IBM Lotus Offers SaaS Roadmap, Vows To Enlist Channel Partners


Lotus executives portrayed LotusLive, which has been in beta for a year under the codename "Bluehouse," as a major step toward making Lotus's collaboration and communications applications available to a wider audience than with the company's on-premise products.

"This is about expansion through a new way to access our [applications] and about bringing more and more of the great Lotus collaboration support to the full community," Lotus general manager Bob Picciano said in a keynote speech before Lotus customers and business partners at the Lotusphere conference in Orlando.

But LotusLive remains a work in progress. The first components of LotusLive Engage, the first collection of LotusLive services, went live at 7:00 a.m. Monday. Now available is Lotus's Web conferencing software and LotusLive Notes, the latter available since October as Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging before moving under the LotusLive umbrella. By the end of the first quarter, the entire LotusLive Engage package will include on-demand applications for online file storage and file sharing, activity management, contact management, instant messaging, online meetings, profiles and forms.

The complete LotusLive portfolio will eventually include multiple packages like Engage, a group of bundled software-as-a-service collaboration and social networking applications targeting particular types of customers, plus individual SaaS applications sold a la carte, said Sean Poulley, vice president of business development, online collaboration services, in a press conference following the Lotusphere opening session.

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LotusLive applications will be hosted by IBM Lotus and sold on a subscription basis.

Plans for making LotusLive available through solution providers are also in the nascent stage. But Lotus executives appeared eager to find a way to leverage the company's channel to sell LotusLive.

"I think it's noteworthy that the [software-as-a-service] industry hasn't figured out how to work with the channel," Poulley said. As Lotus expands the model for selling and servicing LotusLive the company will bring solution provider partners into the picture by letting them build value-added applications and services around the on-demand software or even private label LotusLive offerings, Picciano said.

Poulley noted that Outblaze, the provider of online messaging and collaboration services whose assets were acquired by IBM last week, has a multi-tiered administration technology that IBM Lotus intends to incorporate into LotusLive. Poulley said that would allow Lotus to sell application services direct to large customers while making it easy for solution providers to sell the services under their own label. "We want to apply that thinking across all of our LotusLive offerings," he said in an interview.

Under the deal with LinkedIn, the company will work with IBM Lotus to connect LotusLive to the LinkedIn network, letting subscribers search for people and then collaborate with them using Lotus tools. Skype's voice and video system will be integrated with LotusLive, allowing Lotus customers to call Skype users through LotusLive contact management applications. And under the alliance with Salesforce, LotusLive services will be integrated with Salesforce's on-demand CRM applications for improving customer interactions.

IBM Lotus also announced that it would begin shipping in March the Alloy software for linking SAP ERP software with Lotus Notes Domino. The product will let users pull data and workflows from SAP Business Suite applications and work with them using their Lotus applications. The combination could be used to process vacation requests or travel expense approvals, for example.

Under a similar alliance in 2006 Microsoft and SAP developed the Duet software for linking SAP ERP software and Microsoft desktop applications. Krista Hiltz Kahn, an IBM Lotus program manager, said Alloy would be far more customizable than Duet. Alloy will be sold by both IBM Lotus and SAP.

During the Lotusphere keynote presentation, which included performances by Blue Man Group and an appearance by actor and Saturday Night Live alumnus Dan Aykroyd, company executives also offered a roadmap for new releases of IBM Lotus applications. Those included Quickr 8.2 in the second quarter, Lotus Connections 2.5 in the third quarter, and Lotus Sametime 8.5 and Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony late in the year.

IBM Lotus just began shipping Notes/Domino 8.5 earlier this month.

Despite the recession and tight travel budgets, Picciano said paid attendance at Lotusphere was up 2 percent from 2008 when more than 7,000 attended.