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Here come second-generation E-mail systems.

Ten years ago, Lotus development had by far the best-selling desktop software package in Lotus 1-2-3. This year, the firm's communications products - principally its Notes groupware and cc:mail E-mail software - are expected to generate more revenue than its desktop applications business. Lotus' experience is a testament to how quickly the software business can change, and a reflection of the critical need that people in organizations have to communicate with each other and with customers and suppliers.

A decade ago, there were only about 300,000 E-mail users; today there are close to 20 million E-mail users within the Fortune 2000 companies alone, according to the Electronic Mail Association.

E-mail is also maturing than interpersonal communications; increasingly it is the "enabler" for a variety of groupware and workflow applications, such as calendaring, scheduling and document distribution.

For the moment, Lotus has the edge with the leading products in both E-mail and groupware. However, Microsoft, IBM and Novell are expected to close the gap this year by releasing "second-generation" messaging systems based on client/server architectures.

Such systems will differ considerable from conventional file-sharing E-mail systems, where much of the power resides in the user's PC, with the file server limited to holding the messages until users retrieve them. In contrast, client/server messaging systems offload most of the work to the server, which can handle groupware and workflow applications in the background.

Anticipating the growing competitiveness, Lotus announced a revised messaging and groupware strategy last December, giving users greater choice and openness to other messaging systems.

Many users had been concerned about Lotus' earlier strategy, which they perceived as a forced migration to a monolithic client/server solution based around a new platform, the Lotus Communications Server. Under the new plan, cc:mail users can choose to continue with enhanced versions of the current file-sharing systems or implement client/server systems by mixing and matching front- and back-end systems from a variety of vendors.

Lotus will still provide a server - known as CommServer and due in mid- 1995-for users who want to integrate cc:mail and Notes and take advantage of common directories, administrative services and management. However, the next version of its cc:mail client will also support Microsoft's MAPI (Messaging Applications Programming Interface).

Lotus is also upgrading the EMX messaging switch it acquired in its SoftSwitch, Inc., buyout last summer. The new Lotus Messaging switch will link and integrate Notes and cc:Mail users with 14 other legacy and LAN-based E-mail systems.

Meanwhile, Lotus has also been busy lining up the support of other major vendors. AT&T is working with Lotus on a Network Notes service, while Oracle and Sybase are integrating their database servers with Notes, enhancing the groupware's scalability and robustness for enterprise-wide use. In addition, Sun and Apple are bundling Notes with their SparcStation and Power Macintosh systems.

"Our idea is to be on every server, desktop and operating system that matters," says Lotus CEO Jim Manzi.

His biggest coup to date could be an alliance with Hewlett-Packard in which HP will bundle Notes on its workstations, adopt Lotus' integrated messaging and groupware platform and incorporate management of the platform within OpenView.

Microsoft's Exchange Server, whose original shipping date of last summer was subsequently changed to mid- 1 995, appears headed for further delays. The initial development kit was three months late in going to more than 400 users and developers, and it's now unlikely the server will ship before September.

The Exchange Server will run on Windows NT, providing users with a single, integrated in-box from which fax messages and E-mail can be accessed, along with scheduling, workflow and bulletin board information. Users will also be able to store and share information in a manner similar to Notes databases.

Last November, Novell unveiled a new messaging strategy based around a product called Collaborative Message Server (CMS) that will run atop its NetWare operating system and integrate the firm's Message Handling Service (MHS) and WordPerfect's GroupWise messaging system. Due out by year's end, CMS will incorporate the transport capabilities of MHS and the groupware and messaging capabilities of GroupWise.

Data communications consultant Morris Edwards serves as program chairman of the Network Computing Solutions Conference and Exposition, or NetCom, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 30 and 31 and in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 18 and 19.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Nelson Publishing
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Title Annotation:Netcomm Update
Author:Edwards, Morris
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1995
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