IT Factory to build on Exchange 2000 platform

IT Factory Inc. is hoping to bring its success with building collaborative software for Lotus Development Corp.’s Notes platform to Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange customers.

At the Microsoft Exchange and Collaboration Solutions 2000 conference in Framingham, Mass., IT Factory announced on Tuesday that it’s working with Microsoft to build collaborative applications for Exchange 2000 products and to build a standardized architecture for both platforms.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company is already the world’s largest independent software vendor for Notes-based applications, the chief rival for Microsoft in messaging and collaboration applications for enterprise customers. The company’s partnership is recognition of Exchange’s potential market position, IT Factory spokesmen said.

Former Lotus CEO Jeff Papows was named to the board of directors at IT Factory this summer, and he was a “pivotal” part of the decision to work with Microsoft, an IT Factory spokesman said.

Lars Munch Johansen, IT Factory’s CEO and president, said his company isn’t abandoning its Notes customers but that the company is trying to open up applications to a new market. Part of that may mean helping customers migrate from a Domino/Notes environment to an Exchange environment, and some of that means opening Microsoft Office applications to Notes customers.

This summer, IT Factory acquired Documentaal B.V., a Dutch company that makes BowTie software, which allows users to share files and data between Notes and Microsoft Office.

Three years ago, Johansen said he looked at partnering with Microsoft for collaboration software, but the Redmond. Wash.-based software maker didn’t have the technology in place to do it then. Now, the Exchange 2000 line has that technology.

“The Web Storage System has been a trigger point,” he said, referring to the application development platform that replicates data in a way similar to the Lotus Notes/Domino platform and which is part of the Exchange 2000 product line. That technology will also be used for “Office 10” (the code name for the next Office upgrade) and the Tahoe knowledge management tool, both of which are in beta testing.

Though many customers will likely be loyal to Notes, Johansen said, those who initiate a mixed environment won’t stay mixed for long.

“It’s only going to be an interim phase,” Johansen said, before customers move over completely to Microsoft, because most are looking to streamline their systems’ architecture, not to add passwords and permissions for platforms.

“I think that it doesn’t hold true for all sizes or organizations,” said Dee W. Anthony, director of enterprise strategies at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. “Some organizations are so global in nature that [they can’t] permit them to select just one messaging or collaboration vendor. The communications infrastructure should be agnostic enough to communicate with different back ends, which is the goal of the XMLs.”