Messaging heavyweights drive collaboration agendas

Touting Web services-based component models, IBM and Microsoft are vying for developer loyalty with upgrades to collaboration-focused messaging platforms. At its annual Lotus phere show this week in Orlando , Fla. , IBM's Lotus Software unit plans to unveil two projects designed to bridge Domino and WebSphere development environments while protecting existing Domino developer skill sets, according to officials at the Cambridge, Mass.-based company.

The projects, codenamed Montreal and Seoul , aim to address some of concerns that erupted at last year's show when IBM revealed plans to standardize Lotus technologies on J2EE. At that time, many Domino developers expressed fear that the Notes client and Domino development environment would become obsolete in favor of WebSphere. Billed as part of Lotus' next-generation collaboration strategy, the goal of the initiatives is to help protect the Domino developer skill set and related applications as they move into a Java environment, said an IBM spokesman.

Project Montreal will adapt some Domino Designer functionality to IBM's WebSphere Studio Java-based developer toolkit, according to IBM officials. Project Seoul , meanwhile, aims to provide collaborative capabilities in a component fashion for use in a variety of J2EE-based applications and business solutions. The Montreal and Seoul technologies will begin to hit to the market later this year, according to IBM. IBM also will use Lotusphere to trumpet the use of common componentry across Lotus and IBM software groups, as it continues its efforts to meld the radically different Domino and J2EE application development environments.

The messages delivered at Lotusphere are aimed at assuring Domino developers that "they have investment protection in all the applications and skill sets they have invested in," according to Ken Bisconti, vice president of messaging solutions at IBM Lotus Software.

Although Projects Montreal and Seoul are designed to ease the unification of Domino and WebSphere, IBM is also attempting to pave the road toward DB2 as the underlying data store for its messaging platform, according to Dan Rasmus, vice president and research leader at Aliso Viejo, Calif.-Giga Information Group.

"In the long term we think DB2 will be the repository of the future. But one of the reasons it is not the repository of the now is because they have to get the development tools lined up so the Lotus developers who are used to writing on top of Domino can do the same kind of work in DB2," Rasmus said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is expected in midyear to ship the next version of Exchange, formerly codenamed Titanium. Based on the same code as Exchange 2000, Exchange 2003 is viewed as an incremental upgrade toward a future version of messaging platform that will be based on its Yukon unified data storage technology. That offering, codenamed Kodiak, also will delve further into Web services, according to Jim Bernardo, product manager at Microsoft Exchange, in Redmond, Wash. To address developer challenges in the interim, Microsoft in the middle of the year plans to ship a managed API set designed to help developers embrace Web services.

"On Exchange we are not yet a full Web services version, but we are in process of building managed APIs that make it easy for developers to write Web services leveraging Exchange," Bernardo said.

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