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Coming on the heels of enhancements to LotusLive, Microsoft has now unveiled “Office 365“, the next generation of their former Business Productivity On-Line Services (BPOS). Microsoft’s base offering starts at $24 per user per month and includes desktop productivity, web applications, Exchange on-line, SharePoint, Lync (IM/web conferencing), and both support and management functions. Existing BPOS customers get e-mail, SharePoint, and Lync for just $10 a month. Both offerings are highly competitive with those from Google and IBM (as well as Zoho), and offer significant opportunities for companies to reduce infrastructure and upgrade costs. We find that innterest in hosted messaging services is strong, with approximately 44% of organizations evaluating or planning to adopt such services by the end of 2012, but concerns over privacy, security, availability, the need for off-line access and the ability to integrate hosted services with on-premises applications are gating factors. Evaluate all of these concerns versus the ability to reduce operating expenses.
IBM announced enhancements to LotusLive this week (see Ed Brill’s write-up for details). At just $5.00 per user with a one user minimum, IBM offers a hosted version of Domino, accessible via either web browser or Lotus Notes client, and including support for Sametime instant messaging. IBM’s offering provides an interesting alternative to gmail for those companies fearful of Google’s privacy controls, or more comfortable with an enterprise-focused product that even includes a more traditional client (with off-line replication). IBM also counters Microsoft BPOS with a more extensible platform that now features a suite of integrated third-party applications including Skype and Tungle. For another $5 per user per month, IBM adds internal web conferencing and collaboration capabilities.
We’ve continued to hear concern about IBM’s viability as an alternative to Exchange for on-premise systems, by going to the cloud IBM leverages the economics of the cloud to bolster its competitive position.
Salesforce.com’s Chatter social computing service is now available to a limited number of private beta participants. Salesforce.com’s first shot across the social computing bow was fired back in November when they announced the service, now that the wraps are coming off we’ll see if Salesforce can compete against the likes of Microsoft, IBM, a plethora of emerging vendors, and even Cisco.
I think Chatter has the potential to be extremely disruptive. Salesforce brings some inherent strengths to the table, it’s arguably the most widely deployed software as a service, via the SaaS delivery model Salesforce can bundle Chatter with the services it’s already providing to end-user customers, in effect going around IT and undercutting more centralized attempts to bring social computing to the enterprise via stand-alone platforms such as Confluence, Jive, and SocialText, or as add-ons to collaboration tools such as SharePoint or the Notes/Domino/Quickr suite. Salesforce also points to the opportunity for its development partners to integrate Chatter into the tens of thousands of Force.Com developers, but to succeed Chatter must evolve beyond a Salesforce-based application and offer the opportunity to integrate into other collaboration applications. It must also overcome concerns related to compliance and security of storing potentially discoverable conversations in the cloud.
IBM made a big splash today in advance of next week’s Lotusphere conference by announcing that Panasonic is abandoning its Exchange-based e-mail infrastructure for IBM’s LotusLive hosted e-mail offering. This news, coupled with recent wins by Google for its Apps and Gmail offerings may finally demonstrate that cloud-based collaboration services are starting to gain traction within the enterprise. It’s important to note in the IBM Lotus announcement that while iNotes is the initial hook, Lotus expects iNotes adoption to lead to deployment of cloud-based collaboration and social applications including Connections and Quickr as well as project management.
We’re starting to get a lot of questions from our enterprise clients about SaaS-based collaboration offerings. Key factors driving interest include potential for cost reduction, simplified infrastructure, and the ability to easily deploy a robust and reliable set of services across the globe. Key concerns limiting interest include the lack of customization, concern that customers will get a “lowest common denominator service” and concerns related to guaranteeing performance of Internet-based applications. I expect to spend a lot of time in 2010 following the rise of cloud-based collaboration.
Regular readers of my posts will note that I have often spoke of the need for Enterprise and Web 2.0 architects to pay attention to the underlying network that acts as the basis for their applications. This may seem strange, after all television producers don’t spend much time worrying about cable or electrical networks, so why should application developers worry about the Internet? But how will Cloud and Web 2.0 services thrive if the underlying network is increasingly incapable of meeting growing demand for Internet services?
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