Lotus Notes versus Microsoft ReduxBy Michael Vizard | Print
IBM is breathing new life into its old Lotus Notes franchise, and bringing the fight to Microsoft. For the first time in a decade, Notes may put a dent into Outlook/Exchange.
The biggest battle in the history of the channel harkens back to the way Microsoft essentially destroyed Lotus Development Corp., by first bundling productivity applications together in Microsoft Office and then tightly coupling its Microsoft Outlook client with the Microsoft Exchange messaging platform.
The first move essentially eliminated the viability of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet as Microsoft Excel gained supremacy as part of Microsoft Office. The second onslaught laid waste to the cc:Mail and Lotus Notes franchises, which subsequently drove Lotus into the arms of IBM. Later, Microsoft would deploy the same playbook against Netscape, which in turn led to the Department of Justice antitrust case against Microsoft.
Since then IBM has been steadily nursing the Lotus Notes franchise back to health and for the first time in more than 10 years it’s starting to look like Lotus Notes might actually be going on the offensive in terms of competing with Microsoft.
IBM is claiming that it is now signing up roughly 200 Microsoft partners a month to sell the latest iteration of the Notes franchise, which today is called Lotus Foundations. The opportunity that IBM is trying to exploit is twofold. The first concerns missteps made by Microsoft that has left partners with nothing to sell while they wait for Windows 7 and the arrival of Microsoft Exchange 2010. Customers have summarily rejected Windows Vista, which leaves little opportunity to sell a Microsoft Office upgrade. And nobody really wants to upgrade their messaging platform when they all know that Microsoft Exchange 2010 will be out sometime in the next six months. Taken together, this creates a window of opportunity for IBM to at least get a hearing about selling Lotus Foundations on top of a new self-managing Linux server implementation.
The self-managing capability of Lotus Foundations is cornerstone on which IBM is resting the second element of it renewed offensive against Microsoft. Lotus Foundations is based on Linux server technology that IBM picked up when it acquired Net Integration Technologies (Netix) in early 2008. Netix built a Linux distribution that came integrated with a host of autonomic tools that made the platform self-healing. Any time there is a problem with the server, the entire system just reboots itself and restores all the original settings automatically. Similarly, every time a patch is delivered, the system reboots a whole new instance of the operating system, versus trying to layer in a patch on top of a running application.
In effect, what IBM has done is created the ideal platform for delivering managed services that can not only be remotely managed, but requires very little technical support because the system heals itself. Little technical support equals more profitability for the partners.
IBM bundles its Symphony suite of productivity applications with Lotus Foundations, but customers can opt to continue using Microsoft Office on their clients in conjunction with the Lotus Foundations messaging platform. In the future, IBM is expected to bundle unified communications applications with Lotus Foundations as well and don’t be surprised when IBM starts to use Lotus Foundations as a platform for delivering other software offerings, such as its Tivoli offerings, via the Lotus Foundations appliance model.
Customers can also opt to deploy virtual machine software from VMware on top of the Linux server, which then allows them to deploy Windows server and related applications on top of the more stable Linux server platform created by IBM.
IBM claims that a Lotus Foundations is the manifestation of a new business model in the channel that is not based on offering technical services for when Windows software fails. Instead, IBM is arguing that self-healing software will allow partners to support more customers than they can today because not only do they not have to roll trucks to customer locations to fix things when they inevitably break, they can also keep a much higher percentage of their services revenue as pure profit.
While IBM has captured the attention of the channel with Lotus Foundations, they clearly have a long way to go in terms of regaining momentum with customers. But with large numbers of hungry partners looking to sell customers an offering that is easy to manage that includes a built-in recurring revenue model around managed services, don’t be too surprised when IBM starts reporting to some significant market share gains in 2010.