By David Gewirtz
If you haven't been paying much attention to LotusLive, IBM's hosted software as a service offerings, it's time to start.
Many of us, tasked with running servers, tend to pay less attention to SaaS than we should, since we're not going to be doing the install on our own machines. While this may be valid on a day-to-day basis, there are a few simple facts of life that may make this a more foolish long-term strategy than you might think.
First, SaaS solutions often save companies money. A lot of money. Because companies can effectively outsource much of their IT operations (that's you, bucko!) to another provider, they're able to cut fixed costs significantly. So, first, you're competing against SaaS.
Second, SaaS solutions are often only part of the answer. LotusLive is a good example. While the service offers some great collaboration technologies, it's not the same as doing it all yourself. Standard applications run well in LotusLive, but those edge cases don't. Plus, you have to abide by terms of service requirements when running as a SaaS client, while you can push your own systems to their groaning limits.
Third, IBM is starting to integrate LotusLive with other interesting services. Last week, it announced that Ariba's commerce platform will be integrated into LotusLive. Previously, IBM announced Skype and Salesforce integration.
This approach is different and powerful. Because each of these offerings are excellent offerings in their own rights, LotusLive integration solves one of the bigger SaaS problems: NiH (Not in-House) disease. By integrating other powerful tools, not everything has to be invented by IBM and produced by IBM, so you get a wider variety of options.
Companies are trying to do more and more with less and less. One easy way is to consolidate the server technologies they need in data centers they own, and offload everything that can be offloaded. LotusLive is that offload destination, and since it provides much of IBM's top-line products in a turnkey, make-a-call-and-make-it-so way, it's going to have a strong appeal.
Clearly, SaaS offerings like LotusLive are in the best interests of your employer. But how can you make them be in your best interests as well? The answer is simple: become a mashup expert. Learn about the integration issues, the terms of service issues, the edge cases, and how to make everything meld together.
While not every IT person employed today in the Lotus space will keep his or her job in a world with LotusLive, the mashup-savvy will -- and will probably do better and be in more demand than every before.