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What’s killing Lotus Notes as a first choice for Enterprise Mail in so many companies is not Lotus Notes.
We know that with the work of DAOS, ID Vault, and other advances; the Domino server is kicking serious ass in terms of platform efficiency, server consolidation, resource management, and performance. We also know that the client has improved to the point where it no longer compares as the backward, ugly, hick relation to Outlook. Indeed, there are plenty of people who find it better looking and more effective. Sure, plenty don’t – but the point is that neither is so much better that it’s a market making difference. Why then, is the Domino mail decision rapidly becoming either a holdout position for companies already invested and not willing to lose the workflow functionality of their applications – or the fall back choice for those few who want to resist going with Microsoft for complete control over their I.T. Budget?
The answer is that IBM has totally and completely fumbled the ball with their enterprise desktop management strategy. They’ve so totally failed in this arena, that a majority of IT workers would be very hard pressed to even tell you what alternatives exist for a large enterprise that did not want to standardize on Active Directory. If you run a medium sized business or an enterprise, you need a directory access management solution that ties your file sharing, network sharing and other services, email, and possibly phone system together. In all but the most hardcore resistant sites, that means Active Directory today. It didn’t used to.
When IBM essentially ceded the market for identity management to Active Directory (through failing to provide a competitive alternative), they made what may be the most costly mistake in the history of software. A company that goes with Active Directory (and really, who isn’t at this point?) is buying into a licensing suite for Windows servers that includes their file and print sharing, the directory services, their access control, DNS management, etc. From there it is a very easy sale to just include the Exchange server, the web application server, etc.
Sure, we can – if given the chance – make the case from a license cost perspective, functional perspective, end user perspective, manageability perspective, and almost any other perspective that Domino provides better value, lower cost, and more reliability. We don’t get that chance however, until after the decision to go with Exchange has already been made. At that point the battle is against a decision that management types have already invested significant reputation capital as well as budget in. You can’t win that battle by just being right. You have to be overwhelmingly and irrefutably right, and you have to time that winning combination to match a significant failure in the current plan. It’s not an easy fight to win.
While IBM wasted vast amounts of time and budget on services dependant schemes to put J2EE servers on every rack (expecting to reap massive services revenue as a result -- which never really did pan out), Microsoft did for identity and access management what Notes had long ago accomplished for messaging. They built Active Directory into a very scalable, deceptively easy to manage, comprehensive credential and role management system that is in most cases sufficiently run on a just a single server in each location. Sure, backup servers are commonly used – just like in Domino – but those are even easier to set up.
As few as ten years ago (Domino/Notes golden age, btw) many sites didn’t use an enterprise wide directory management system. Those tools were localized to buildings, departments, or sometimes campuses and generally not much bigger than the local LAN segment. Today, credential and access management is expected to fully span the enterprise. While there are alternatives to doing this with Active Directory, most people don’t know what they are. The cost and complexity of building a true enterprise wide alternative is so high as to be prohibitive for most enterprises.
I did a Google search on “Alternatives to Active Directory”, and then “Tivoli Alternatives to Active Directory” and guess what? IBM Tivoli Software was not even in the first page of results – not even with their name mentioned in the search. Not even when I added the “+” sign making it a mandatory search term! I went to IBM’s site for Tivoli and it took me 4 page clicks to even find Access Manager and even then no description of what it could do.
The sad truth is the combined software strategy for the desktop in the enterprise under Steve Mills, IBM’s Senior Vice President and Group Executive - Software & Systems, has been an unmitigated disaster. During his tenure, IBM has completely ceded the marketplace to Microsoft in the most critical enterprise management system there is – the network. IBM no longer even offers a seriously competitive alternative in this space. His management of IBM Software spans the time when IBM has gone from having a significant share of the network management marketplace to nearly zero, where failed attempts by competing internal software groups have led to significant market loss in every single segment, and where current predictions nearly uniformly agree that the percentage of IBM software on Enterprise Desktops will continue to decline. Mr. Mills can no doubt cite excellent looking growth numbers in software revenue since the mid 90's. Who the hell can't? The entire industry has been on fire for most of that time. What those numbers will not show, however, is growth in the IBM share of that rapidly increasing market. Growth is good, but failing to grow as fast as the industry is only good until you look closely.
Dear IBM – Please wake the hell up.
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