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10/6/2008
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IBM Opens 'Bluehouse' For Cloud-Based Social Networking

IBM ties together parts of its Lotus, Rational, and Tivoli software to appeal to SMBs and departments in larger corporations, because of the minimal up-front costs and maintenance.


IBM 'Bluehouse' Cloud Computing Software

IBM 'Bluehouse' Cloud Computing Software
(click for larger image)

IBM on Monday launched online services for business collaboration, challenging Google, Cisco Systems, and others for the pocketbooks of companies looking to leverage the Internet for communications.

The so-called "cloud-services initiative" makes use of IBM's Lotus, Rational, and Tivoli software. In addition, IBM unveiled an online social networking and collaboration service for business called Bluehouse, which is available in beta at no charge.

In introducing its online services, IBM joins the chase for companies looking to avoid the deployment and maintenance costs of in-house software. While many companies prefer to keep their core business applications and data behind their firewall, certain less-critical applications are becoming increasingly attractive for hosting by a third party. One of the largest software-as-a-service vendors, Salesforce.com, for example, has built a successful business around customer and sales-force management applications.

IBM's Bluehouse service provides a suite of hosted online technologies that enable employees among business partners or within the same organization to share documents and contacts, collaborate on joint project activities, host online meetings, and build social-networking communities, IBM said. The service is billed as one that would appeal to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as departments in larger corporations, because of the minimal up-front costs and maintenance.

For companies looking only for Web conferencing, IBM has launched Lotus Sametime Unyte, which also offers document sharing and multilanguage support. IBM plans to integrate the service in the future with its Lotus Notes and Sametime e-mail and instant messaging software, respectively, to make it possible for users to invite people to a conference with a single click, according to the vendor.

IBM's service offering also will include automated Web content scanning to ensure it complies with business policies. The Rational Policy Tester OnDemand is available on an annual subscription basis. IBM also launched Rational AppScan OnDemand for automatic scanning of Web applications for security bugs. To better control the quality of product data shared online, IBM introduced Telelogic Focal Point, which centralizes information shared by stakeholders, such as product management, engineering, and marketing.

Other large vendors that have jumped into cloud computing include Cisco, which spent $3.2 billion last year to acquire Web collaboration specialist WebEx. Google is targeting business with its Google Apps offering, which includes software for online word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. All the documents can be created and edited by groups of people. Microsoft is expected to unveil this month cloud-computing offerings related to Windows at its Professional Developers Conference.

Despite the advantages listed by proponents, cloud computing, or software offered over the Internet, has its drawbacks. Those include the expense, time, and complexity of customization, and the fact that customers are beholden to a third party to keep systems running. In addition, the company is still liable if there's a data breach, even though a third party is holding its data.

To help understand how other companies large and small are approaching cloud computing, InformationWeek has published an independent report on the subject. Download the report here (registration required).

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