There was the opportunity to learn more about IBM’s developing story around ‘cloud’ within IBM the Lotus software brand. The techjam at IBM South Bank, was attended by representatives from the IBM business partner community and some larger SI’s.
As the event coincided with recent announcements around the Lotus Notes 8.5.1 client release (announcement details) and the availability of LotusLive iNotes (not sure why that is the service name – when it’s not really anything to do with Lotus Notes). This seemed to be a good moment, to gain fresh insight on this part of the Lotus roadmap and an understanding of the market place from the IBM view point.
The day comprised of talks around the following key areas.
IBM’s Cloud Story – Wayne Leone
Wayne introduced the IBM cloud strategy a tier delivery model of IAAS, PAAS and SAAS. He also outlined their development of capability in helping their customers make the most of type of cloud model they want to use, whether private (on-premise internal cloud solutions), public (using standardised services from a provider) or hybrid (spanning both private and public types).
He gave some insights into the development of their cloudburst technology. Particularly interesting with the intention to incorporate TSAM (Tivoli System Automation Manager) into a forth coming release, to allow existing suitable hardware within the client footprint to be incorporated into the ‘private cloud’ delivered by cloudburst and managed through the same interface.
This will be an interesting feature as centralisation and efficiency of ‘cloud’ services administration is key to making the some of promised cost savings compared to running distributed systems, especially as the client can continue to leverage that hardware investment that they previously made.
Jon outlined Headshift’s established credentials in helping businesses grasp and take advantage of social software technology. Primarily by their consultancy expertise in supporting the business through process and cultural change needed to occur by bringing to light and addressing the most relevant and compelling use cases.
He underlined that social software technology is first and foremost about people. The advantage comes as social software enhances, augments the human interaction within or across businesses, and helps change business approaches from high-friction process centred organisations into lower-friction, people centred rather than process.
When adopted correctly (not just implemented) this makes business agility a tangible reality, but this should be recognised it’s as a by-product of unselfish and deliberate acts of collaboration and sharing information, and knowledge within the context of business process at hand. Social software just provides an enabling platform, primarily to make visible artefacts and social interaction meta data that was hidden or non-existent before hand.
Jon gave some very useful thoughts and comments to how assist on the work of user adoption. He described the categorisation of the user population in 80% of indifference and job focussed workers. a top 10% of natural adopters and pioneers, and the 10% of perhaps change averse luddites. There is sometimes a disproportionate amount of attention or effort spent on finding and supporting the top or bottom 10%, when the best business advantage will be realised through the careful support of generating compelling use cases for the large majority of workers.
It is important that the ROI is rarely measured hard dollar savings or gains, but rather very compelling and powerful anecdotal stories of how the approach moved the business forward. This is achieved in the making the tools and use cases to culture and processes that exist in the business. Successful adoption by busy people doesn’t come through full immersion within the collaborative environment but through small steps such as tagging, commenting, files or content as part of a person day-to-day working routine.
By moving to a culture of trust rather than control is an important aspect of the cultural adoption of social software by an organisation. Understanding and encouraging the time spent in ‘virtual’ water cooler, as much as expecting a more flexible workforce in terms of extending working hours, as this brings a further blurring of the work life balance.
Once the adoption has got momentum it will then become natural for the business to drive the next level of adoption or integration with other line of business applications or processes. The significant of offerings of enterprise grade social software solutions, means it is easier to drive adoption through the top-down sponsor and use as an example tied in with the viral ground-swell adoption from the bottom up.
The LotusLive Portfolio & Partner Value – Richard Bye
Richard is the Business Unit Executive in EMEA for LotusLive, and was transitioned across into IBM through the acquisition of the OutBlaze messaging assets in Apr ‘09.
He echoed the cloud strategy model given by Wayne and described how IBM were making their products and services conscious that a “one size fits all” isn’t what customers want from their cloud providers. That they expect an enterprise class service, offering attractive variations in services levels and feature sets. That will help businesses take advantage of cost efficiencies as they deliver the features and services that make sense to each segment or section of their workforce. Regardless of the service choice, that they should share, common features of enterprise grade security, scalability, availability, accessibility with the self-service and on-demand nature of a cloud service.
He described the feature set and background of each of services that comprise LotusLive. In particular described the credentials of the OutBlaze messaging assets that were brought into IBM, and what has gone into the formation of LotusLive iNotes. He then described the opportunities for business partners to interface and play a part with IBM in the delivery of a LotusLive service.
LotusLive technical view – Anders Sabra
Anders gave a very comprehensive overview of the underlying technology of LotusLive, and how and where it is delivered from. At the moment the main data centres are located in the US, however they have local caching points of presence located in all major geographies. They also have plans to expand upon the location of the main data centres to locations outside of US in 2010.
He talked a lot about both the care to ensure the integrity of the security model at the infrastructure and application level, incorporation AES 128 bit encryption, mandatory use of HTTPS (SSL) connections, and secure encryption of traffic for the LotusLive Sametime instant messaging service. But more importantly the care taken to make choices for security in the user interface, simple to understand, action and intuitive to the types of security and controls functions user want to put on files, or services available in LotusLive.
He described the nature of application integration available in LotusLive utilising standards such as SAML, Opensocial, OpenID, so that SSO hand shakes are possible between LotusLive and the integrated application. He gave the example of SalesForce.com, and others. There are now well documented REST APIs for all LotusLive services, that provide powerful and extensive methods of interacting with LotusLive services. Examples of that include the client side integration of Activities into the Notes 8.5.x client.
Anders gave descriptions of mechanisms and processes for serving LotusLive webmail (Notes or iNotes) in a hybrid model, where there is a mixture of on-premise and cloud served mail. LotusLive services support and integrate with directories based on Domino, Active Directory and other LDAP Directory sources, and so can serve both Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange messaging environments.
He also described the migration process for the ingest of mail and other data services into LotusLive and how partners or SI’s can play a part in the provision, support of services around that.
Demo of LotusLive Engage and LotusLive iNotes – Baiju McCubbins
The final part of the day was a demonstrate of LotusLive Engage given by Baiju. This provided a great insight into how LotusLive is helping to bridge the gaps in collaboration services especially for those working with contacts outside of the corporate firewall.
One of the compelling features of the LotusLive model is the availability of guest accounts that can be given to contacts outside of the subscription service. Guest users can receive shared files, and tasks & actions through activities. They can then interact with those files and activities in a limited manner, such as comment, download or create child entries within that activity, they can even upload up to 25MB of files. The advantage of the guest account is that it enables subscription users to interact and involve whosoever they need to to help achieve their business objectives, this is a self-service function at the discretion of the user and circumvents any need to involve IT administrators or invoke complex business processes to involve that 3rd party individual.
IBM have obviously worked hard, to bring to the market an offering that meets the expectations of the enterprise, while incorporating features that provide differentiation against it’s competitors. IBM’s recent announcements make it clear that is ready to compete with both Google (comment) and Microsoft (another review) in offering cloud based collaboration services, with perhaps only Cisco remaining to reveal it product set and strategy there is a lot to look forward to as this market place evolves.