A recently published white paper questioning IBM Lotus' long-term strategy has ignited a firestorm of controversy in the Domino community. While an established research firm claims that the Workplace product line represents the end of the line for Domino, Lotus vehemently says otherwise.
In June, the Radicati Group Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., published a white paper entitled, "IBM Lotus & Microsoft -- Corporate Messaging Market Analysis." It harshly criticized Lotus' long-term plans, suggesting that its Workplace collaboration platform represents an "end-of-life" strategy for Domino and will cause Lotus' share of the messaging market to decline during the next four years.
President and CEO Sara Radicati said that those conclusions are based on numerous briefings that she and other Radicati Group analysts have had with IBM Lotus representatives during the past year. She said the Radicati Group's definition of an end-of-life strategy is one where a vendor's development efforts shift to a new platform, while the emphasis on the legacy platform moves to "minor development efforts" that encourage migration.
"They're embarking on a four- or five-year process where, at the end, the install base will have transitioned over from Lotus Notes to Workplace," Radicati said. "If that's not an end-of-life strategy, I don't know what one is."
Ed Brill, Lotus' senior marketing manager, said that couldn't be further from the truth. He said that with Notes and Domino 7 Beta 2's release last week, ND8 on the drawing board and company executives, including Lotus general manager Ambuj Goyal, looking ahead to ND9, the platform will continue independent of Workplace well into the next decade.
"As far as migrating to Workplace, we don't believe in migrating," said Brill, adding that Workplace's J2EE-based application platform can support all the data and applications within today's Notes and Domino production environments. "We want to protect [customers'] investments today, and into the future for as long as they need."
However, Radicati said an eventual Domino-to-Workplace transition is inevitable, and questioned whether that interoperability will carry forward after Lotus flushes out the Workplace strategy. Even though she said Lotus will certainly offer transition tools, it's too early to assume that Workplace will support all of the many Notes and Domino applications in use today.
"IBM Lotus is still defining Workplace. A lot of the details aren't yet available," Radicati said. "I don't think anyone can say for certain that Notes apps will be 100% able to run in Workplace two years from now."
Market share and share alike
The Domino/Workplace strategy is only one controversial aspect of the white paper. It also forecasts that Microsoft's share of the messaging market will jump to 225.2 million e-mail inboxes by 2008, nearly doubling its current number of seats. Conversely, the white paper predicts that Lotus will have 115.2 million, which would only represent an increase of about 29% over its current share.
Radicati said the projection is based on its measurement of installed bases, statistical analysis using its own methodology and ongoing user surveys. She said historical data shows that the number of Domino installations is already tapering off, and Workplace will accelerate that decline.
Plus, Radicati added, as Workplace evolves and more Domino shops look to implement it, the transition will be more complicated than many realize. "We've all heard about how complex the migration from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000 was because of the addition of Active Directory, and I think this will be many times more complex than that," she said.
Brill said the Radicati Group's market projection is presumptuous at best. "There's no disclosure as to how these numbers were arrived at and on what basis they're forecasted," he said.
Michael Sampson, founder and research director of Shared Spaces Research & Consulting in New Zealand, which competes with the Radicati Group, said the white paper angered him so much that he wrote a point-by-point response.
Sampson, a former Ferris Research analyst, said the Radicati Group's report makes a misguided effort to directly compare Exchange with Domino and Workplace.
"The two products are fundamentally different," Sampson said. "Both have e-mail clients," but Domino also offers a framework for collaborative application development, enabling a greater leveraging of infrastructure.
Also, the white paper highlights Microsoft's recent efforts in messaging security, reliability and scalability, without mentioning how Lotus' efforts compare. Radicati said the intent was to note that Microsoft is, for better or worse, reinforcing its current messaging platform while Lotus is beginning a major product transition.
Brill suggested that the real reason why Lotus isn't mentioned in those areas is because it long ago put to rest any concerns about security, reliability and scalability.
"There are Domino deployments that have 20,000 seats per server, which is a factor of between three and 50 times more than Microsoft or any of our other competitors have done," Brill said. "We have a telecom company in the Northeast running a Domino environment with 99.9999% uptime, and we've never had a major virus attack on the Domino environment."
Much ado about nothing?
Even though the Radicati Group released the white paper about six weeks ago, the controversy has picked up steam in recent days, thanks to discussions on Lotus-related weblogs. Users have not only criticized the Radicati Group for failing to include background data supporting the document's conclusions, but also its analysts for allegedly participating in weblog discussions about the report without identifying themselves.
Bruce Elgort, a Domino developer and co-founder of the Notes open source community OpenNTF.org, said that if the Radicati Group felt strongly enough to publish a paper, it should be willing to respond to users' questions and accept criticism.
"They're entitled to write whatever they want, but we want to engage in discussions about facts, especially about what led them to this seat-count projection, and the Domino technical inefficiencies they describe" in the report, Elgort said.
Radicati said the free 17-page white paper lacks detail because it is an abbreviated compilation of five different reports published earlier this year, all of which approach 250 pages in length. The goal of the free paper, she said, was to promote Radicati Group's paid research, though users have disputed whether it was initially free.
Complicating the matter even more, the white paper became available as a free download on Microsoft's Exchange Web site a few weeks after its initial release, causing some users to wonder whether Microsoft has sponsored the report all along. Radicati said that after reading it, Microsoft requested permission to repost the paper, for which it paid Radicati a fee. But Radicati firmly denied that Microsoft sponsored the white paper's creation.
"If other messaging vendors made the same request and wanted to post it on their Web site, I will charge them as well," Radicati said, adding that there's nothing wrong with engaging in fee-based relationships with vendors, as long as those relationships don't influence the research.
"When I published the paper, I had no idea what the reaction would be at Microsoft," she said. "I'm not here to help them. If they want to take advantage of the work we've done, that's fine, as long as they use that work ethically."
Users were also irked because the Radicati Group did not name the analyst who wrote the paper, leading some to believe that the firm didn't stand behind its work. Radicati said her company does not cite authors on its free white papers -- it does only on longer, paid reports -- to keep the company's brand strong and prevent the creation of "grand personalities" that have encouraged analysts to move quickly from one research firm to another.
Regardless, Radicati said she hopes readers will receive the white paper's overall message, which is that companies using Notes and Domino are likely facing a major transition in the not-too-distant future. "There will be a lot of change happening in the next three or four years," Radicati said, "and it requires a long lead time to prepare."
Brill said users have nothing to fear. "Notes and Domino is becoming a J2EE/Eclipse-based environment with the underpinnings that have always been there," he said, emphasizing that evolution is nothing new for the platform. "We've made a lot of changes to the product that Ray Ozzie shipped in 1989, but it still runs the apps from 1989."
Elgort said he believes that the issues surrounding the white paper will ultimately damage Radicati Group's credibility. He said the Radicati Group has "sunk to the bottom" of his list of trusted research firms because other groups "are all going to stand behind their reports. It's kind of unprofessional."