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Q&A: Lotus GM discusses past, present and future developments

Jan 27, 20049 mins
Enterprise Applications

IBM Lotus is using its annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Fla., to review the software it released in 2003 and to lay out how its platforms – Notes/Domino, Lotus Workplace and WebSphere – all lead to the same destination – a place Lotus calls organizational productivity. Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Lotus Software, sat down with Network World senior editor John Fontana to talk about past, present and future developments.

Last year you said to me that code talks, and I’m wondering what that code said over the past 12 months?

We delivered everything that we talked about at Lotusphere 2003, plus more. We said we would have Workplace components and we delivered everything in November. We didn’t say anything about business value offerings and we now have six business value offerings. So we did a lot of code. But last year, when I did the announcement of Workplace Server, we didn’t have a lot of live code to show. This year, I said that any demo that we will do must be live code. Because when I show code, people believe. When was the most applause that we got [during the keynote]? When we showed a Notes application, unmodified, working in the Workplace Client. So I absolutely believe that code talks. We are working at a very rapid pace onto a model that we really think we got it right. And it is about to change the way the industry will work in the future.

You mentioned the term “organizational productivity” over and over in your keynote address, can you define what that is?

It is a process that is being captured across the enterprise so that whole organizations can think about productivity in a different way rather than just sending e-mail. So you take a look at how auditing is currently done. You attach spreadsheets and documents into e-mail and send them around and there is no process. Today if you want to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, hundreds or thousands of people get together in large organizations and they have to say what is my control risk, workflow happens, the record retention happens, the whole organization can become more productive rather than just doing ad-hoc collaboration that they were doing. As we move from team productivity to organizational productivity we need to think about how to integrate people into the processes across the enterprise. That is why we created the slogan,  “Workplace is about integrating people with business process” because that takes us to the organizational productivity. It’s thinking about business processes within an organization.

These six business solutions you have released, like the retail operation, speak to this?

Yes, that is exactly it. The retail operation is about new guys coming into the retail store and they need to be educated on products in the store. And the products are changing in the store and you need to keep up with that. It is about a complete solution for retail associates. So that’s what I’m talking about when I say organizational productivity.

Is this how business applications, business management, process modeling, workflow, exception handling, etc. gets into the platform? Because what I see is the foundation being set, but the business applications that run on top of that are really the meat?

Exactly. This year at Lotusphere for the first time we are running On Demand Workplace sessions. There are five sessions where we will talk about these solutions in more depth and how we are moving forward in this space. We also will talk about how IBM is moving in this space. You know, customers use to buy IT. Today they are saying I have a business problem to solve. How do we bridge the gap between business transformation and IT? And that’s what our whole On Demand strategy is all about. I need to integrate the enterprise and in integrating the enterprise for the customer or the business partner requires me to integrate people, processes and information.

How do you start to integrate that workflow between the different buckets you have, Notes/Domino, Workplace, WebSphere?

You are asking a technology question now. So the basic thought here is that it is not only our products where we need to integrate the workflow because workflow can go to a packaged application that you purchased from another vendor. So that is why we are creating the [Web services] standard called Business Process Execution Language for Web services (BPEL4WS). If you have workflow goals across one to another, we have to have a standard.

So support for these process workflow standards is what we will see in the platform in the future to tie things together?

Yes. We are leading the standard and working with Microsoft.

Is the IBM Solution for On Demand Workplaces bundle sort of hint at a replacement, or is it a bridge, for Domino customers because they can understand the monolithic stack that has the security, the collaboration, the applications, everything is there. To a Domino user that concept makes a lot of sense and seems to create another bridge between where I am and where I might be going?

It is not intended as a replacement for Domino. It was intended for pure reason that every customer we saw that deploys a business-to-business portal, or a business-to-employee portal, or a business-to-customer portal required collaborative capabilities, content management capabilities, and integration capabilities and we didn’t have an offering.

You offer Domino, but is the issue J2EE?

Exactly the point. Portals are not being deployed on Domino at the same rate as they are being deployed on the J2EE standard. So for that environment we created this particular offering. We had an offering called Portal Extend, which actually integrated QuickPlace and Sametime and you could have a collaboration center including Notes mail, but that was multiple infrastructures for the customer. They wanted a common infrastructure for integration in every partner, employee and customer facing environment and that is why we created it.

This morning, Larry Bowden, the vice president of portal technology, said Notes and Domino support “would continue into the future with Version 7, 8 and there will be more.” What’s more?

Even though I am a propeller head, I can’t imagine what 9.0 would look like. The 8.0 version is a huge step because it becomes the client side portal for Notes users. It is really an innovative client.

It allows people to stay on the Notes/Domino platform and still have that portal capability?

On the Domino side we are embedding the portal technology so now it can reach not only to Notes clients but non-Notes clients. So we are federating that link.

So if you stay on Domino you almost have this portal-light platform?

On the server and the client side. Notes can consume non-Doimno applications and Doimno can deliver into non-Notes clients. So it expands the opportunities for our customers and business partners. That to me is a huge step. I’m having a tough time imaging what 9.0 might look like, but let me get 7 and 8 out. 

You said the Workplace Client completes the Workplace platform and I assume you meant the foundation of the platform. So what is to follow, to build on that foundation?

We now have the basic foundation. The foundation will improve as we go along with such features as BPEL for Web Services. I have it on the server. On the client side, we’ll have to write a component that can be downloaded for use on the client. And we will do that.

Should people think of the Workplace Client as the overlay between the Notes world and the J2EE world?

No, I don’t think that is how you think about it. I think if you think about it as the technology that gets embedded into anything – the IBM Workplace Client Technology. In fact, we do not call it the client we call it a technology. It may be embedded in Notes, it might be embedded in Workplace Messaging, so it can be part of IBM Workplace technology. It can be embedded in WebSphere portal, so now you can have disconnected portal, it can be embedded in some ISV applications so an ISV cannot only deliver in the browser but give you a rich-client experience. It is an embedding technology.

With the rich client on the desktop, how do you start to manage that client?  When you build that client with different components how do you manage those components?

Right from the server. So what happens is you change your collaborative release of a component from one version to the next. So the next time you want to do something the component comes down

What piece is on the server, Tivoli?

You are talking about the distribution mechanism. We may take certain things from Tivoli Embedded. But we will not say to people go integrate. So when you install the Workplace server it has all the capabilities of provisioning and distribution installed. Just like when we ship our portal today it has single sign-on. It is a component; it’s not a Tivoli product. The model is you never touch the desktop. We are changing the programming model that forced you to touch every desktop. PC programming is too old and the cost of deployment is extremely high.

Can you clarify your remarks in the keynote on licensing? You said there would be no rip-and-replace for Notes/Domino customers and that licensing would carry forward?

Licensing is what I call common sense licensing. Customers don’t want to pay for one function/feature here, while they pay for the same function/feature for the same user. We call it common sense licensing. If we got it wrong, we will change. We will explain how the Sametime, QuickPlace license, for example, will carry forward.

The dust has been kicked up again around the demise of LotusScript, is there a demise planned for LotusScript?

Not that I know?

What is the future of the Notes developer?

Notes is still the most creative and fastest rapid application development environment for people in terms of business processes. They are created, and if someone wants to run it in Notes, great, they have that choice and flexibility. Why would I remove LotusScript, why would I do that to myself?