LotuSphere comes to you in Australia

Last week, I disappeared to Melbourne for a few meetings. So I decided to attend the Lotusphere Comes to You in Melbourne event. The main purpose of which was to see what the Lotus attentioned community was like in that city as opposed to Adelaide. In addition I wanted  to see if I could gleam any extra information that I had not picked up from observing the broader online communication from the US based Lotusphere event held earlier in the year.

In terms of numbers, there certainly are a larger number of Lotus business partners and a larger number of people that attended the event, then in comparison to Adelaide from previous years.

The opening speech and presentations were of a good quality and there were a lot of live demonstrations of the products (didn’t envy the guys doing it one bit – very nerve wracking, but they did an excellent job). This year it was about building on the existing products introduced last year, such as Lotus Quickr, Lotus Connections, in conjunction with Lotus Notes/Domino (new versions), Lotus Sametime (new versions) and WebSphere Portal (more accelerators). There were two major new products announced  Lotus Mashups, (which was as a consequence of the work done by IBM’s AlphaWorks with QEDWiki) and Lotus Foundation (a new appliance for SMBs). The attention of this new appliance is as an autonomous device working potentially in conjunction with Lotus Bluehouse (a SaaS service targeted at SMBs). I’ll write another blog entry about Lotus Bluehouse when I learn more as this represents in my view a significant change in IBM’s business model for the SMB market where again in my view, IBM has difficulty competing with Microsoft. There are also elements here that have not been formulated for engagement through the traditional software channel.

There were a few other products mentioned in the speech, feel free to leave a comment if you think they should be mentioned. 

The Web 2.0 moniker was used a lot, I believe it was referring to Client Side Aggregation (CSA) and improved responsiveness to user requests through the use of AJAX components. Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr have components that are considered Web 2.0 by some through using collective intelligence. That is the more that participate the better the experience that is had by an individual.

What really intrigued me about the opening speech was the last slide, where it was mentioned what would be coming in future Lotuspheres – "Immersive Collaboration" got my attention and I wished that they had spent some more time on the items mentioned.

After the opening speech there were two streams, one more specifically for Lotus Notes/Domino and the other for WebSphere Portal & Social Computing. I attended the later stream, which from my observations had a significantly lower attendance then the former stream.

WebSphere Portal 6.1 which is in Beta at the moment, now has a stronger focus on Client Side Aggregation and on the use of REST based services wiht some emphasis towards RSS/ATOM syndication. There are going to be more accelerators (combinations of WebSphere Portal & supporting products targeted at a vertical business problem eg Web Content Management) with the WebSphere Portal Enterprise accelerator being a combination of them all.

It was interesting to see more of the Social Software tools such as Lotus Connections and Lotus Mashups in action.

With the Lotus Mashups presentation, a new type of widget was mentioned being iWidget, which seemed to be an AJAX based component communicating to a Tomcat proxy server. I’d not heard of this standard before, so I’ve done a little sniffing through Google. I found that it is a new standard evolving being supported by IBM (found it on J Carol’s blog – hope the link is correct Developerworks is down for maintenance again) through the OpenAjax Alliance  . If anybody has more information please leave a comment!

Lotus Connections ver 2.0 is slated for this year, so it might be time to install it then. Providing tools for the larger corporates to profile team members & share connections is important, but I still view Lotus Connections working behind the firewall. I did not see much emphasis for the on-demand type organisation that uses composite services from many internal and external distributed organisations (except in Lotus Bluehouse for SMBs). Hopefully we will see more about this next year!

All in all, it was a good event but more so for the traditional Lotus community. Let me explain.

Whilst searching for information on iWidgets I found the following article  – Mashups, Portal, Symphony, Sametime, and more, more, more . Under the WebSphere Portal heading, I found the following sentences "Like many in the Lotus community, I’ve not paid much attention to Portal in the past, because it’s WebSphere. That view needs to change. Even though Portal comes under the WebSphere banner rather than the Lotus one, portals are really a part of the whole collaboration story that characterises the Lotus name. It’s now far more closely integrated to the Lotus family of products."

The above statements are so true, I’ve come from the WebSphere Java/J2EE world and to some degree have been dragged into Lotus (some might say I have been kicking a bit) through my exposure to WebSphere Portal. The Notes/Domino way of developing applications through lotus script (especially pre Eclipse/Expeditor based Notes 8) was in my view out of the question.

I’ve always tried to view domino based components such as Sametime as black boxes. As I’ve mentioned before what excites me about Lotus is the products that are not Domino and lotus script based. To that end, what I saw in Lotusphere 2008 and Lotusphere comes to you, was a focus towards the traditional lotus shops and developers.

The question I really have is can Lotus continue to support these two camps – traditional Lotus and Java through composite applications?

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