IBM’s Connect 2013 conference was held in Orlando, January 27 – 31, and it was once again chock full of exciting product announcements, fun times with customers, and sessions filled with great content. Our team is very proud that CDW was recognized as a finalist for the Distinguished Business Achievement award. CDW was also recognized as a ‘key business partner’ during IBM sessions on Social Communications (Unified Communications) and cloud mail migrations. In fact, CDW’s own Rupert Clayton delivered a great presentation on how to move to IBM’s cloud email offering, SmartCloud Notes, sharing tips from the implementations our engineering team has learned from prior migrations. IBM Collaboration Software is the largest segment of IBM software sold at CDW, and thanks to our customers, 2012 was a year of double-digit growth in software sales and services. We spoke with many existing and hopefully future customers at the CDW booth, where we had a little ‘social’ fun putting together a little vine video. A big thank you to our customers who were able to join us for our customer appreciation event at Splitsville in Downtown Disney. Unfortunately the photos of the backwards bowling didn’t survive the night.
This was the 20th anniversary of this conference, previously called Lotusphere.
Given the conference name change, the Opening General Session was appropriately kicked off by They Might be Giants who played their classic, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”
As you can imagine, in a conference that runs over five days with sessions that run from 7AM to 7PM, there is more content shared than can possibly be covered in a single blog entry. You can access some recordings of the sessions, such as the OGS, online. That said, here are some of the highlights as we saw them. Please note, per IBM legalese shared prior to every presentation, there are no guarantees that any of the future features shared will be in the products.
IBM Connections Next
Not surprising given IBM’s continued focus on social business and the renaming of the conference, a significant focus of the OGS and subsequent sessions was on the forthcoming enhancements planned for their flagship social business product, IBM Connections. While many companies are jumping on the ‘social’ bandwagon, IBM has had Connections in market for over 5 years now. IBM released version 4 last year, and is planning to release version 4.5 in the first half of 2013, less than 6 months since version 4 was released. With that pace of development, and the number of enhancements previewed, it is clear that this is where IBM’s focus is.
Connections provides a full suite of social capabilities, including: microblogging, profiles, wikis, blogs, bookmarks, forums, ideation, media sharing, communities, and analytics. A big announcement at Connect is that IBM Docs can now be integrated with Connections deployed on-premises. IBM Docs is a suite of online office document editors that allows for collaborative and synchronous document editing, supporting both Microsoft and OpenOffice document formats.
New enhancements planned for Connections Next include: extended integration with Outlook, external social analytics, @mentions, inline rich media viewing and commenting, round-trip document editing, document workflow, integrated surveys and much more.
The mobile Connections application will continue to receive significant attention, including new file synchronization capabilities. When paired with IBM Docs, this promises to offer full collaborative editing and file sharing from mobile devices. IBM Docs for Mobile is now available for preview now offering online and offline editing of documents, with targeted availability for gold release the first half of 2013. Additional enhancements to Connections mobile include local encryption of files, as well as the ability to remote wipe devices should they be lost or stolen.
IBM Sametime Next
Many new capabilities were announced for IBM Sametime, IBM’s unified communications platform, or what they now refer to as Social Communications. Along with a modernized UI, two significant enhancements include a new video engine into Sametime and the addition of audio/video capabilities to the Sametime mobile client.
The new video engine will feature an embedded MCU leveraging the H.264 SVC. This will enable multi-person continuous video natively in Sametime without requiring additional hardware or software from a third party. It will also enable the direct connection of Polycom SVC-based endpoints, and provide a high quality audio experience.
The Sametime mobile client will also be enhanced to include a softphone, the ability to do audio and video calls, and audio and video in Sametime meetings.
Lastly, several new integration points are planned with Connections, including associating meeting rooms with Connections Communities, the ability to tap Connections for access to files in meetings, as well as Community activity streams, profiles and more.
IBM Notes / Domino
IBM was very busy before the conference with Notes/Domino announcements, including the availability of the open beta program for Notes/Domino 9 on December 14th. Over 9,000 people from 4,000 organizations had downloaded the beta code prior to the conference. The new Notes UI has been further modernized, and even tighter integration has been created with Connections which will make it even easier for customers to leverage their free entitlement to Connections profiles and files services.
Major improvements have been made to iNotes that further reduce the gap between the client and web user experiences, including the release of a browser plug-in allowing Notes applications to be run from a browser. And with Blackberry announcing its new BB10, IBM announced that Blackberry devices will be supported natively from their Traveler service, and will no longer require a Blackberry Enterprise Server.
Like Notes/Domino, many of the SmartCloud announcements came just prior to the conference with major updates to the SmartCloud collaboration and mail services delivered in December. In 2012, IBM delivered 9 major releases to its SmartCloud Social Business offerings, with 46 service updates and over 650 feature enhancements. December updates included the addition of blogs, wikis and ideation services to communities, as well as a change to the Sametime web meeting engine, integration with IBM Docs, mobile files access, and much more. Coming up during the first half of 2013 will be an audio conferencing service integrated with IBM SmartCloud Meetings, so that you can easily bring together and manage VoIP, PSTN and computer audio participants within your online meetings.
IBM’s Portal product continues to lead this market, which you’ll often see referenced in terms of ‘exceptional web experience’ or ‘exceptional employee experience’. A lot of attention was given to responsive design capabilities, as well as the new bundling of Worklight, to provide several ways to deliver a complete experience to users via mobile devices as well as the web. New capabilities of the web content manager will also allow customers to post content to public social services, in addition to their own portal. Many customer sessions spoke to the specific customer implementations of portal and the business benefits received, including organizations such as Cisco, Children’s Medical Center, Cigna, Horizon Healthcare and many others.
There is so much to share here that we’ll look to provide a more in-depth overview in a future post. IBM has its portal-focused IBM Exceptional Web 2013 conference coming up in Chicago May 20 – 23.
IBM’s acquisition of Kenexa in December led to a new, very compelling ‘Smarter Workforce’ solution from IBM. Kenexa is a leading provider of solutions for Human Resources. Integrations with IBM’s Portal and Connections services were shown, as well as a very compelling video e-learning solution that allows learners and instructors to interact with video content through tagging and Q&A. Expect much more news from IBM on this front as Kenexa is more completely brought under the IBM umbrella.
Of course no IBM conference would be complete without touching on Big Data as well. Check out CDW’s recent BizTech article for more coverage of this.
Do you have questions about IBM Connect, what we’ve covered above, or other IBM Collaboration topics? Post your comments below. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. Of course if you’d like to have an in-depth discussion on any of these solutions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your CDW account manager. We always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about your business, and help identify how IBM Collaboration Solutions can be leveraged to help your business be more productive.