Anyhow, given we now have the formal announcement from IBM, Connections will be here in 1H07 (just – in English only) and appears to match up to expectations.
- Connections can be licensed for just Profiles, just Activities or for all five elements (Profiles, Activities, Dogear, Communities and Blogs). No pricing is yet public, but I understand that the cost of licensing Profiles and Activities will be pretty close to the cost for the whole package, therefore the incentive is to go for the whole shebang…
- Connections is wholly based on Websphere Application Server v6.1 with requirements for a backend DB2 server (or Oracle) and Tivoli Directory Server LDAP (or ActiveDirectory). IBM suggests that Domino and SunONE Directory will be supported for LDAP by the end of 2007.
- Connections can be installed on Redhat Linux and Windows 2003 at release, with support for SUSE, AIX and IBM i5/OS (iSeries) by the end of the year.
- It includes licences for Tivoli Directory Integrator for consolidating directory data from other existing systems, such as HR databases.
- Initially the system is standalone apart for the directory integration mentioned above, plus the obvious integration points of links, bookmarks etc. The statement of intention is for IBM to provide integration with Lotus Notes, IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM WebSphere Portal, and Microsoft Office by the end of 2007. I assume that Notes support will be available once Notes8 is formally released (still “mid-year”), and the rest of the integration points come on-stream as and when they are ready. Given that Activities is a known entity (having survived the Workplace days) I am surprised that greater integration support isn’t available on day one.
- Client support is only Windows XP SP2 and SLED Linux (ie. the same as Notes8), and only via Firefox 2.0 and IE6/7. No support for Vista or Mac. Now this is just a formal support/test statement – I have been using the existing Connections services on the Mac I’m writing this on using both Safari and Flock, and it seems to work fine. But still, this is another example of where Mac still lags the other client platforms, even for browser-based apps. Would be nice to see formal Ubuntu support at some point too…
- Activities content can be stored in both filesystems and Domino – this is a surprise, as I imagined that this would be restricted to just a J2EE repository. Need to find out more about what this means.
- Connections can be licensed by authorised user or Value Points (CPUs). This seems to follow the normal IBM/Lotus model, where most small intra-organisation deployments will be by user, but larger or inter-organisation setups will bite the bullet and licence by CPU. What we don’t know yet of course is where the break-point will be between the two models. As Connections looks so ready for extranet-style applications where the number of users is difficult to determine and it is nigh impossible to predict growth, I really do hope that the CPU price isn’t prohibitive. OK, scratch that! I missed a partner-focused call at the end of last week (don’t ask me how!), where pre-announcement pricing was discussed. I can’t reveal it here, but can say that extranet-based value unit pricing is much more reasonable than I was expecting – equivalent to hundreds of user licences rather than the thousands I had anticipated.
The full announcement is here, so go ahead and read it yourself to learn more.
In summary, the announcement broadly matches to expectations, and we now all have a definite date to work towards (June 29th). We know the supported platforms and browsers which again helps even if there are a few gaps. However, as always, the devil is in the detail and we will still have much, much more to learn once we get more technical details and the code itself.
In the meantime, this has really whetted the appetite, and should assist in helping organisations know more about how Connections will actually fit into their culture, infrastructure and IT architecture. Can’t wait!