Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lotus must open source Notes and Domino


By David Gewirtz

Last week, I wrote It's time for Lotus to double-down on Linux and open source. My colleague, Dana Blankenhorn over at ZDNet, followed up with Time for IBM to become an open source hero.

In both these articles, we discussed how we believe it's important for IBM to stand behind the various open source projects that are potentially going to get short-shrift as a result of the Sun/Oracle merger.

After a week talking to leaders in the Lotus community along with some "please don't quote me" senior managers at IBM, I'm now convinced IBM's best strategy is to go one big step further: fully open source Notes and Domino.

While, at first, this may seem like a desperate Hail-Mary play, it's actually got a lot of solid strategic potential.

Competing ecosystems

There are really three competitive ecosystems at play here. The first, of course, is Notes and Domino. As a collaboration solution, Notes is the granddaddy of them all.

Next, of course, is Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint. Microsoft and their partners are working hard to move customers from Notes/Domino to Exchange/SharePoint and it certainly seems to be working.

The third major player is Google. Although Google Apps make for a poor true collaboration environment, especially as compared to what's possible with Notes applications, Google, too, has made a major play for collaboration customers and its cloud pitch is compelling to some prospects.

At least when it comes to the PR war, Lotus is clearly loosing in the competitive ecosystem. All summer, I wrote about migrating from Exchange to Notes and Domino, and all summer I tried to find any other good content online about doing so. There was virtually nothing -- including nothing from IBM.

By contrast, even if you Google "Migrating from Exchange to Domino," you'll find tons of listings about going the other way. There are two IBM Redbooks dating back to 2008 talking about moving to Domino, but beyond that, there are 679,000 results about going the other way.

Companies really do need Lotus solutions

Let's ignore for a second which enormous business sells more licenses. Let's instead look at customers and what they need to solve their business problems.

Some customers are better served by Google and a cloud Apps strategy. Their needs are simple and Gmail and Google Apps is a perfect answer.

Some customers would be better served by Exchange and, more to the point, SharePoint. SharePoint, for what it does, is a wonderful little collaboration system.

But some customers would be vastly better served by Notes and Domino and all the power, strength, security, and flexibility this solution offers. All of us in the Lotus sphere know that there are times nothing is better than Notes and Domino for certain needs.