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Thank you for your feedback to our last post. We are thrilled that through the use of blogs and twitter, we can engage the community in a nearly real-time conversation. What I find odd, however, is the fact that a leader of another large company can call for the “eradication” of Lotus Notes to his partner community, but it was David Hoff’s “Top 10 Reasons I Left Lotus Notes for Google Apps” that sparked the ire of the Lotus Notes faithful. We clearly hit a nerve here and wanted to take an opportunity to respond to some of the feedback.

First of all, let me say that Cloud Sherpas is made up of several former Lotus Notes Professionals. In my previous role with a large Fortune 100 company, I was responsible for the implementation, support, and day-to-day management of a 30K Lotus Notes and Domino user base. I actually helped that company migrate to the cloud right before I joined Cloud Sherpas. In any case, I too was once very proud of the Lotus brand going back to version 3.0c. However, I write to you now on this side of the divide because I have seen, acknowledged, and experienced what the cloud and Google Apps can provide for each of your organizations.

The time has now come for all of us to be thought leaders for our respective organizations. Are we really so unconditionally committed to maintaining the status quo and defending our on-premise messaging infrastructures? Knowing what you know now, if 10 years ago, you or your organization had the option of either pursuing the cloud or advancing the brand of your on-premise infrastructure, wouldn’t at least some part of you be extremely tempted to forgo your moral obligations and chase innovation?

For many years, the Lotus community has adeptly provided reliable, robust ways to deliver messaging and collaboration to users across multiple platforms. In the early days, Lotus was quick to develop Lotus Notes support for OS/2, which provided a true multitasking platform. With the acquisition from IBM, Lotus began pioneering support for the 64 bit platform on the AS400 and its associated stability, long before the Intel platform even dreamed of addressing memory beyond the 32 bit limit. When it became clear that Linux was ready for the data center, again, IBM and Lotus embraced the platform and released full support for the domino server.

Recently, IBM Lotus has even dared to dip a toe in the SaaS water. In January, IBM announced that Bluehouse is now “LotusLive”. We applaud this endorsement of the cloud model. However, this service still lacks the basic ability to provide browser-supported email (iNotes). At this point, it seems IBM is just attempting to host versions of its on-premise software in IBM data centers. This lack of a multi-tenant architecture and scale is clearly reflected in the pricing and feature set.

Aside from the fact that a browser offering is still not available, businesses cannot even purchase the product unless they commit to 1,000 seats. Furthermore, the purchase price is a massive $162/user (yes, this includes the software license for the client). This is more than 3x the cost of the entire Google Apps Suite, and users are subject to a host of limitations, not the least of which is a 1 GB mail file (versus Google’s 25 GB). We are citing these figures from the LotusLive signup page at https://www.lotuslive.com/pricing/notes.

Regardless of what side you are on, we can all acknowledge that, from time-to-time, disruptive changes occur in the IT industry. These advances leapfrog incremental evolution by approaching the challenge in a fundamentally different way. We see many of these characteristics in Google Apps. By the intensity of the reaction that we’ve generated, we can see that change is difficult. In this light, we want to elaborate on the benefits that our customers have experienced by switching to Google Apps. We have addressed the feedback with an analysis of five key points:

1. Rapidly Changing Technology. There were numerous responses from consultants that Notes/Domino 8.5 is a great product with many wonderful features. Although my experience ended with 8.0, I assume that you tell the truth. However, most Notes/Domino organizations are not on the latest version and probably can’t tell you if or when they are going to upgrade. I’m sure the folks at IBM can tell you exactly how many organizations are fully deployed on version 8.5, but in today’s economy, how many companies can afford to allocate time, money and effort to upgrade on-premise infrastructure instead of using those resources to focus on their core business? In the move to Notes/Domino 8.5, server upgrades are a very small component of the process. To take full advantage of the latest release, desktops, clients, templates and applications must be upgraded too, which can be quite daunting in terms of hardware requirements and time. (One of our enterprise customers with over 15,000 users would need to upgrade 38% of their laptops just to use the 8.5 client.) Whether you spend 20 minutes, 20 hours, or 20 days upgrading your Lotus Notes and Domino infrastructure, should this ever be the chief priority for your business? The truth of the matter is that in today’s economy, using and/or transitioning to the latest and greatest in IT is not an option for organizations focused on sustaining, building, and growing their business.

2. Notes and Domino Applications. Lotus Notes and Domino is a wonderful rapid application platform. Things such as field level security and offline capabilities are merely a few of the many positive features that provide a “Swiss army knife” of tools at a developer’s immediate disposal. If you are driving business-facing and transactional applications that help your organization succeed, by all means, keep it going. However, the best (and most cost-effective) solution to a problem is oftentimes not the most complex or versatile option, but rather, the one that most directly and efficiently meets your needs. To continue the metaphor, a pair of scissors can better solve certain problems for which a fold-out “Swiss army knife” would prove too costly, too convoluted, and too cumbersome.

With such a useful and fast development tool, many organizations find themselves left with a myriad of Lotus Notes applications that, while a good idea in the beginning, lack the careful life cycle approach to application development and data management. Over time, the initial value of the application wanes, and the enterprise is forced to dedicate ongoing resources and money to non-core business needs. For example, traditionally crucial Notes applications often mature into more complex CRM and/or ERP applications.

3. End Users. In today’s world in which messaging has extended to web clients and mobile devices, we believe that Google’s approach to mail is more convenient and appropriate for end users. Over the years, IBM has continued to extend support to a wider range of browsers; however, cross-platform support is a necessity, not a luxury. As the lines of collaboration blur inside and outside the organizations, IT departments have increasing difficulty mandating client software. Yet, with over 100+ million users on GMail, Google has built a platform that is designed from the ground-up to be intuitive, fast and self-supported. Deployment of all users on this single platform provides an unprecedented level of feedback for the evolution and refinement of Apps on a daily basis.

More often than not, many of the advanced features that fat clients provide are not utilized by end users. In comparison, Google has built a client that addresses key end user pain points like mail box size limits, message labeling, and a powerful search functionality, all powered by an almost infinitely scalable, cloud-based infrastructure that requires zero administrative management or maintenance.

4. Innovation. At some point, even Lotus gurus have to wonder, is Lotus Notes and Domino driving innovation, or is it more engrossed in features and functions? With Google, we see many companies take their first step into cloud computing by moving on-premise messaging spam and antivirus filtering to Google Message Security (formerly Postini). On the surface, the case is simple; an overwhelming majority of Internet inbound mail traffic is spam, so why consume precious internal bandwidth receiving these messages if they’re only going to get deleted? If you dig a little deeper, you see first-hand the innovation provided by having an intensely focused, multi-tenant filtering and archiving solution. Whereas on-premise solutions can only “see” what’s happening locally, collect patterns, and download definitions, a cloud-based solution has access to all this information with an enormous sampling of Internet activity in real-time. Google is constantly adding dynamic features and functions to the Google Apps suite. In the last year, Google has added real-time voice and video chat to instant messaging, released Google Video (aka YouTube for your internal organization), and developed full Java support for Google App Engine.

5. Cost. Running a data center is a costly proposition. As employees and customers demand systems that are designed to yield zero downtime, additional resources must be allocated to provide redundancy, failover, and recovery capabilities. The cost of providing IT services can be greatly reduced with an economy of scale. Did you know that Google is actually the world’s fourth-largest server manufacturer? (Not for resale, but for their own use.) Building on such a massive scale proves once again that Google has approached the problem differently. As another example, Google uses a custom-built operating system stack that bootstraps itself at runtime. This allows Google to release and deploy an update across hundreds of thousands of servers in less than 24 hours. The scale of this design is one of many ways that Google’s economies of scale greatly cuts costs for Google, which in turn, results in significantly lower costs for customers. To refer back to the first of these five topics, instead of spending additional funds on IT, a business should reduce costs and overhead associated with building, operating, maintaining, and upgrading IT infrastructures.

Enhancing your messaging and collaborative infrastructures can be the perfect, first step onto the cloud. Google is redefining this space for you each and every day. And for the most part, unless you’re talking to Google, other players in the industry are not going to help you migrate an organization of less than 1000 users. Why would they keep such a good thing from smaller to mid-sized companies? The answer most likely goes back to how much revenue providers (in this case, Lotus Notes) need to generate from software licenses that you purchase for your current on-premise deployment in order to profitably offset their own costs.

From time-to-time, disruptive changes occur in the IT industry. These advances leapfrog incremental evolution by approaching the challenge in a fundamentally different way. We see many of these characteristics in Google Apps. Do you?

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Cloud Sherpas [www.cloudsherpas.com] is a leading Google Apps Reseller, systems integrator and application developer. Our Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists have migrated tens of thousands of users from legacy, on-premise messaging systems to Google Apps and Google App Engine. We help organizations adopt cloud computing to innovate and dramatically reduce their IT expenses. SherpaTools for Google Apps [www.sherpatools.com] is a free app from Cloud Sherpas that enhances the functionality and ease-of-use of Google Apps for both administrators and end-users.