I'm a Christian and we are approaching Easter, so I'd like to discuss the resurrection with you. Not of Jesus, enough has been said about that already, but of something entirely different.
I've just got back from IBM Think 2018 in Las Vegas, USA. Apart from the jet-lag and dehydration from being in the desert and air-conditioning, it was a very inspiring trip. I went out there expecting to.... ....actually, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was so much more than I could have thought of.
Let’s start with the conference itself. Putting almost 30,000 people in one conference centre was always going to be a bit of a squeeze, but the Mandalay Bay seemed to cope. Well, from Tuesday it coped very well. But not having the expo area open on Monday and masses of people trying to register all at the same time meant that packed corridors quickly became a safety hazard.
If you are reading this and thinking "Enough already about Think and the hotel! What about this resurrection thing?" then I totally understand.
IBM is trying to resurrect it's Collaboration Solutions brand, There have been some notable changes in leadership in the past 18 months, Jeff Schick, Ronnie Maffa, Inhi Cho Suh & Ed Brill have all moved on. The difference this has made is almost palpable. I'm not going to look in the rearview mirror and blame any one of those people for doing their job or not, but the change in attitude is amazing.
Part of this "New Life" is in some way attributable to the deal done with development and services company HCL, which has seen large numbers of committed but downtrodden IBMers leave Big Blue for the same but new jobs in HCL. Having met with several of them this past week, I couldn't help but comment on how amazing it was to see them smiling again. In the past, they have worn the 'all too familiar' grimace of someone toeing the Big Blue Line.
Notes & Domino v10
Microsoft would have you believe that this was dead and buried years ago by IBM. Well if that was the case then this resurrection will put Jesus' three days in the tomb well out of the record books. Many companies have tried to move from Domino and lots already have for mail, going to Google, Exchange or Office 365. But the applications that they built to run their companies on, they remain for the most part, too expensive to migrate. No fault of Lotus/IBM here, just that no one has since brought to the market a platform to match Domino and Notes.
IBM & HCL are currently pushing on with a development plan to release Domino and Notes V10 in 2018. Now I think I know roughly when they plan to release this, but I can't say for sure. This is not going to be a Dec 39th release date that we have seen in the past. If I'm right, then this will be early Q4.
Why am I talking about resurrection all the time? IBM & HCL are trying to breathe new life into a software product they last released a new version for back in September 2015. By the time v10 hits the download site, it will be well over 3 years between releases.
IBM showed some great stuff about the direction they are heading with this new release. Native iPad application, think of ICAA on your iPad. No code changes, local replicas, PKI intact and you can see just how important this will be. Not only did they show it, but they let people play with it on iPads they brought along to the show. Impressive start to the new features they are trying to bring in. Add to that the plans to work Node.js Express, NPM, JWT, OAuth2 & OpenID into the mix and they suddenly have a lot of work to do before the end of the year. Coupled with new architecture deployment options in the shape of Docker and this all starts to look and feel like a fresh product set that has not seen it's last days yet.
Nothing to see here, move along. Whilst there was a little talk of Sametime and that they are working on it. Nothing to show and no real announcements were made. It's not dead, was clear though and its ability to be part of the v10 story was also discussed.
Lots of talk in the past about Connections Pink, but not this year. The focus has firmly swung towards Domino and Notes. However, there is still hope that we will get the promise of Connections Pink. It was acknowledged that the very first part of Pink that was released, Orient Me, is difficult to install for small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers. No clear statement was made about fixing that problem and that troubles me slightly for the rest of the components that go into making a Connections deployment. Orient Me is a clumsy deployment of a good idea. It's too heavy in its hardware requirements for the majority of IBM's customer base. It also has the reputation of being "Impossible to install if you follow the instructions." when you speak to any seasoned Connections administrator.
Light at the end of the tunnel for Connections comes in the form of the IBM Connections Experience Center (ICEC), which is the IBM wrapping around Time to Act's XCC product. Basically, you can now skin and manipulate Connections into the front end focused intranet you always wanted it to be.
The other components of Connections are still being worked on by IBM, but I wonder how long it will be before HCL get to finish this job.
IBM's venture into the space that is currently stocked full of products like Slack and FlowDock. Why bother IBM? Well, the answer is very clear when you start to use Watson Workspace (WW) for your persistent chat client. They've added the power of Watson to it. Not in some hard to explain nuanced feature, but right into the heart of it with a very practical and useful surfacing of Watson's core power.
The biggest single problem people have with persistent chat client's is being away from them for any length of time. Any that are mildly active can have 200+ messages a day pass through them. How do you keep track and find out what's been going on since you last looked? You could read through it all and spend the time catching up. Not with WW. You just have to click on the "Moments" icon and Watson takes the messages in the chat, analyses them and works out what they are for. It contextualises them into conversations so that you can pick up the important conversations and ignore the ones about coffee machines, lunch and how bad the weather was while walking your dog this morning. You can catch up and not be left behind. Awesome!
Not only can you have Watson keep you up to date, but it can also be connected to other systems and act like a chatbot for you too. The example I saw work best, we when someone asked if anyone had a presentation from the Greenwell (IBM's fake demo company) project. Watson jumps right in and tells you it's found some and offers a clickable link to the results. Impressive!
Extending WW is easy with a good set of APIs and also some pre-built integrations for other apps. But the cherry on this cake is the integration with Zoom video conferencing. In any of your chats, you can initiate a 1-on-1 of 1-to-many video conference using Zoom's powerful video conferencing software. Any of the paid for subscriptions come with 1-to-many conferencing, but the Freemium version also comes with 1-to-1 video conferencing. Amazing!
There are plans to use Watson to be able to summarise a call that you are joining late so that you can catch up and be productive as soon as you join.
IBM Collaboration Solutions
With my sick and twisted sense of humour, I think of this as a cross between Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail and Kick-Ass. The "Bring out your dead" scene where Microsoft are telling folks that Notes and Domino is dead. Then switching to the Kick-Ass scene where Hit Girl (ICS) takes out the drug dealers.
The Resurrection is upon us! ICS are all singing from the same hymn sheet and all at the same time. No more singing in the round or different songs.
ICS seems to be finally be working together and all working toward a common goal.