IBM updates Lotus Workplace

IBM Corp. officials continue to hone their strategy for next-generation enterprise computing with recent additions to their server-based Lotus Workplace solution.

In particular, new Workplace client technology adds Web-centered computing to the functionality of traditional desktop PC applications. Administrators can also deploy applications and data to mobile devices such as personal digital assistants and wireless phones while managing the entire information systems environment from a single console.

The move exemplifies IBM's effort to exploit the advantages that Web-based technology brings to integrating applications enterprisewide while giving users the power of desktop applications.

"Web-based architectures produce tremendous cost savings, but there are great limitations in only using a browser for access" to applications, said Jeanette Barlow, marketing manager for IBM Workplace.

For one thing, she said, with the company's new client technology, users can go off-line to do their work, put the data into local encrypted storage and then later synchronize the work with the server-based applications, which adds up to a much more secure working environment.

Because the environment is centrally managed, users can be assigned individual access rights, Barlow said, which further boosts security.

For example, such role-based management would allow an administrator to grant an agency's employees full access to applications through the rich client or a browser, while allowing only limited public access to documents through the browser interface. A rich client is a combination of a thin client, an application designed so small that the bulk of the data processing is done on a server, and a fat client, in which the application does the bulk of the processing.

IBM officials first introduced Workplace last year as the open-standards middleware platform they would use to meet demand for next-generation computing solutions. It supports clients running Microsoft Corp. Windows, Unix, Linux and operating systems that are used in mobile devices, such as Symbian Ltd.'s Symbian.

"IBM is betting its future on this," said Mark Levitt, research vice president for collaborative computing at IDC.

With Workplace, he said the company is trying to re-create a Windows environment that includes features such as drag-and-drop capabilities without having to manage the entire environment, which a stand-alone application requires, while allowing users to also run non-Windows applications.

"Most [enterprises] are not homogenous Windows environments, so users can choose to run those other applications if they need them," Levitt said.

However, the company faces stiff competition from the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. and, in particular, Microsoft. The latter company's new version of Windows, dubbed Longhorn, is due to ship in 2006 and is expected to include most of the features IBM is building into Workplace.

Government agencies have been early adopters of the kind of server-based architecture that Workplace is intended for, according to Eric Schuster, business development manager with GTSI Corp.'s IBM technology team.

"The technology is so much more attractive because the power of servers is much greater in a much smaller package that the government can now take full advantage of remote application delivery," he said.

Along with the client technology, IBM officials also introduced Lotus Workplace Messaging, which extends rich-client capabilities to low-cost browser-based messaging, and Lotus Workplace Documents, which provides a packaged capability similar to Microsoft Office for editing documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at

hullite@mindspring.com.

***

Workplace essentials

Some useful information about IBM Corp.'s Lotus Workplace:

In addition to the client, messaging and document software functions added to Workplace, the office application already included e-mail, collaboration, content management and e-learning components.

IBM will charge Workplace customers $2 per month per user plus $1 per month per user for each IBM application they access.

To use Workplace applications, customers will also need IBM's WebSphere application server and Web portal software.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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