Microsoft’s vs. Lotus’ Cloud-Based Collaboration

Both Microsoft and Lotus are developing cloud-based collaboration services. Microsoft's offerings are being described fairly clearly, while Lotus' mode of presentation is confusing, to the detriment of Lotus and customers alike.

Microsoft Services

In late 2008, Microsoft announced the availability of a number of cloud-based collaboration services. These were based on cloud-hosted and cloud-managed instances of a number of Microsoft's existing, on-premise, Windows Server-based services:

  • Microsoft Exchange Online (email, calendaring, contacts)
  • Microsoft SharePoint Online (shared spaces)
  • Microsoft Office Communication Online (real-time: presense, IM, audio, and video communication)
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

These were augmented by a number of existing cloud-based Microsoft service offerings:

  • Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services (anti-malware and archiving services)
  • Microsoft Live Services (Web conferencing)

Using the taxonomy introduced in an earlier posting, Cloud Computing - A Taxonomy, the first four are Virtual Private Services (VPSs), while the latter two are Public Services (PSs).

The above have been augmented by a key piece of Windows Live infrastructure--namely, Identity Federation. Identity Federation allows an organization's users to log on to a Windows client using the organization's Active Directory (AD)-based credentials, and to then access either on-premise or cloud-based services transparently. It also allows for users whose identity is established in the cloud (via Live Identity Services) or using another organization's AD-based credentials to be granted access to an organization's on-premise or cloud-based services. For more on Identity Federation in the cloud and on-premise, see our earlier postings: Microsoft's Identity Roadmap: In the Cloud and Microsoft's Identity Roadmap: On-Premise.

In summary, Microsoft's "Online" and "Server" offering allows an organization to host and manage its Microsoft collaboration services on-premise at whatever it costs, or to outsource the hosting and management of these services to Microsoft at $15 per user per month. This is a very attractive price.

Lotus Services

In January 2009, Lotus announced the availability in mid-2009 of LotusLive. There is currently no pricing available from Lotus for LotusLive. LotusLive targets a very different market segment than Microsoft's "Online" offerings (see above). LotusLive is aimed at supporting organizational extranets. As such, an organization's LotusLive services will be distinct from its on-premise services and will not be federated with those on-premise services.

While LotusLive will employ some existing Lotus on-premise servers (Sametime and Connections) to deliver cloud-based services, Domino is noticeably missing. And while there will be a Hosted Notes offering in LotusLive, it will, as currently announced, support (iNotes) Web clients only. This is a major mistake. It may not be intended to signal IBM's lack of strategic commitment to Notes/Domino, but as with Lotus' introduction of the now-withdrawn Workplace, it cannot help but do so.

A similar message is being delivered by the bundling of Outblaze's Web-based email and calendar offerings into LotusLive. Microsoft offers Hotmail Web-based email PSs in addition to Exchange Online VPSs and Exchange on-premise servers, but it doesn't confuse them either operationally or in marketing messages.

IBM, in its LotusLive announcements, has just done so with its alternatives. Its on-premise offering is Notes/Domino. Many people will naturally draw the conclusion that IBM's cloud-based offering is Outblaze. Is this what IBM intends? If not, Ferris views including Outblaze in LotusLive as a significant faux pas.

... Nick Shelness

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