IBM previews social networking for Lotus Notes
IBM expanded its vision for bringing social networking to the enterprise with a preview of new technology at Lotusphere 2010, taking place this week in Orlando, Fla.
Big Blue revealed Project Vulcan at the annual event, which draws crowds of professionals, developers and partners that work with IBM Lotus applications. Project Vulcan is technology under development that seeks to create a Web-based social networking veneer and information stream for the enterprise that's akin to consumer services such as Facebook.
"It's easy to view the recently previewed Project Vulcan from Lotus as the Facebookification of Notes because, well, it is," noted RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady in a blog posting.
Project Vulcan won't be available for beta testing until the second half of this year. However, IBM plans to incorporate the capabilities of the technology into future releases of Lotus Notes and Domino, Lotus Connections, Quickr, its Lotus Live service and WebSphere Portal.
"IBM Project Vulcan is not a product announcement of the next version of Notes, but it is the road map/blueprint for the future of the Notes client," said Ed Brill, director of product management at the IBM Software Group, in a blog posting. He explained that the technology is aimed at easy deployment, enabling collaboration across companies, with "developer-friendly services and APIs."
Both IBM and Microsoft are in a race to add social networking capabilities to their respective enterprise collaboration tools. Microsoft captured 50.2 percent of worldwide revenues for what market researcher IDC calls "integrated collaborative environments." In comparison, IBM had a collaboration software market share of 35.8 percent in 2008, which is the most recent period for which IDC has released such figures.
Both companies also face competition from a number of other players, including Google, which released a Web-based collaboration service called Google Wave for testing.
The key component of IBM's Project Vulcan is an activity stream, said Tony Byrne, founder of CMSWatch, a consulting firm that follows and tests enterprise content management products.
"It shows what's going on and who knows what," Byrne said of Project Vulcan's activity stream. "There's a similar phenomenon in SharePoint 2010…[and] I think we will see that in a lot of practical implementations. The activity stream was clearly missing in SharePoint 2007."
IBM's goal is to evolve its entire software portfolio, including its data analytics tools, from those that are tightly linked to more "loosely coupled services," Brill said.
"This makes sense in an increasingly expected hybrid environment, and will simplify deployment and adoption of collaboration and productivity within your organization," he said. Project Vulcan will achieve that using Web services, xPages, HTML5 and RESTful APIs, he added.
IBM had already taken steps toward bringing social networking to the enterprise with its Lotus Connections and Quickr software, but Project Vulcan seeks to bring social networking to the rest of the Lotus stack and IBM's software portfolio.
"An enterprise Facebook clearly needs to be able to consume a variety of assets," O'Grady noted. "Further, it needs to help users effectively manage that fire hose, by any means necessary."
Project Vulcan represents IBM's vision for collaboration software, but it's not so clear when IBM will deliver, according to Burton Group analyst Guy Creese.
"It's a good vision -- it's not technology-centric but rather user-centric," Creese wrote in a blog posting. "However, the next question is when Lotus will deliver it. Are we talking one year or four years?"
Jeffrey Schwartz is executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner and an editor-at-large at Redmond magazine, affiliate publications of Government Computer News.