IBM Introduces New Cloud Collaboration Services

Collaboration & Messaging
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Users can sign up for free access during a 60-day trial period.


IBM is aggressively moving forward with its Lotus-based social networking and collaboration offerings, but it seems the company continues to ignore hundreds of thousands of IBM i customers it apparently believes are fat, dumb, and happy using yesterday's legacy Lotus Notes and Domino solutions.


At the Lotusphere 2012 conference, which wrapped up last week in Orlando, Florida, IBM announced it will move its LotusLive hosting service into the SmartCloud family of services so that all its cloud offerings will now be under the same umbrella. Henceforth, LotusLive will now be called SmartCloud for Social Business.


In 2011, IBM took social business to the cloud with LotusLive and Symphony, its office productivity suite, being offered as hosted services. This year, IBM is enhancing its cloud-based social business and productivity offerings to include integrated analytics with its social business solution, IBM Connections. Also under the SmartCloud for Social Business moniker are hosted email, instant messaging, business-grade file sharing, online meetings, calendar, and collaborative word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. The latter three are being offered through IBM's new productivity suite, IBM Docs, now in beta and generally available later this year. Authors using IBM Docs will be able to store and share documents in the cloud and co-edit them in real time on either side of the firewall.


Meanwhile, on-premise users of Lotus Notes and Domino continue to enjoy social networking components including IBM Connections, Sametime, and Lotus Notes Traveler. At least some Notes and Domino users have these applications available. Others—those running IBM i—apparently do not, at least not natively. This bothers Scotsburn Dairy's Enterprise Systems Manager and MC Press author Steve Pitcher, who decided he would make IBM i users aware that they're being ignored in the social networking arena.


Pitcher says IBM has failed to enable IBM Connections, Sametime Media Server (the audio/video component of Sametime), and Lotus Notes Traveler on IBM i, and is doing a disservice to customers of the venerable platform. As a result, Pitcher decided to use social networking techniques to collect online signatures of IT people who want something done about it. So far, he's got signatures from customers, IBM Business Partners, and others representing more than 511,000 potential user licenses. He took that information with him to Lotusphere and presented it to IBM executives; he said they were receptive but wanted to hear his business case for porting the solutions to IBM i.


Pitcher says the case is that there are hundreds of thousands of users who would benefit from more flexible organizations, something IBM Connections would help accomplish. Running these applications natively on IBM i, rather than on Windows or Linux servers, avoids complexity and saves hardware, such as routers, switches, and cabling, while helping to eliminate potential points of failure, Pitcher says. Collectively, the three applications provide modern capabilities for social networking, including IP telephony and a pathway to mobile computing. Despite Lotusphere now having ended, Pitcher continues to collect signatures here.


Meanwhile, other users who participated in last year's IBM Social Business Jam, a live online discussion engaged in by some 4,000 participants, indicated that social business activities need to be integrated and aligned with business processes to be truly effective. To that end, IBM has also announced a beta of IBM Connections and will launch a new IBM Connections Enterprise Content Edition, the latter being an integrated social content management solution that combines the scalability of social networking with enterprise content management and enhanced workflow, compliance, and control features. It is designed to manage the complete lifecycle of office documents, Web, and social content. It integrates with FileNet content management system as well as with desktop systems, including Notes, Symphony, and Microsoft Office.


Also new are two mobile clients, one, a lower-cost program for BlackBerry users to access email in the cloud, and the other, a beta available later this year to support mail, calendaring, and contacts through Notes Traveler on Windows Phone running on top of Nokia and HTC devices.


Readers who wish to try IBM SmartCloud for Social Business (still labeled LotusLive for the time being) may do so free for 60 days by simply registering here.