For Burton Group clients, a new report (45 pages) is available that examines IBM's efforts regarding real-time collaboration and unified communications. A summary is provided below. Clients need to log-in here.
IBM Sametime 7.5: Just-in-Time Rediscovery of Real-Time Collaboration
v1, 05 February 2007
Author(s): Mike Gotta
Additional Input: Karen Hobert, Peter O'Kelly
Sametime 7.5 solves many of IBM’s immediate challenges. It modernizes the user experience, transforms the client architecture, begins a modernization effort on the server, improves federation with external instant messaging (IM)/presence networks, and assists with establishing a partner ecosystem for unified communications based on standards. IBM’s rediscovery of real-time collaboration as a strategic endeavor occurs just in time. Microsoft is poised to release a next-generation platform in 2007 that will significantly up the ante. This Sametime release will protect IBM’s install-base, but IBM must continue to execute and build alliances with its communication vendor partners to stave off Microsoft hegemony.
IBM has not been quiet about Sametime 7.5. The marketing effort began in January 2006 when the release was highlighted at IBM’s Lotusphere conference, and reached a high point with the September 13, 2006, launch event. While some may consider IBM’s messaging to be over the top, Burton Group believes that it is a necessary maneuver. IBM’s commitment to Sametime has been ambiguous at times, allowing Microsoft to gain traction with its unified communication strategy and products (i.e., Office Communicator 2005 and Office Live Communications Server 2005). Prior to Sametime 7.5, IBM faced three barriers to becoming a resurgent force in the real-time collaboration market:
- The Sametime user experience was not state of the art. If users did not find Sametime to be a compelling product, IBM’s install-base and future adoption options would be threatened.
- A Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based platform available under IBM’s Workplace brand duplicated Sametime’s capabilities. If information technology (IT) strategists felt that Sametime was not a viable platform, that perception would also threaten IBM’s install-base and growth options.
- IBM lacked an application and integration framework for real-time collaboration and unified communications. If enterprise decision makers concluded that IBM was not a credible solution provider, IBM would have to cede that ground to Microsoft, which would exploit that position to place greater competitive pressures on IBM.
Given these barriers, Sametime 7.5 is hugely strategic. Success will invigorate the Sametime brand and position IBM as a credible Microsoft alternative for real-time collaborative applications and unified communications. The following features demonstrate IBM’s commitment to modernize the platform:
- Numerous user interface and functional improvements
- A new client architecture, based on Eclipse, with a plug-in model for using Sametime as an application platform
- A new gateway for federation with public instant messaging (IM) networks
- Additional partnerships for audio and video technologies
Given the impact Sametime 7.5 will have on communication and collaboration strategies, IT organizations should not view this release as an incremental update. Instead, architects and infrastructure planners should assess the bigger picture of where IBM is heading with real-time collaboration and unified communications. Enterprises satisfied with IBM’s approach will come one step closer to the goal of a unified platform that encompasses IM, audio, video, web conferencing, and presence. Organizations that view Sametime negatively will likely adopt a Microsoft-oriented solution or a best-of-breed alternative.