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?


Nate said...

Gavin, seriously, if you want to color Sametime as a glorified Domino extension, or Connections as glorified contact management, then you need to take a much closer look at these technologies. Sign up at bleedyellow.com and connect to the IM server there and see for yourself.

I love Domino, but these platforms have advanced beyond it's native provisions and the product is not served by pretending otherwise.

Anonymous said...

quickr should be integrated into the domino product.

not so much exta in quickr.

not having a quickr function in domino is just an argument for people to consider sharepoint instead of ... notes.

Graham Dodge said...


Haven't you got a knowledgeable local Lotus Business Partner who can explain all of that to you?

But I do agree about the logical convergence of Notes and Quickr... I think part of the reason for the product separation is to provide a 'non-Notes' product to play in the document management space against TRIM etc.

Adam Foster said...

IBM are doing this so there are more licences to sell for the salesmen.

They are trying to sell to Microsoft people already and they just don't get that Domino can already do all of that stuff in one box.

If sametime and quickr were bundled with Domino there would be less new licence revenue possibilities ... or whatever.

My strategy: Don't worry about it and keep yourself busy. :)

Gavin Bollard said...

It's possible that I wasn't clear enough about the "vibes".

I do know that these products are separate and that they extend beyond the scope of Domino.

I personally, think it's a messy branding exercise and I do think it makes a mess of the ROI.


I'm one of the more Lotus-Educated end users out there. I don't develop or sell domino products, I just use it. So I'm a customer.

My company's livelihood doesn't depend on Domino. We could use any solution, but we've settled on domino because we feel it's the most capable.

Many end-users wouldn't bother attending such a conference or following the product the way I do - hence, I'm more aware than most users, when it comes to Lotus.

The vibes I was talking about came from conversations with other end users and other business partners. They're not gaps in my understanding but they're issues with how others see the entire Lotus brand.

giuliocc said...

I haven't had to go through it myself, but speaking with other tech's, Sametime is no longer an easy to install/maintain solution that it once was. Now it's a multi-server proposition. I know it's doing alot more, but clients don't seem to be able to use a Sametime "lite" that would appease this large market segment which would also require less h/w.

IBM=Complexity.. The simplicity of the infrastructure is a powerful and distinguishing feature of the Lotus suite that is starting to diminish without great robust tools to support them.

I think IBM would really do well if they sell a "collaboration appliance" that has simple to use and intuitive means of adding collaboration capabilities that are self aware of other components once installed. I am not proposing Foundations itself, but with the idea of a business appliance, I think it's alot easier for the customer to wrap their head around ?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gavin as a long time Notes developer who is now looking at Connections Qickr and Domino 8.5.1 I find it difficult to see the demarcation between the products and their functionality. They are being touted as a suite that interconnects but they look and behave differently, they are technically different at every level and as an end user they seem to be a complete mess.

IBM seem to be following the M$ route of creating many components on different platforms to increase revenue, this may work if the products are evaluated by the sort of person that has bought into web 2.0 etc but at the end of the day these products don't offer anything new and if you scrape away the thin layer of paint are a bit of a mess underneath.