1995 purchase of Lotus.

"Until recently, the factor limiting our growth has been the tight link between Notes and Domino," Goyal said. "The solution has been to federate the system."

That approach risks alienating customers content with their Notes/Domino systems. While repeating assurances that no one will face a forced migration, Lotus executives extolled the advantages of Workplace in yesterday's presentation, highlighting the integration advantages of its Java architecture. Connecting to other IBM and Lotus software systems, and to those from third-party developers such as enterprise resource planning leader SAP, will be painless, executives claimed.

The next step for Workplace is the planned early-second-quarter release of Workplace 2.0, featuring a new client application, which will unlock extensive offline and integration functionality not yet available in Workplace 1.0's server-side software.

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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