The Collaboration in the Cloud Conundrum

Michael Vizard

The great thing about e-mail services in the cloud is that they can enable all kinds of new collaboration and business process possibilities. The bad thing about e-mail in the cloud is that those services are probably going to be fairly divorced from many of your business processes.

IBM this week is touting the value of its Lotus Live services in the cloud, which Sean Poulley, IBM vice president for cloud collaboration, says is starting to gain traction as companies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, C & D Foods, Crawford & Company, FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, General Milling Corporation, General Motors Components Holdings and the Zoo and Aquarium Association of Australia come to appreciate the value of extended collaboration in the cloud.

For example, it's a whole lot easier to create new business processes that span multiple companies when they can all leverage the same cloud computing service. The challenge, however, is that most companies already have an e-mail system on premise that anchors most of their existing workflow and associated business processes.

The real issue, says Poulley, is that most of those e-mail systems were built around Microsoft Exchange, which is the dominant system in the market. But that system, says Poulley, was never really designed to be tightly coupled to workflow processes, which makes it difficult to now extend those processes into the cloud and beyond the boundaries of the traditional enterprise.

Lotus software, by contrast, he says, was designed with the unification of e-mail and workflow in mind. So now that companies want to collaborate via the cloud, Poulley says the IBM approach is starting to resonate again with customers. This is especially true now that IBM can show how well Lotus Live integrates with third-party applications from companies such as Ariba and SugarCRM that provide e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) software, respectively.


Whether the rise of cloud computing means that IBM stands a chance of usurping Microsoft Exchange is debatable. But one thing that is for certain is that more companies will take another look at both the IBM and Microsoft approaches, which for IBM means a chance to fight another day in a war most people thought they lost a long time ago.

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