Lotus Development Corp. has announced a new collaborative services initiative that will, according to President and CEO Al Zollar, make it easier for ASPs to offer hosted Lotus applications.
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The IBM subsidiary's new offering is called the Lotus ASP Solution Pack. It was officially announced at a press conference Monday at the company's Cambridge, Mass. headquarters.
"It's a mega event in the software industry. We've needed to be much more clear about where we're going with it," Zollar said. "We're here to tell you that this [market] is real and Lotus intends to participate."
The Lotus ASP Solution Pack includes Domino Web-mail, Sametime instant messaging, Quickplace team collaboration environment, IBM's DB2 universal administrative database, and can also feature customized WebSphere or Domino-based applications.
All the applications are tied together using a browser-based environment called a Community Workspace, an integrated, portal-like front-end where users can access documents and calendars, hold real-time chats, and send and receive e-mail.
Though the programs at the core of the ASP Solution Pack are not new, it now includes several features designed to make Lotus applications easier for ASPs to offer.
One is the Lotus Hosting Management System, a middleware program that allows ASPs to host applications, track application usage with greater ease, and provision a broader offering that utilizes more or all of the ASP Solution Pack's functionality.
ASPs may also maintain multiple, independent copies of the same application, for separate customers, on a secure, shared server.
Lotus is offering an integrated metering system, as well. An ASP can monitor the number of active users at any time without manual tracking and reporting, and that data can be shared with an ASP's billing system.
A likely benefit will be reduced administration costs for customers. The ASP Solution Pack allows end-users to self-administer the software, with capabilities that include new user creation and assignment of access privileges.
"This is a breakthrough for us," said Richard Hartt, vice president of netASPx, a full-service ASP based in Herndon, Va.
Hartt said his company has been offering Lotus-based hosted applications for several years. Those offerings, though, have been labor intensive because automation did not exist to facilitate items like usage metering and billing, user additions and other administration tasks.
Though his company is required to reconfigure some of its customized applications in order to take advantage of the ASP Solution Pack, Hartt said the implementation would likely save his company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
netASPx is one of the companies that has participated in alpha and beta testing of the ASP Solution Pack. Hartt said his company expects to begin offering it with custom Lotus applications within the next 90 days.
The 'new economy'
Zollar, frequently asked about his company's ASP strategy since taking the reins in February, said the ASP market is at the core of Lotus' business because it creates products where business partners and ISVs can add value.
He said he expects this strategy will help ASPs and Lotus' 21,000 worldwide business partners become more familiar with Lotus' hosted application strategy and offerings.
He also spoke about the company's knowledge management goal to help companies leverage e-business know-how. The ASP Solution Pack will likely serve as the groundwork for a hosted version of Lotus' upcoming knowledge management offering, code-named Raven.
"Keeping up with the trends and marketplace knowledge is a real challenge," said Zollar. "It's the difference between the old and new economy."
The ASP Solution Pack can be licensed as a full suite, though an initial minimum $10,000 purchase of Lotus usage fees in the form of electronically delivered monthly hosting units (MHUs) is required for commercial use.
An ASP is then licensed for all servers and applications needed to support the hosting environment. It can later purchase more MHUs as needed.
All offerings require use of a Domino server, with optional use of the IBM WebSphere Application Server (Advanced Edition), Lotus Sametime server, and Lotus QuickPlace 2.0 server.