James Governor's Monkchips

On Lotus and the Advantages of Componentization

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IBM has been working towards componentized rather than monolithic approaches to its software portfolio for quite a while now. Microsoft keeps telling the world Lotus is dead, but in truth its just decomposing…

This decomposition is a good thing because it allows IBM to add new functionality to Lotus tooling far more quickly than it could in the past. Which major vendor will be the first to embed blogging capabilities into its enterprise collaboration toolset, IBM or Microsoft? It seems the answer may well be Big Blue. This is decoupled innnovation; small things loosely joined, that’s the “getting things done” kind of innovation.

Blog editing and publishing from Workplace, here at alphaworks.

You have to hand it to IBM. Some potted history:

IBM couldn’t just cut the Notes installed base loose. That would have been the end of a decent revenue stream.

But IBM also couldn’t continue with business as usual. Java and servlets were becoming not just IBM’s standard, but the industry’s standard for serving portal and web pages. WebSphere and Lotus had to come together. Lotus needed to maintain the Windows-oriented Notes monolith, and its Lotuscripters, but also appeal to developers weaned on technologies such as JSP.

IBM may have made some poor decisions along the way (anyone for K-station, Koranteng?), but it didn’t trash community skills investments (even though many Lotus partners were sure it would). The technology changes, but IBM keeps its developers and customers onside.

I am sure folks at Microsoft will be spluttering by now if they are reading this, but you should probably worry about the programming model changes you’re currently pushing your own developers through before you throw stones at IBM.

Talking of throwing stones, I have no real interest in regurgitating the ongoing spattle between Ed Brill and the Exchange team but its great fun to watch.

I think its important to understand that the underpinnings for Workplace are freely available, and open source, based on the Eclipse universal plug in architecture. Workplace is based on the Eclipse rich client.

I am not saying Lotus is super elegant or IBM SWG is elegant either but i am saying they are getting things done.

Blogging has major implications for content management and portal revenue streams. But you can’t fight the tide, like Canute proved.

The perception tide is turning, and perception is what matters in IT purchasing. More and more analysts and media are saying that IBM has block and tackled a roadmap, in which Notes merges with Workplace, that will sustain IBM and Lotus customers and prospects for a long while yet. RedMonk, for example, has written traditional analyst reports on this Workplace strategy before, but you have to pay for access. Let me know if you would like to take a peek.

Comparing MS and IBM’s approaches: one major difference is that IBM seems to do evolutionary better. Longhorn will be a major revolution, and that’s all good, but there’s something to be said for IBM’s slow and steady approach.

Anyone cares to argue take a look at the AS/400’s transition from CISC to RISC, maintaining its developer base. Compare and contrast with HP’s transitions to Itanium.

If IBM can do fast and steady, underpinned by open source and decoupled componentry, the software industry really will get interesting. You might even say, On Demand?

Final note of disclosure: I am writing this piece sight unseen, I have not played with the Workplace blogging tools yet. The rather nifty Eclipse-based blog tool I have seen is RSSOwl. I will post more once i have played with the IBMstuff. Oh yeah IBM is a client, Microsoft too.

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