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IBM to developers: Change is the only constant

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

eWeek Japan

LAS VEGAS — Developers need to start embracing the changes the next generation of computing is sparking or risk being left in the dust by their competition.

That was the implicit message today as IBM executives laid out a road map of some of its strategies to the 4,000 attendees here at its Solutions 2000 conference.

Robert LeBlanc, vice president of strategy for IBM software, didn’t mince words.

“If you don’t change, someone is going to change. Your competition will change and take business from you,” LeBlanc said.

Developers need to pick software that will help them “Internet-enable” their businesses without having to start from scratch, LeBlanc said, adding that integration is key in handling the data explosion borne from the Web.

LeBlanc cited one customer who reported that 85 percent of its technical team is spent on integration and only 15 percent on creating new value for customers. If that trend doesn’t reverse, it could mean trouble for that business’ future success, he said.

Echoing comments from yesterday’s start of the show, LeBlanc again stressed the importance of open standards, and Linux in particular, going forward. The key is flexibility, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is provide you with an e-business platform to protect the assets you have and bring you forward,” LeBlanc said.

Instant messaging as ‘game changer’

John Patrick, IBM’s vice president of Internet technology, said the challenges will be different in the next generation of the Internet, which he described as faster, more intelligent and always “on.”

“The bottlenecks are going to shift away from the last mile back to the server,” Patrick said. “At IBM, we like this problem.”

But Patrick also envisions instant messaging as a key part of the next-generation Internet, as the technology moves from a social use to a business one.

“This is a game changer for customer service,” Patrick said, adding that IBM has 235,000 registered users of Lotus’ Sametime instant messaging product.

Lotus’ new Raven knowledge management software will create a “knowledge window” that allows you to discover what other people in an organization know, Patrick said.

“The bottom line is, are you going to accommodate the Internet while following your old business processes or are you going to embrace the Internet … while accommodating your old ways of doing business?” Patrick asked.

In other news today, IBM announced a strategic alliance with Kana Communications Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., to integrate Kana’s enterprise-scale relationship management solutions with IBM’s middleware, hardware and services, including the WebSphere application server.

An IBM official said the three-year deal is expected to generate as much as $1 billion in revenue for the Armonk, N.Y., company. A Kana official declined to say how much the deal could mean for Kana in additional revenue. The integrated offering will first be available on the Netfinity platform with others to follow.

In the works at Lotus

On the Lotus front, Lotus CEO and President Al Zollar described a new market for products like Domino and Notes in what he calls “collaborative commerce.” In a real-time survey of audience members using voting devices in the arena, 77 percent said their Web sites do not have live customer support. Zollar said live support is critical for future e-commerce.

Zollar demonstrated a beta project on a B2B Web site called Fish.net that combines Lotus’ Sametime and Domino collaboration with IBM’s Websphere server. He also spoke of ways Lotus is using its collaborative software to speed up the learning curve for new technology and deliver “just-in-time training.”

“Our overall strategy at Lotus is to focus on the technology that can be turned into solutions by people like you to close the gap” between the rate of learning and the rate of technology, Zollar told the developers. “That starts with a very strong foundation of messaging and collaboration. It’s more than just asynchronous messaging or e-mail.”

Developers should be mindful of collaboration needs if they want to be involved in the next wave of e-commerce, he said.

“B2B is about more than point and click and buy,” Zollar said. “It’s really going to be about people working together, collaborating and bringing together the best know-how.”

He added, “If you’re going to be spending $100,000, $500,000 or $1 million, it’s naïve to believe that people are not going to collaborate, either within an organization or across a firewall.”