Sneak Peek: At IBM

IBM to unveil deep cloud strategy at Lotusphere 2010

IBM/Lotus will use next week’s Lotusphere conference to show its customers a long-term collaboration and cloud strategy that stretches well into the future and across its portfolio of software.

In addition, Lotus also intends to partially pull back the covers on Notes 9, known as Lotus Next, introduce to users new ways to acquire 8.5x versions of the software and show users that Domino has a future as IBM’s marquee rapid application development platform.

“There is no doubt that people will leave Lotusphere with one of the most exciting road maps for the portfolio. Period,” newly minted Lotus General Manager Alistair Rennie said during a podcast with LotusUserGroup.org.

But far from being revolutionary, insiders say IBM/Lotus plans to mostly unveil incremental upgrades and innovations to its current lineup of Lotus-branded collaboration software that includes Notes, Sametime, Quickr, LotusLive, Lotus Foundations and other software. The aim is to create collaboration options both inside and outside organizations and logical and secure ways to combine the two.

Lotus also has plans to showcase WebSphere Portal and its future integration with collaborative technologies. The portal technology is one subject in a series of mini-keynotes. The others help define IBM’s future plans and will focus on unified communications/Sametime, Notes/Domino futures, on-premises/cloud/appliance delivery, social collaboration, development strategies and IBM appliances for small/midsize businesses.

Those sessions are likely to generate as many questions as Rennie’s appoint as general manager just days before Lotusphere. He replaces Bob Picciano, who will now head sales for IBM Software. The move was part of a re-organization of the IBM Software Group that created two divisions — a middleware group and a solutions group. The latter is headed by Mike Rhodin, another ex-Lotus general manager.

Last year, IBM/Lotus solidly tossed its hat into the cloud arena and this year the plan is to divulge its fight strategy.

The company will unveil what it calls its “collaboration agenda,” which will detail its wares and how to deploy them in the enterprise.

IBM/Lotus is part of a crowded race to supply cloud infrastructure and cloud-based applications to corporate users, who are warming to the concept but are far from wrapping their wallets around the technology.

Last year, Lotus made a big splash with LotusLive, its platform of hosted services such as messaging, conferencing and social networking cast in the likeness of Lotus’s on-premises tools. The lineup also includes plug-ins to connect the matching online and on-premises software.

The strategy is similar to what Microsoft is doing with its melded software-plus-services and three-screens-and-a-cloud strategy.

Over the course of last year, IBM/Lotus released, LotusLive Engage (a bundle of services including Web mail, instant messaging and other tools, LotusLive Connections (social tools) and LotusLive iNotes ( a basic hosted e-mail service similar to what Google, Microsoft and Yahoo offer).

But the LotusLive platform still has the majority of its evolution before it and Lotus hopes to lay that out for its customers at Lotusphere. And there is a lot to discuss. When LotusLive was introduced last year, analyst and critics had a hard time figuring out if it was targeted at enterprises or the SMB market, and said the platform’s pieces needed to be better integrated.

That integration challenge includes LotusLive iNotes, which is not based on Notes e-mail, but a lightweight messaging service called Outblaze that IBM purchased a year ago and quickly inserted into the LotusLive lineup just a few days before its unveiling.

How the company ties a thread through its LotusLive offerings and its software anchored by stalwarts Notes/Domino and Sametime, will determine if this year’s Lotusphere generates more questions or provides needed answers.

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