LOTUSPHERE - Interview: Goyal chats up key Lotus strategies

Lotus recently named 20-year IBM veteran Ambuj Goyal to run its Lotus Software division and lead the company into the next era of collaborative computing. Goyal, whose first name ironically means Lotus in Indian, was formerly the head of IBM Solutions and Strategy where he built the WebSphere Business Integration business and led the acquisition of Crossworlds Software Inc. and Holosofx. He helped develop the component strategy for Domino software, developed IBM's first Enterprise Java Beans technology and helped create DB2. He sat down Monday at Lotusphere with John Fontana to talk about his background and his goals for the future of Lotus under the IBM Software Group.

Q: Give me a rundown of your background and what parts of it are relevant to what you hope to accomplish at Lotus?Basically I have been in research. The component technology. What you know as EJB's today, that was done by my team. It was part of the component broker project. Java came along in 1995, and people said it is good technology for the Internet, but the real value is the cross-platform environment without thinking about the operating system. So we put out EJB, component technology, the first beans. That was in 1996. Before there was a WebSphere, we had a component technology.

Q: So your knowledge of components is the strength you bring to Lotus?Yes, we learned how to get the platforms done. If you take a look at mail as a solution and not a platform, so even what we announced, Next Gen Mail, if people think about it as a product, yeah, it has value as a product. But it is more valuable as a platform. We are going to add not only the mail component, but the other components. If someone is thinking of writing an application and has these components available, they can write a business application. In previous jobs that I have done, I've taken technologies and made them relevant to the industry.

Q: So it sounds like your job at Lotus is to fully pull Lotus software into the IBM software portfolio and express it as components?Not only as components but as a platform to build dynamic workplaces or business applications. Today if you take a look at Accenture or IBM Global Services or PWC, if they go to build a solution Lotus is furthest from their minds even though they are building say a human capital management system. Why the furthest from there minds, because we have not created the platform and the tools to enable the ISVs to build that kind of a solution. Even in my first few weeks, I've got the team to talk more about the business proposition to our partners to highlight what we are trying to get done here. So this is what I did to make the BI [WebSphere Business Integration business] successful, this is what I am going to try to do with Lotus to try to take it to the new market. Then you say, OK, if we are going to do that, we don't have the time and energy left to focus on building transactions, repositories, messaging. We leverage the open standards, right. We focus our energy on what we are good at. We do that and we expand our markets. So that is the direction that we are going to head. Given what we have done in the past it's just natural for me.

Q: But you also have to balance that against Domino as a platform that two-thirds of your users are running without WebSphere anywhere to be found?I spent two-thirds of my time speaking about Domino. The reason being is that Domino has 100 million users and I think about 45,000 small to medium businesses and about 3,500 business partners, those are approximate numbers. But that base is a huge base and that base needs to continue to build. But it is not going to get me a billion users. Because it is a rich client, it is not componentized. We want to be able to deliver any time, any where the same client experience and embed it in other applications.

Q: So you subtract the rich client and build the components?No, we continue the rich client, too. My view is that it is a good business. Let me give you an analogy. Have you heard of IMS [Information Management System]? When we did DB2 that did not mean that IMS must move to DB2. The IMS customer base has continued to expand. But IMS was not going to be the huge growth business that we wanted. Have you heard of CICS [Customer Information Control System]? So when we did WebSphere we knew there had been hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in CICS applications and that base continues to expand, but that doesn't mean that we don't do WebSphere. We don't worry about doing WebSphere because CICS is already there. In fact, WebSphere has expanded the CICS base, why, because there are more transactions going from WebSphere to CICS because people have been building portals and other things. Same way, it's my belief, the new thing that we are talking about here, componentized version, Internet-standards is not going to take the Domino base away. It will expand it.

Q: Lotus customers have a history with the cc:Mail platform, they've seen a product whither and die. They are sensitive, how do you make sure people understand this won't happen again.I understand, what you saying. It is very simple. We will just have to build credibility by continuing to release products. The proof of the pudding is in eating it. I want to say that this is slightly different than cc:Mail and Notes/Domino. Notes/Domino is a platform, people wrote applications. cc:Mail was mail. It was not a platform. If you take the Next Gen Mail as just mail, then it is just like cc:Mail. That is why I tried to make the point that this is just the first component of the environment.

Q: Is this Next Gen Mail in a sense a test case scenario where people can actually start to see that this is what a component looks like, this is our WebSphere platform, this is how it plugs inAnd you leverage that across the Domino and the J2EE environment. There are lots of Web applications that people are doing on WebSphere and they can't leverage the Domino environment. So that is why we announced the Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio. So it is expanding our partner opportunities as well. Now the Domino partners that were put out of some of the J2EE or Web-based opportunities, they are now getting into those opportunities with these two integrated environments. So it is my view that the Next Gen platform strategy that we are on will not only expand the Next Gen model but it will expand the Domino base as well.

Q: It seems you intend to build interest in the platform through the developers. Microsoft is famous for using their developers to pull along a new technology?Exactly. But not only developers, but my business partners. So how are we designing the Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio. So we are going to the developer and partner community. If you take a look at our partners, they are doing their Web sites in the J2EE world and what do they do, they write Java code. Now with this toolkit, they can get to Domino data without using anything else.

Q: I heard you like to get things done and get them done quickly, is that your style? You said you are already working on two releases of Domino?I have funded two releases. Typically, we don't fund two releases we fund only one. We did it this way because people are worried that we may not invest in Domino, so I said let's do the next two.

Q: One of those will be a major release?I don't know. Each one of these is a major release because there are hundreds of people working and building code. My point to you is Domino is a base that we are not only going to support but we are going to nurture. It is a business. Just a pure Domino - we need to continue to invest and nurture the platform.

Q: You said IBM is investing $1 billion in Lotus. Can you tell me how you plan to spend that and over what time period?It is the total Lotus environment [Domino and components] and the major point I wanted to make is that the $1 billion is not that important, but it is the billions of other IBM investments that the Lotus investment leverages as you move to the standards. We can focus not on the base messaging transactions, repository, directory that we use to do. We focus more of our energy on building the collaborative applications and platforms.

Q: So where does the billion get spent?Development, business partner management, generating leads, etc.

Q: And by leveraging the other billions in investment you mean WebSphere, Tivoli, DB2?Yes. When I take it from them it is free to me. And when they take it from me - when they take my collaborative stuff and say embed it in system management, a system admin can then collaborate with other admin. Today there are not collaborative things embedded in system management. So in IBM, we are leveraging each other's components to build a portfolio and that is why we can offer our products in the marketplace much faster. You take a look at our WebSphere Portal Server, which is one of the greatest examples of how to leverage the components. We shared millions of lines of code. Only 10% to 15% was new and underneath that it had the app server, DB2, the Tivoli management system. In Extend, it has Lotus components and then they wrote the UI framework and they addressed the market very quickly. Our customers win. IBM wins. Our shareholders win. This whole component strategy that we have now is what we put together over the last two years. And I was in that strategy group. Like I say, code talks. The more code we ship the more people will believe that we are doing this.

Q: That gets back to you wanting to do things quickly because when you have code people can play with it and it becomes meaningful to them?Yes. We say we learn in the marketplace, so we know that our componentization strategy is working. It has been working for four or five years and it will continue to work and Lotus will benefit from it.

Q: So fit Lotus and all of this into the On-Demand strategy.The On-Demand strategy is about turning organizations on the side. Let me tell you what that means. Typically organizations are pillars and when you say I want to do an end-to-end process you have gaps because the pillars don't work with each other because the technologies do not work with each other. So think about end-to-end business processes. So it is about business processes and people processes. There exist only two things in a company, the back-end processes and the front-end processes. The back-end processes are what my previous business was, WebSphere Business Integration, that is what I did. I had 35 solutions in there, platforms for retail, financial networks, telecos, all of those. That is the back-end. But then there are people processes. So what we want to do in an On-Demand world, there are people who do all sorts of things, human capital management, claims processing, whatever it is. The carrier for the front-end processes are two. One is IBM Dynamic Workplace, the other is WebSphere Portal Server. Those are the two carriers. And Lotus is putting its technology in those two. The carrier for the back-end processes is the WebSphere Business Integration. So that is the business I built, so what I did for the back-end, I intend to do for the front-end, so that is how Lotus fits into the On-Demand strategy. It will be the heart of the front-end strategy.

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