Big Blue unveils collaboration picture

IBM Corp. recently gave a foretaste of the future to Notes/Domino users with the release of WebSphere Portal 6.0 and its support of next-generation Web technologies.

WebSphere Portal 6.0 is set to become the foundation for Domino Next, first unveiled in January, and is slated for a 2007 release. According to IBM, the product includes support for AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML), a drag-and-drop rapid application development environment and the use of templates to construct applications and application components. Those concepts are all familiar to Notes/Domino users.

Domino Next is the server companion to the Notes Hannover client, which also is scheduled to ship in 2007. WebSphere Portal 6.0 was introduced last month in addition to a slew of WebSphere branded software and is set to ship before the end of September.

Also key to IBM’s collaboration strategy is a revamped Sametime enterprise instant-messaging (IM) platform, first announced in January. Lotus Sametime 7.5, slated for release this summer, features a multiprotocol gateway that will allow its users to communicate with those on public IM networks, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, AOL’s AIM and ICQ, and Apple’s iChat.

Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM’s Workplace, portal and collaboration software business, says IBM is shifting away from real-time communication and instant messaging, to real-time business networks.

“We’re at the beginning of new era of real-time communications,” says Rhodin.

Indeed, IT analyst firm Gartner cautions enterprises to “look before they leap” when it comes to public IM services, and recommends they look at using new federated systems from vendors such as IBM and Microsoft Corp. Such services show that IM networks designed for consumers are penetrating ever-deeper into the enterprise, says Gartner, adding that companies need to be attentive to the added security risks and costs associated with the technology.

Sametime, for example, includes enterprise features with a new user interface with enhanced click-to-call, video, instant messaging and e-mail capabilities.

IBM’s strategy is about a shift from client-server applications, says Rhodin, to a server-managed client. “It’s not only about a server-managed client, it’s about choice of client. It’s more of a provisioning model.” This includes open standards-based offerings such as Workplace Collaboration Services 2.6, which includes IM and Web conferencing tools.

“It’s an open programming model so that people can leverage the connectivity and reach of real-time apps. That becomes a fundamental game changer,” says Rhodin. “This interconnectivity of the real-time networks, public and private, with an open programming model, based on open standards, creates a situation for the same thing that occurs in a real-time world.”

Rhodin also referenced IBM’s recent telephony integration announcement with Cisco Systems Inc. to create a customized plug-in for Sametime 7.5 that combines the platform with Cisco’s Unified CallManager and Unified Presence Server. The integration is based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol ) and SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions).

The Sametime plug-in aggregates IP phone presence information for display in the Sametime Connect client. Current Notes/Domino users shouldn’t worry about the migration path, says Rhodin. “All applications will continue to run on next-generation clients. There will be no migration required.”

End-user Ernie Mannering, a director for B.C.-based Nechako Lakes School District, recently deployed WebSphere Portal along with Lotus Colloborative Services software to form the backbone of an e-learning initiative. The project enables the province to create a file tracking system and an online education environment for local rural schools. Without the network in place, closing those schools was a distinct possibility.

The heterogeneous network consists of Windows, Novell, Same