Lotus, Office combo okay with Bluejay

If systems integration is the next step in IT, Lotus has its best walking boots on.

Project Bluejay is an extension to Lotus Domino 5.0, which incorporates four different components and adds further technical integration to the Microsoft Office environment, according to Ed Brill.

Brill, senior manager for the Domino product marketing group at Lotus, said there is a component that is focused on end users, a component focused on developers and a component focused on enterprise integration.

“The first technology is called Domino Network File Store. This is a capability added to the Domino server that lets users see applications on the Domino server as if they were file folders in their Windows networking environment,” Brill explained. “So if I’m on Word or whatever, I go ‘File,’ ‘Save,’ and in addition to my ‘C’ drive or other folders there would be a Domino application.”

This means users can work with the tool they are accustomed to, in the Windows environment, save it to a collaborative environment and “never have to switch interfaces.”

He stated this is a more natural way for the user to share documents than having to switch over to a client, like Notes or a Web browser, and then use attachments in that environment.

“They can just push [a document] in while working within the editing tool they’re used to working with,” Brill said. “It doesn’t require anything to be installed on the user’s desktop. It uses standard Windows networking technology.”

Other components of Bluejay are an OLE/DB connector, collaboration objects and iNotes.

Julie Grass, vice-president and research director at GartnerGroup Inc., called Bluejay an expansive product, although she noted it is nothing earth-shattering.

“As far as the particular things that are being delivered in this release, it’s mostly solidification of things that they already have in (Domino) 5.0,” Grass said.

The 5.0 release was strong, she said, adding that this re-release has given Lotus time to take care of any blemishes the product may have had. “I think the biggest thing moving forward with this release is the release of Domino off-line services as a separate component that you can take advantage of for application building,” she said, adding she likes the finance connector for Outlook.

The off-line capability is called iNotes and according to Brill, it’s about open and Web-based access to the Domino server.

“Some components include off-line services; a way for the user to take Web-based applications and use them in an on- or off-line environment.”

He added that iNotes represents that off-line capability and it will soon be extended to other clients. “The first is iNotes access for Outlook so that an Outlook user can use mail and calendar services on the Domino server that all these other applications are being run on.”

Brill said a major bonus is that people do not have to retrain Outlook users.

Grass agreed, noting Bluejay accommodates the Outlook client, so users do not have to abandon the Outlook client to get the advantages of the Lotus platform.

“You can use Outlook as a full Notes client and still get access to all the applications that have been built by your organization into the Lotus Domino back end. That’s really good news for Outlook users,” she stated. “They’ve been a little schizophrenic about it. They like the Outlook interface, but they also like the groupware services of Lotus Notes.”

She noted the true advantage is user access to the discussion databases and applications that are available in the Lotus Domino platform, in addition to synchronising Outlook applications to the Domino server.

“The other thing they get is faster synchronization with the server,” she said.

Bryan Davis, vice-president of knowledge management strategies and research for the Delphi Group Canada, thinks Bluejay is a welcome development from Lotus.

“I like the idea that it is Web-centric, object oriented, the idea of openness and facilitating, giving you an opportunity to get a better return on your investments from your installed technology by…including other components, instead of having to discard and move to other environments,” he explained.

But personalization is not addressed clearly in this product, he said.

“They do address things like full-text search and security and work flow, so that’s good. I guess things like personalization could be inferred, but it’s not clear to me as a user just how easy it’s going to be to get my personalized view of the world and access to everything that I figure I need,” he said.

This product adds tools that help make the integration process more meaningful and possible, and “that’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

Bluejay uses granular Domino security, which means that down to the individual field or document level a user can determine who has read or edit rights, according to Brill.

“We’re actually mapping the Windows NT security model,” he said. “We use this server message block protocol to talk to the Domino server, to a task running there which knows, through a configuration database, which particular applications running on Domino are accessible.”

At that point it’s simply a matter of opening or saving a file, he said.

“It’s odd that we would talk about opening or saving a file as radical new technology, but really the idea behind it is to take that metaphor that users are used to working with and apply all the collaborative stuff that Domino does to it,” Brill said.

Bluejay, which will ship under a different name in Q3, will initially run out-of-the-box on two Windows platforms – NT and 2000. Brill said over time Lotus will expand that to other platforms like Linux and AS/400.

Lotus is at www.lotus.com.

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