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LotusLive is gaining traction, securing more than 18 million subscribers
since the on-demand collaboration services became available in 2009, but IBM
partners have, for the most part, been left out of the deals. At last week’s
Lotusphere 2010, Big Blue unveiled its LotusLive Labs and a slew of new partner
benefits to make it easier for resellers and other business partners to grab a
piece of the expanding cloud marketplace that IBM
projects should reach $126 billion by 2012.

Cloud computing is hot, but many software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers are
struggling to figure out a way to utilize VARs and give the channel an
opportunity to take advantage of the market. At last year’s Lotusphere, IBM
LotusLive Vice President Sean Poulley underscored the difficulty during a news
conference.

"I think it’s noteworthy the SaaS industry hasn’t figured out how to
work with the channel," said Poulley.

In 2010 IBM plans to change that through
the joint creation by IBM Research and Lotus
of LotusLive Labs, what IBM says is “a
proving ground for advances in business-driven collaboration in the cloud.”

Big Blue previewed some of the technologies to be available in LotusLive
Labs. They included Slide Library, a collaborative way to build and share
presentations; Collaborative Recorded Meetings; Event Maps, an interactive way
to visualize and interact with conference schedules; and Composer, the ability
to create LotusLive mashups through the combination of LotusLive services.

To further aid IBM development partners, IBM
will make application programming interfaces (APIs) available to any IBM
business partner in the second half of 2010. IBM
identified Silanis Technology, Skype and Prolifiq as partners that have already
completed integration with LotusLive services.

IBM also signed up several new
integration and reseller partners, including PGi (formerly Premiere Global
Services). PGi will resell LotusLive Meetings, integrated with its audio
conferencing platform.

Big Blue expanded IBM business partner
benefits for resellers interested in LotusLive. Participating partners can
utilize no-cost LotusLive demo accounts as well as a number of marketing and
technical support programs to support selling LotusLive.

"By making it easy for partners to weave cloud-based social networking,
collaboration and communication tools into their applications, customers will
gain powerful new ways to solve business problems," said Poulley.

Undoubtedly, IBM is making substantial
progress at persuading both existing and new Lotus customers to move to LotusLive
services. Building on that success, IBM
announced that it had secured another big win with Microsoft Outlook veteran
and consumer-electronics giant Panasonic, and says that Panasonic will be its
largest cloud computing deployment yet. Big Blue beat out Cisco and
Microsoft, who also were competing for the deal, which will involve migration
off both Microsoft Exchange and legacy applications.

Panasonic will eventually move its 300,000 employees and
outside collaborators like partners and suppliers to the on-demand Lotus model,
but will begin with 100,000 employees across multiple lines of business.
Panasonic’s LotusLive functionality will span e-mail, contacts, file sharing,
instant messaging, conference and project management capabilities.