On Demand Gets a ”Workplace”

May 20, 2004

On Demand Gets a ”Workplace”

On Demand Gets a ”Workplace”

by Fern B. Halper and Judith S. Hurwitz

IBM has announced the next stage in its software strategy that leverages its overall investments in middleware, database, pervasive computing, and its Lotus client side software to create the building blocks to support a dynamic response environment. What is impressive about this announcement is that it creates a more modular and smaller footprint version of IBM’s software offerings that can appeal to a broader market including medium sized businesses as well as heterogeneous, distributed companies. What we especially liked about this announcement is the fact that it puts a container around IBM’s On Demand program. The approach with IBM Workplace enables companies to more easily configure a computing environment that combines rich clients with mobile devices and even terminals, when appropriate. It also offers a more pragmatic platform to support an ISV community that has been looking for a smaller footprint development platform.

This announcement includes two new offerings in the IBM Workplace family:  IBM Workplace Client, Rich Edition and IBM Workplace, Micro Edition. What IBM has done is to create a slimmed down version of database, middleware, and management capabilities so that it can service the client environment with a series of workplace offerings that range from support for the mobile desktop and devices to the rich client environment. The distinction is that IBM will leverage its strength on the server as a way to insulate customers from changes in the client environments by placing the control of client side content on the server.

IBM’s new Workplace offerings dovetail with the company’s broad vision of responding to one of the top priorities for the enterprise CIO – simplifying IT infrastructures to sharpen innovation and increase business responsiveness. CIO’s are now faced with a myriad of systems, databases, and portals that have been deployed throughout their companies. The complexity of this infrastructure can be daunting: thousands of systems and too many databases, warehouses, and portals. The IT departments of at least 80% of today’s businesses with over 100 employees manage multiple platforms for their companies. The required maintenance of this complex infrastructure can lead a company to divert precious resources away from innovative business initiatives that could strengthen a company’s strategic position in the marketplace.

The new IBM Workplace environment could be just what customers are looking for to reduce the complexity and cost of managing a huge installed base of various client environments. In addition, customers are increasingly looking to move to a service oriented architecture approach. One of the key issues for customers is how to transform their software assets into business services so that it is easier to assemble services together to create composite applications at runtime. One key for customers is the need to have a container for these software assets. The IBM Workplace environment offers customers that container.

Of course, this isn’t just about technology. Companies will also have to deal with issues such as vision, governance, and change management as part of this. In fact, IBM’s current offer is really a set of best practices and software that IBM can use with its customers to reduce complexity. IBM global services is playing a large role helping customers deal with these issues and implementing the On Demand Workplace.

Clearly, IBM would like to regain a position on the desktop that it has lost to Microsoft over the years. On the other hand, IBM is not trying to cut Microsoft developers and ISV’s out of the picture. IBM makes too much money from this community to pursue that approach. Rather it would like to change the balance of power so that the IBM Workplace environment is the controlling environment that incorporates .Net and Microsoft Office into the new on demand focused computing environment.

The IBM Workplace and these new offerings are evolutionary, and this is by design. The IBM Workplace builds on existing technologies – either major products like Lotus messaging and WebSphere or emerging wireless technologies. By focusing on helping companies leverage their investments and begin to move towards dynamic response, IBM is following a pragmatic approach. Companies will need to take a hard look at what they have in place and what they’ll need to do in order to become more adaptive. We will expect IBM to do more in terms of articulating and demonstrating the value of this vision in the context of the workplace in the future. This will help customers understand the potential of on demand.

Fern B. Halper is Principal and Senior Consultant at Hurwitz & Associates, a consulting, research, and analyst firm focused on emerging software markets. She can be reached at fhalper@hurwitzassociates.com

Judith Hurwitz is the President of Hurwitz & Associates.


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