IBM set to roll Notes hosting service

Company also working to integrate apps, social networking tools

IBM said Wednesday that it has plans to crank up its first-ever Notes hosting service that will cater to companies with between 1,000 and 10,000 users.

The company also said that its partner iEnterprises has developed a module that integrates its CRM application with Lotus Connections, a collection of social networking tools.

In addition, IBM announced The Center for Social Software, a facility for research and testing social software that will involve corporations and academic institutions.

The announcements were made by Bob Picciano, the general manager of Lotus Software, during his keynote address at Interop. Picciano took over from former Lotus Software GM Mike Rhodin earlier this year.

Picciano told Network World in an interview after his keynote that IBM's Notes hosting service would offer Notes at a price of US$8 to US$18 per seat per month.

He said IBM will offer hosting of "messaging and advanced collaboration environments" but did not elaborate. He said more details, including the service's start date, would be released at a later date.

"It initially is a certain number of features," he said. "And we will be adding other features from the Notes portfolio as we go."

While the target customer is between 1,000 and 10,000 users, Picciano said smaller installations could be served.

IBM has a number of partners currently that host Notes environments for users including Blue Sky Hosting, Domino Developer Network and Prominic .Net.

IBM has never had a formal hosting service around Notes/Domino for customers. What has been offered is one-off, highly customized environments. This new service will be opened to a mass audience.

IBM rival Microsoft has a similar service called Exchange Online that was launched in October 2007 and is available to any company with 5,000 users or more.

In IBM's other news, it said the Social Networking for CRM Module offered by iEnterprises is the start of a trend that will see the company begin to integrate social networking with everyday applications.

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