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Lotusphere 2002: Lotus christens Rnext

Kicking off Lotusphere 2002, Lotus finally gave Rnext a name and a time frame for its release. It also made announcements in the Web services, Sametime and professional services arenas.

Al Zollar
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Rnext has an official name and, perhaps more importantly to users, it has a target date to ship.

Kicking off Lotusphere 2002 here, Lotus general manager Al Zollar christened the next major iteration of his company's messaging platform "IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 6." He said a pre-release version will be made available to customers within 30 days.

If all goes well, the final product will be released in the third quarter of this year.

For users, Lotus Notes and Domino 6 features an updated, customizable interface for mail and calendaring; developers get design element locking and the reuse and sharing of personal agents; administrators can look forward to improved transaction logging, clustering and networking compression, as well as simplified policy-based management.

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On the systems management front, Domino 6 will also include the Tivoli server health management and planning toolset with performance analysis and management capabilities running within the Domino Administrator.

The overall message

The Rnext announcement during Monday's Lotusphere 2002 opening general session was just one in a series of moves that impacts nearly all of the software vendor's key offerings.

Other significant developments include: Lotus affirming its commitment to J2EE as its Web services platform of choice; new licensing, deployment and customization services for the Sametime instant messaging tool, including a hosted version; and changes to its professional services unit.

In a broader sense, one message made clear today -- from the words uttered at the podium to the placards emblazoned with Big Blue logos -- is that Lotus is embracing its role in the IBM family.

Ready for Rnext?
Lotus may finally have a tentative release timetable for Rnext, but not every shop is ready to implement. In fact, some feel as if Lotus should be more concerned with fixing problems in earlier releases.

Judy Winter, a senior systems analyst at Abbot Laboratories in Chicago, is having troubles with some of her 16,000 end users on R5.05 and says she can't consider deploying a new release until the bugs are fixed -- specifically that rescheduling repeat meetings doesn't work in calendaring and scheduling.

"We got burnt too bad [on R5]," she said. "We're going to hold off for a while on Rnext."

Lotus also announced today the next generation of IBM's e-learning platform; unified messaging partnerships with Cisco Systems, Inc. and Captaris, Inc.; and the return of Lotusphere Europe, after a one year hiatus, to be held in Vienna, Austria this June.

"People have feared this leveraging of IBM," Zollar said in a news conference immediately following the opening keynote. "Leveraging IBM gives us so much more power."

This is the first Lotusphere in which Lotus has existed structurally as a division within IBM. It had been an independent subsidiary since IBM acquired Lotus in 1995.

Lotus even 'leveraged' IBM in its product demonstration by showing how one of its "largest and most enthusiastic customers" uses Lotus tools internally. Executives walked the audience through W3, IBM's corporate portal serving 315,000 employees, which relies heavily on Lotus technology to help a large company communicate more like a small one.

The J2EE commitment

The synergy with IBM, however, extends into many of Lotus' moves, chief among them being its Web services positioning. While Lotus vows it will integrate with Microsoft's .NET platform for building Web services, it is firmly committed to developing around the J2EE 1.3 standard.

"We have to build less middleware... if we can leverage middleware that comes from our IBM colleagues," Zollar said.

It was a point echoed by Jeanette Horan, Lotus' vice president of worldwide development and support.

"If we spend time and energy developing middleware, it takes away from the time and energy we can spend on our true value-add: the collaborative components," she said.

Judy Retz, a senior business analyst with Indianapolis, Ind.-based Simon Property Group who oversees 3,000 Notes end users, is considering deploying Web services through her company's new document management system.

"I think Lotus is in the right camp," said Retz on Lotus' decision to back J2EE.

The move closer into the IBM fold is also evident in the re-branding of Lotus' services unit, now called IBM Software Services for Lotus. The unit, formerly Lotus Professional Services, features tighter integration with IBM, as well as a greater reliance on enabling business partners to provide services around offerings.

In fact, Lotus' sales force can no longer depend on service revenue to contribute to its quotas and will have to generate new licenses and subscriptions instead.


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