IBM To Pitch 'Ventura' To IT-Enable Social Software Faves


At Lotusphere 2007 next week, IBM plans to unveil an array of IT-friendly "social networking" tools.

IBM is expected to talk up productized versions of internal projects now going under the code names Dogear, Ventura and Geneva.

Dogear, according to this IBM Research Web site, is a "social bookmarking" system that lets users "centrally store, categorize and share a set of personal Web bookmarks with others."

"Despite widespread usage, there have been few, if any, social bookmarking systems appropriate for large organizations and businesses," the post said. "The goal for the Dogear project was to design and build a world-class social bookmarking service aimed at the enterprise, which explored these ideas."

Ventura is the umbrella name overlaying a set of Web 2.0 applications that IBM will make available for enterprise use. The project will make BluePages, IBM's end-user directory for people's profiles, available beyond Big Blue's walls. Ventura also will include a version of Roller, the open-source blog server that drives Sun Microsystems' employee blogging site and IBM's DeveloperWorks blogs.

Also on the road map is a project code-named Geneva, which would converge, repackage and clean up IBM's QuickPlace shared workspace software and Domino Document Management.

IBM didn't return a call for comment.

A big part of IT-enabling such services is making both their processes and the content they create, centrally manageable, sources said. Existing third-party Web 2.0 products out there are not particulary good at managing multiple content types, said one source.

IBM's hope is that Geneva will become a focal point for many worker productivity functions, sort of a universal desktop approach.

All of this is an effort by what many industry observers see is a staid tech company that's trying to be hip, happening and relevant in the Web 2.0 world, but in a way that's not threatening to its IT constituency.

Social tools like wikis and blogs have taken the consumer world by storm, but the current technology is viewed warily by IT people who worry about compliance issues and security breaches. If such tools come out with an IBM imprimatur, that constituency likely would take a closer look.

IBM was the first company to make instant messaging IT-friendly with Sametime, and it's now looking to do the same with other social technologies.

But IBM is hardly alone in the race. With the upcoming Domino server and Notes clients, the company hopes to regain momentum against Microsoft in corporate e-mail. Microsoft released Exchange Server 2007 to manufacturing last month. It also has its own Wiki and blogging technology efforts underway in hopes of riding the Web 2.0 hype.

Said one long-time observer, "A lot of Notes [and Domino] users are sitting on the fence. The Workplace thing threw them. Now they see that they have a path forward with the Project Hannover release."

IBM has said to expect that release, likely to be dubbed Domino 8, next year.

Company sources say the beauty of all these IBM technologies is that they will interoperate with and be accessible from IBM's stable of software, including Domino and Sametime.

Some notable hot items from past Lotuspheres are being de-emphasized. Workplace, for example, "has died a lonely death," in the words of one IBM watcher. Workplace was a set of componentized applications, and there was great confusion about whether they were the follow-on or an ancillary to Domino, IBM WebSphere or both.

This report was updated Thursday evening with additional information about Geneva's management thrust.