IBM's Lotus Software Group has opened up the features and components of its software to allow them to be accessed from any J2EE (Java Enterprise Edition) application server.
This means components that were traditionally only available on the Lotus/Domino platform will be available for IBM's WebSphere as well as a host of application servers sold by J2EE-compliant vendors such as BEA and Sun.
"We see the market has reached a point of maturity that makes this move viable," said Duncan Hewitt, regional manager for Lotus Software. "Customers have been demanding it - it's part of the change we have been making for around two years, to make Lotus technology available across other platforms."
The specifics of these plans enraged Domino developers earlier this year, when Lotus pulled a key piece of technology, called "Garnet", from the release of Domino 6, which included support for Java Server Pages (JSPs). These simple programming mechanisms allow for the displaying of dynamic content on a Web page, and many developers argue they would have provided a bridge into the J2EE development world without users having to purchase and deploy a full-blown J2EE server, such as WebSphere.
"As we proceeded through our normal development and beta-testing processes, we identified that the embedded J2EE engine that we had developed would not provide capabilities that are as robust as those available in the latest contemporary J2EE application servers. We therefore determined that we could provide a richer application development experience by exploiting those J2EE servers," was the official Lotus line on the decision.
Hewitt said partners had reacted positively to the latest Lotus announcement as nearly every one of them already had some kind of skill base in J2EE. "It is a simple extension of where they were going," he said. "This is one of the easier announcements we have made to customers and partners as it's logical that this is where we would be going."
IBM's most recent financial results released in April suggest that the opening up of Lotus' technologies may have been to the detriment of revenues for the Lotus Group, after revenues fell slightly over the three months to March 31, 2002. On the other hand, the strategy is of significant benefit to IBM's middleware division, which sells Websphere and a host of integration tools that developers need to purchase to integrate the technologies at the application level. This business grew 53 per cent over the same period.
Hewitt said he could not comment on revenues for the different divisions of IBM. He added that customers have the choice of other application server vendors and that there are "enough other tools you could use" for the integration.