Met with our IBM Sales Reps today

What, you say?!? The Captain is writing about technology? IBM/Lotus technology, specifically? It can't be!!!

Seriously, we had a chat with the regional sales folks from IBM today, and I thought the message was interesting. Ed would have liked it, I think. Background info: we're a decent-sized Notes shop (8,000 Notes client licenses, 10,000 SameTime, LEI, QuickPlace), and we were sitting down with IBM, my boss, my boss' boss (Director level) and our licensing person to cover what we have, in terms of maintenance and support, as well as where we should be going. There were a couple of surprising messages.

First, the Lotus specialist on the call made an interesting point to our Director, who had asked for a quote to expand our 500 QuickPlace seats to 9,000 (I have no idea why the seats range between 8,000 and 10,000 depending on product, so don't ask): he suggested WebSphere portal would meet our requirement (basic intranet document management and publishing stuff) for about 1/3 the price. So far, so normal, right? IBM pushing Portal won't surprise anyone, even if it is interesting to see them push it in cost-saving mode. It was nice to see the rep offer alternative approaches to solve the customer's need, rather than simply trying to dump product as has sometimes happened in the past.

The second, much more important, surprise was very good news, from my perspective. When asked to describe the roadmap for Domino for the next few years, the rep mentioned the J2EE-based Workplace brand/product/I'm-sure-I'm-wrong-about-which-it-is, as expected. But then he pointed out that, since we have Notes applications deployed, he wouldn't recommend Workplace to us. He also pointed out that it is a much less mature product line than Notes, and so is lacking some features that traditional Notes shops would expect from a messaging and collaboration infrastructure. He said that Workplace, in its current incarnation plays well with new customers, but that it doesn't make as much sense for existing Notes shops, especially if those Notes shops have deployed applications. He also explicitly said that IBM is not offering Workplace as a Notes replacement, but only as an alternative (he didn't get into the Rich Client Platform and how Notes fits in there, which is certainly understandable given the time available and the audience). 

Now this information is nothing new. No surprise, in terms of the fact that Ed (and his evil twin Alan, who really needs a blog...) have been saying similar things for a long time. So why was I pleasantly surprised? Because it came from a random IBM sales meeting, and Ed was not involved. So the message appears to have gotten pretty far within IBM itself. From where I'm sitting, it is a Very Good Thing that the IBM sales folks didn't tell my boss' boss that Notes was being replaced by Workplace, or by Portal, or by J2EE platforms in general. I know better, of course, but if the sales guys had given our Director the wrong message, it would have made for a painful short week of explaining repeatedly that The Horse's Mouth (IBM) was really not the authoritative source. I might have had to pull out the big trump card and e-mailed Ed, fer cryin' out loud. Like he doesn't have enough to do, what with breaking in his new wheels and all...