IBM releases LotusLive Notes

The cost of email is $5 per user per month.

Today, IBM unveiled LotusLive Notes, a service that delivers your email in the cloud on a server sitting in one of the IBM’s data centers.  What differentiates this from other cloud email offerings is the choice IBM allows users to make: use a browser or use a Lotus Notes client to access your email.  Effectively, a company could move (outsource) its email infrastructure to the IBM cloud and not impact how people use their email.

I got to try LotusLive Notes.

The browser interface was the same familiar iNotes 8.5 (or DWA) interface that we all know.  The main difference was the clean and simple black, blue and white color scheme of the interface.

Configuring my existing Lotus Notes client to connect to LotusLive was a snap.  I downloaded a configuration tool, a small NSF, from LotusLive, opened it in Notes, clicked a couple of buttons and the tool did the rest.  It even worked on a Mac.  The only downside, the tool required 8.5.1 FP5 or 8.5.2.  Since I was on FP4, I had to go ahead and upgrade to 8.5.2., which was actually a surprisingly painful process, not at all related to LotusLive.

As a consultant advising companies on messaging infrastructure management, I have to wonder how LotusLive addresses some of the common messaging problems: SPAM, anti-virus, content retention and discovery, backup and restore, ID and password management.  An integrated service from Sonian provides eDiscovery services but some of the other areas I’m yet to explore.

An interesting sideline, now that my email is in a Domino server in the cloud, I should be able to connect/integrate it with my existing on-premise Domino infrastructure.  I’m not sure what I would do with it yet.  In my early tests I wasn’t able to create new databases or open any of the system databases on the cloud server.

All in all, LotusLive Notes is an excellent cost-effecient way to outsource your email eliminating the cost of hardware and server maintenance associated with running your own mail servers.

All in all,

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New LotusLive first impressions — me like!

OK, sarcasm aside.  I’ve spent the last hour playing with the new features on LotusLive.  Without going into too much details, I like it.

The default interface, which you can customize, looks better.  The color scheme doesn’t look like iNotes that you know and love.  It just feels better overall, more polished, more professional.

I’ll reserve the final judgement call until after I get to play with other integrated apps.  But the first impressions are really good.

Oooo… How exciting!

LotusLive – SaaS without the service

I know I had promised to refrain from pointless criticism and open bashing on my blog: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. But my experience with LotusLive has been so abysmal that I simply cannot keep quiet.

I still want to begin by saying something nice. I think LotusLive is a great offering. The idea behind it is superb. It offers the ability to share and collaborate that is better than other similar offerings from IBM’s competitors. I remember the applause when in January of 2009 Bob Picciano stood on stage at Lotusphere and announced LotusLive. Unfortunately, when IBM was building its Lotus branded Software as a Service, it spent so much time focusing on the software part, that it completely forgot to build the service component.

A client of PSC needed a place to collaborate and share with a new client of their own. They asked our advice on best way to do this quickly and cost efficiently. In 2 weeks they were going out to a kick off meeting with their client and they wanted to have the collaboration platform in place by then. We thought about it and decided to tell them about this new SaaS platform from IBM that did everything they needed to do and would cost them about $1, 000 USD per year. Our client bought into the idea. Little did I know what kind of a mess I got myself into.

Silly me! I never bought a LotusLive license before, but thinking the SaaS model, I thought that a couple of clicks through the LotusLive site and a credit card number would do the trick. Wrong! Out of all the purchases I’ve ever made in my life, buying a LotusLive subscription or a license is the most complicated one. I rank it somewhere between buying a house and getting a GreenCard.

It turns out that in order to buy a single license of LotusLive, there are forms to be filled out and faxed/emailed back to IBM. You don’t get these forms all at once. They come one at a time, from different channels. And these forms have to make their way through the IBM bureaucracy and approval process, which takes several weeks, before they reach the LotusLive sales team, which only then can grant you a full license. Since we couldn’t wait that long and had to be up and running pretty quick, the LotusLive team ended up giving us a full-access temporary license, which later, when all the paperwork is processed, got converted to a full license. All this took a lot of emails and phone calls on our part to push the process through — several weeks of effort all for a $1000-purchase. We made no money on this transaction. In fact, if I count the hours and the energy we spent on making this happen, we lost money on the transaction.

So, IBM, if you’re planning to continue to push LotusLive, you really need to re-evaluate your entire approach to this offering. SaaS should be simple. It’s all web based, it’s all browser based. I should be able to sign up for a free account using my browser. And, when ready to switch to a full paid account, I should be able to do this using the same browser and a credit card. The process should be SIMPLE. If it is not, I’m going to your competition. And some of your competition,while perhaps not offering all the same features, offers a lot of them for free. Frankly, if I was trying to set this up for myself, after a couple of days I would have just switched to Google Groups — not quite the same but free and I can be up and running in 5 minutes.

And lastly, if you want your Business Partners to help you sell LotusLive, figure out a way for them to make money on this offering. Otherwise, like a lot of other great things that have come out of IBM over the years, LotusLive will get killed by the competition. And in this case, you’re making it way too easy for them.

If this were Twitter, I would say “LotusLive as a service platform #fail”.

What is your experience with LotusLive?