IBM/Lotus sharpens weapon for unified communications battle

Sametime platform to be armed with collaboration, social networking, conferencing and messaging software, and telephony to take on rivals.

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The Telephony Application server provides an aggregation point for presence data and APIs for developers building UC-enabled applications.

The platform will allow users to receive calls via softphones, and set up contact and routing rules.

Prior to SUT, partners suffered with many point-to-point integrations, but with SUT the integration point is down to one.

"SUT is the perfect boundary," says Burton's Gotta. "On one side all the vendors connect and on the other side IBM connects [all its software]."

Adding the topping

At the same time, IBM/Lotus is spinning presence, social networking, business workflow and collaboration into a story of increased productivity on the back of UC.

IBM/Lotus is pointing at Sametime's scalable and reliable presence capabilities that will help users find one another based on attributes such as expertise, authority or location.

The next step is tapping the Lotus collaboration pedigree around Notes (e-mail/collaboration) and Sametime (Web conferencing) to facilitate sharing and communication. New to the mix is support for social networking (Lotus Connections), productivity applications (Lotus Symphony) and document sharing (Quickr) on top of current integrations with Microsoft Outlook and Office.

And the final slice is the client side where IBM/Lotus wants to tap Web 2.0 interfaces to expose UC services.

"We are investing a lot of time and money to enhance our capabilities in this area," says Bruce Morse, vice president of unified communications software for IBM/Lotus. "We have the rich client [Sametime] nailed down, we are making more investments in technologies like AJAX and Web services approaches."

Morse says the next version of Sametime, due in 2009, will include capabilities built into the server that support AJAX browser-based client-type access to UC services using lightweight REST Web services in favor of bulkier SOAP-based protocols.

In addition to its own software, IBM is partnering with vendors such as VBrink to deliver streaming video and Forterra Systems to bring UC to virtual worlds.

Pulling it all together

Analysts so far are lauding the efforts.

"They have very good products," says Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research. "Look at what they are doing with Connections. Look at what they are doing with Quickr. It is extremely extensible and gives organizations a lot of opportunity to customize applications, to build new functionality and to build mashup applications. It's far more, I think, than what users get out of Microsoft."

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