Tuesday, March 30, 2010

IBM's Weird Domino Strategy

We had the re-badged "Lotus Comes To You" event in Sydney a couple of weeks ago - "collaboration something or rather...."

As usual it was an interesting event but I couldn't help getting some strange vibes from both the business partners and from fellow customers on the Lotus brand.

I figured that this was as good a time as any to share them.

The "Package"
One of the greatest things about Lotus Notes/Domino is its swiss-army knife style ability to do just about anything. ROI in the domino world is a great thing. There's fewer servers to buy, less software and amazing integration.

Any existing Domino server can be converted to a different type of domino server without the need to reinstall. For example, it's simple to convert a mail server to a document database server and/or a web server.

Such a thing would never happen in the Microsoft world.

I guess we've all used the swiss army knife analogy at some point. It's a key strength.

Similarly, we've all had a good chuckle over the Microsoft strategy of; "a server for this, a different server for that".

We love to talk about how replacing Domino with Microsoft isn't simply a matter of replacing the domino server with an Exchange one; it's a matter of adding Exchange, Sharepoint, Internet Information Server (IIS), Microsoft SQL Server and a whole bunch of other software, much of which requires its own separate hardware.

What then is IBM doing to Domino?

That was the message I got from the people on the ground at LCTY in Sydney 2010.

IBM's Microsoft-Style Agenda
So, here's the crux of the problem. IBM seem to be intent on breaking up the swiss army knife into separate pieces of cutlery. The problem is that it just doesn't make sense. It takes away their corporate advantage and in all honesty, the last people they should be following are Microsoft.

Lets have a look at where IBM seems to be going;

  • Lotus QuickR
    Lotus QuickR provides some excellent document management facilities but really, there's very little that QuickR can do that IBM Domino can't already do. Perhaps QuickR does it more neatly but why wasn't the QuickR budget spent on improving the Domino product?

  • Connections
    What is connections but a glorified contact management solution? Again, it's stuff that already existed in Lotus Notes/Domino. Why do we need a separate product (and a separate server) to do it.

  • Sametime
    Admittedly, Sametime has been around for a long time but ultimately, it too is a glorified extension of Domino. In this case case, it deals with instant messaging.

  • Traveller
    Another name, another product. At least it's being bundled with Domino.

  • WebSphere
    This one has been an issue for me for ages. It's a web server - Domino is a web server! Enough said.
What's worse is that most of these products needs to be installed on a separate server thus killing the famous Domino ROI.

Strangely enough, about the only thing IBM seems to be keeping as the core of Notes/Domino is email... and if I had to pick a long-time weakness in the product, that would be it.

One last thing. If I were IBM, I'd be considering offering "Lotus Licenses" and treating the entire Lotus family as parts of the same thing. Instead of worrying about whether a user needs QuickR or Websphere or Domino, why not concentrate on;
  • Lotus Clients
  • Lotus Web Clients
  • Lotus Servers.

A Lotus Server could provide entitlement to run any or all of the Lotus Servers but be limited by the number of users or CPUs. Users would be a better measure since the CPU limitations doesn't consider "tomorrow's" technology. A Lotus Client would be a Notes user (including sametime, quickr etc. client) and a Lotus Web client is "web entitlement to the products".

Surely having only three licences for the entire infrastructure would clear things up a lot.

IBM; Perhaps a clearer strategy?