IBM expands LotusLive to channel partners

ORLANDO –At Lotusphere 2010, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) announced it is planning to open up its cloud-based social collaboration services LotusLive to even more channel partners in the second half of this year.

Alistair Rennie, IBM’s newly minted general manager for Lotus software and Websphere Portal, said LotusLive, launched last year, will be available to any IBM partner through application programming interfaces. Previously, it was available only through the LotusLive Design Partner program.

“[LotusLive] was always designed as an open platform for the ecosystem to thrive on,” said Rennie.

LotusLive momentum has reached 18 million users in almost 100 countries since its 2009 release, said Rennie. There are many new entrants across the board, including startups, in the partner community building offerings to help businesses of all sizes deploy social software through LotusLive, said Rennie. “It’s across the spectrum and it’s accelerating,” he said.

Former Lotus general manager Bob Picciano, who was recently moved back to a leadership position in sales, said IBM’s partner base grew more than 20 per cent in 2009.

Picciano said the partner community has been responsible for reshaping the fate of businesses by making people and collaboration the focus and using the cloud to accomplish that. “IBM partners are helping drive that acceleration,” he said.

There was much focus at Lotusphere 2010 on the importance of the cloud, in tandem with on-premise for a hybrid approach, as the new way by which technologies are acquired and built, making applications and people more accessible.

The company announced LotusLive Labs, an open integration environment for IBM development and research teams to work together and share knowledge.

New technologies being developed in LotusLive Labs include a Slide Library for collaborating on building and sharing presentations, and Event Maps for interactive visualization of conference schedules.

In recognition of the mobile device as integral to modern businesses, IBM announced a partnership with Research In Motion Ltd. to sell Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr BlackBerry clients through IBM sales channels.

“Mobile is not an ancillary thought anymore,” said Rennie.

David Yach, chief technology officer for software with RIM, said the BlackBerry is about “taking the desk to your hip” and collaboration “enables innovation, agility, time to market and a continuous feedback loop.”

IBM also unveiled its Collaboration Agenda initiative to help customers and partners outline a roadmap to using collaboration technologies for better efficiency internal and external to the business.

Rennie said the Collaboration Agenda is a vehicle for encouraging discussion of collaboration technologies in the business. The agenda extends this new way of thinking about collaboration to “your critical line of business priorities,” said Rennie.

Consultative workshops will provide industry expertise, tools, best practices and industry-specific return on investment metrics to help define that collaboration strategy. The Collaboration Agenda will initially focus on the health care, banking government and insurance sectors.

One IBM channel partner, Ascendant Technology, applies an insight-driven engineering approach to help customers get a holistic view of the business.

Ascendant Technology president Jim Deters said the industry-specific aspect of IBM’s Collaboration Agenda complements well his company’s goal to give customers an end-to-end strategy to solving unique business problems.

IBM even employed the services of Canadian-born actor William Shatner to tout the benefits of collaboration by sharing with the audience how certain Hollywood projects have benefited from collaborating stakeholders. “I don’t need to tell you making movies is a collaborative effort,” said Shatner.

IBM summarized the day’s announcements and vision by outlining Project Vulcan, a sneak peek at how the company sees the evolution of collaboration that will build on customer investments. “It’s the unveiling of what we think the future of the cloud environment will look like,” said Rennie.

Project Vulcan focuses on four principles: continuity (building on existing investments and connecting collaboration tools to business processes), convergence (hybrid on-premise and cloud delivery model), innovation (the power of social software and analytics), and new opportunities (partner-developed technologies based on Lotus).

During the keynote, Picciano didn’t hold back on taking shots at rival Microsoft Corp. “I know there is a lot of misinformation being spread in the marketplace by desperate competitors who really lack solutions and a future vision,” said Picciano. Later he added, “Sometimes I feel sorry for our competition. We can’t all be leaders.”

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