IBM Opens Beta for Social Networking, Collaboration

IBM is expanding the free beta trial for Bluehouse, a Web-hosted social networking and collaboration service based on Lotus software.

Bluehouse had been in a limited beta for nine months but is now being opened to anyone who wants to join, says Bethann Craig, director of product management for IBM's Lotus Software. IBM is announcing the open beta Monday as part of a "cloud services initiative" in which IBM says it is helping customers both access cloud services over the Web and build cloud-like services that can be delivered internally to their own users.

Based on Lotus Foundations, Bluehouse is designed to help small- and midsized businesses collaborate securely beyond their organizational boundaries. File storing and sharing, Web meetings and IM are among the Bluehouse tools. After the free beta, Bluehouse will be made commercially available for a fee in early 2009.

The word "cloud" was nowhere to be seen when IBM first announced Bluehouse in January, but IBM is now calling Bluehouse a key piece of a company-wide cloud services initiative.

The change reflects both a strategic and marketing shift for IBM, as the company embraces the buzzword "cloud" over "software-as-a-service," the moniker previously assigned to such Web-hosted applications.

"Software-as-a-service now is becoming a subset of this broader concept of cloud computing," says IDC analyst Frank Gens. Software-as-a-service tools like Bluehouse are now being lumped into this broader category, which involves all types of services being delivered over the Web, including access to storage and processing power, he says. (Compare storage products.)

It's significant that big IT companies like IBM are committing to putting large portions of their products onto the Web, and this will only continue, Gens says. "Our view is that being able to provide software offerings through a cloud services model is the foundation for new growth for the industry," he says. "Bluehouse is Lotus moving much, if not most of what they do in a traditional software model, and putting it right out there in the cloud."

IBM said Monday that it is launching a new "company-wide initiative that extends its traditional software delivery model toward a mix of on-premise and cloud computing applications with new software, services and technical resources for independent software vendors [ISV] and clients."

But IBM has discussed its cloud strategy before, and the announcement mostly contains IBM products that have been on the market for at least a year. They include Lotus Sametime Unyte, which arranges Web conferences and results from IBM's acquisition of Web Dialogs in August 2007. IBM plans to update the product in the fall with new features, including integration with Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime, letting business users start Web conferences with the click of a button from their e-mail and instant messaging programs.

IBM said its cloud initiative also includes Rational Policy Tester OnDemand, which automates Web content scanning to identify privacy and quality problems; and Rational AppScan OnDemand, which scans Web applications for security bugs. Both products originated from IBM's acquisition of Watchfire in July 2007.

The last product mentioned by IBM Monday is Telelogic Focal Point, a tool that helps oversee software development processes, resulting from last year's acquisition of Telelogic.

IBM also said it will help ISVs build new applications quickly with a series of white papers, online demos and downloadable code. The goal is to address common challenges of cloud computing, such as building a multi-tenant architecture.

This story, "IBM Opens Beta for Social Networking, Collaboration" was originally published by Network World.

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