IBM's Lotusphere is always an announcement bonanza and this year is no exception. I'm not even going to try to list them all. Lotus provides a constantly growing list of press releases here. There are also dozens of bloggers beside me covering the event. In fact, an amusing feature of the keynote was a special blogger section of Lotus-yellow beanbag "chairs" for the bloggers, right up front, Don't worry. I sat in my usual front-row seat.
Lotusphere is devoting a lot of its bandwidth to asking customers big and small to talk about what they're doing with Lotus products, especially the newest versions of Notes and Domino and the new hosted service (still in Beta), formerly called Bluehouse, now named LotusLive.
LotusLive is really the overarching brand for a set of modular services which can be offered in a variety of packages. One of the first is called Engage, an on-line collaboration service, which includes profiles, files, activities (projects), forms (surveys), charts, and support for instant meetings. Other modular services will be Meetings (already available) and Messaging.
Lotus is clearly most comfortable when it talks about using LotusLive to extend the services it offers to an existing Lotus customer (probably an Enterprise or other large firm), allowing them to collaborate with remote offices or with customers and suppliers outside their firewall. But the plan is to market to SMB's as well, and Lotus has other SMB offerings already, such as their Foundations appliance.
Lotus is pretty sure (and I am, too) that most customers of any size will end up with some combination of on-premises and in-the-cloud software. The mix will depend on what the company does, what it needs and how big its IT department is -- or whether it has one at all.
Lotus will also need to further develop its partner channel to sell to firms too small for its direct sales force; it's started to prepare for that by its acquisition of assets from Hong Kong SaaS vendor OutBlaze, Ltd., which had created the multi-tier system which will allow reseller and customer administration as well as private label brands for large resellers, such as telcos. We expect to hear much more about selling into the SMB market later this year as Lotus rolls out more of its LotusLive roadmap.
These are products that are designed to let customers take advantaqge of the economics and convenience of SaaS while being able to choose from a broad and integrated portfolio, all of it at Enterprise quality levels for both product and support. Since relieability is usally one of the three questions customers ask when they're thinking about SaaS (the others are security and cost), this could be an appealing offering,
Add that to the fact that Lotus' on-line offerings are compatible with their on-premises Notes, Domino and (IBM) Websphere offerings, and Lotus customers will find them more than just interesting, especially as Lotus continues to add in such partners as SAP, Salesforce.com, and RIM (Blackberry).
Lotus isn't sure they want to call LotusLive SaaS because, they claim, there are so many different definitions for the term. We did offer them a copy of our book but it is true, there are many definitions. However, all of them agree that we are talking about an application that is run by a third-party on a remote server. The rest is up for discussion -- who owns the server, is it shared, are payments on a month-to-month basis or on a longer commitment.
What's important is that customers now have more good choices -- never mind the labels.