Over the last several months, IBM has been quietly preparing Lotus Workplace for its debut on the iSeries. That debut--which should take place in about four months--will present iSeries customers with new options for delivering collaborative solutions to their users.
As those of you who have read my previous articles about Workplace know, the current release (Workplace 1.1) runs on Intel servers using Windows or Linux and on pSeries servers using AIX. While some industry observers expected IBM to announce an iSeries version of Workplace 1.1 at the Lotusphere conference last month, that announcement never materialized. Instead, IBM product managers told customers what I said months ago: that IBM is developing an iSeries version of Workplace 2.0 that will ship around the middle of this year.
The late arrival of Workplace on the iSeries is not a sign of neglect on Big Blue's part. It only means that Workplace is undergoing additional development and testing to make it support the iSeries' unique architectural features. This includes adding code to ensure that customers can run all Workplace components--including WebSphere Application Server (WAS), WebSphere Portal Server (WPS), and the IBM Directory Server--on a single iSeries server. In an Intel server environment, these products usually run on separate servers.
There is another good reason the iSeries is making a fashionably late appearance at the Workplace party. At present, most Workplace 1.1 modules require at least the Enable version of WPS and either the Standard or Enterprise editions of WAS 5.0. For most small and medium-size businesses, these products are too complicated and expensive to support. Knowing this, the iSeries development team insisted that Lotus rehost Workplace on the Express editions of WAS and WPS. That rehosting effort made it prudent to push out the iSeries version of Workplace to the 2.0 release level.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
When Workplace 2.0 arrives on the iSeries, it will be a fairly robust offering. Customers can expect iSeries versions of every module that IBM considers to be part of the Workplace platform. While this qualification may seem confusing, it is really quite simple. Workplace includes two types of applications. Platform modules, the first application type, provide the core functions that Workplace applications require. At present, Workplace includes platform modules for messaging, team collaboration, Web content management, and collaborative learning. These modules, as well as a new module for enterprise content management, will ship on the iSeries as part of Workplace 2.0.
Industry solutions, the second application type, are modules that IBM and its development partners build on the platform modules to address industry- or process-specific problems. One such industry solution is Lotus Workplace for Business Controls and Reporting, a module that helps publicly held firms comply with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.
While IBM will ship every Workplace platform module on every server it supports, it cannot support every Workplace industry solution on every server. This is because some industry solutions require additional software that does not run on all servers. For instance, Lotus Workplace for Business Controls and Reporting requires DB2 Content Manager as well as the Workplace platform modules. Since the iSeries does not support DB2 Content Manager, it cannot support this particular Workplace solution in its current form.
That said, the iSeries will support every Workplace platform module and many industry solutions in a highly cost-effective manner. While Lotus has not yet begun performance testing on the iSeries, it is highly likely that Workplace will run on a Model 810 Standard Edition. If this turns out to be true, iSeries customers could support complete Workplace environments on configurations that cost $30,000 to $40,000. This would be price-competitive with a typical Windows-based configuration of four Intel servers and would be far more manageable.
As for operating system support, IBM tells me that Workplace for the iSeries will require OS/400 V5R2 or higher. Last fall, I heard that an iSeries Linux version of Workplace was also on the drawing boards. In what may be a change of plans, however, my sources are now saying that Big Blue has no definite plans for supporting Workplace on iSeries or pSeries Linux partitions...at least not for now. I still expect Workplace to support the POWER Linux platform someday, but that day is apparently not going to fall in the middle of this year.
While Workplace 2.0 will deliver many new collaborative capabilities to the iSeries, its modules will not offer all of the functions that are part of Domino for the iSeries. Indeed, IBM does not expect Workplace to achieve functional parity with Domino until 2005. In the meantime, however, iSeries customers will be able to run Domino and Workplace applications on the same server and will enjoy significant interoperability levels between the two platforms.
Of course, this raises the big issue of IBM's long-term strategy for Domino and Workplace. For now, rest assured that IBM will support Domino for years to come and will provide migration paths to Workplace that are open options rather than forced marches. In a future article, however, I'll take a closer look at what iSeries customers can expect from IBM on these sensitive issues, so stay tuned.