Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The business proposition: Lotus Foundations v. SBS2008

My post of October 31st generated a lot of discussion which meandered far from the original topic but did show that the business proposition of Foundations Server isn't clearly understood by everyone.
* It's not just the Lotus answer to Microsoft Small Business Server (but it matches MS SBS quite well in a feature by feature comparison).
* It's not just a Lotus Domino server running on Linux (but it does run Domino applications and email).
* It's not just a File and Print server (but it can do those things as part of an existing Windows network and can even run as a Directory server if you want to completely remove all Windows servers).

Lets look at a Small Business and ask them what they want. If they mention a product name then slap them around a bit, throw them to the floor and tell them to start again. We want to focus on the business needs rather than the possible solutions.

SMB needs:
* Identity management to control secure login to the network.
* File and Print services.
* Backup and Restore capability
* Firewall security
* Email
* Spam control
* Virus control
* Accounting and payroll applications
* A database engine.
* Productivity applications (Word Processing and spreadsheet)
* Line of Business applications (home grown or shrinkwrapped)
* Document control
* Maybe a web server.

Did I miss anything? Possibly, but remember that we're looking at core requirements here. Each SMB will always have their own additional unique requirements. I covered the feature set of Lotus Foundations server in a previous post and apart from the accounting and Line of Business applications, there's nothing in my list that Foundations server can't provide (you can nit pick that Symphony isn't part of Foundations but since it's a free download it won't affect my customer's budget).

If you bundle together Microsoft SBS and Microsoft Office you can get certain parts of that solution. Like Foundations you miss out on the accounting and Line of Business applications but you also have:
* a crippled version of Document control (no Sharepoint server)
* no Backup and Restore
* no Spam/virus control
* no Firewall

Add in the requirement to buy 64 bit hardware and to upskill internally so you can run Windows Server 2008, plus the complex migration path and suddenly you are charging your customer twice as much for a Microsoft solution that's only half as good as the Lotus Foundations package. Why would you do that?

Remember, if the answer is Microsoft then you're asking the wrong question.


Christian Tillmanns said...

May I just add some infos:
SBS has anti virus and anti spam:
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare for Server
Ok, since nobody ever found a virus with that, we don't know if it is really there.
Sharepoint Services is still better then not having the Quickr Personal Edition.
My Foundations server does not activate the firewall, because the router already has one. For me that isn't really a disadvantage of SBS, since I don't want the firewall on the productive server. But the idea behind Foundations firewall is very good.
I think we should add to the list, that for those in need of a really strong database, SQL Server is a good product. But it comes with the price of higher administration cost. I would prefer DB2 with it's unique “self healing” capabilities. That would be the even better RDB. But MySQL can not really replace SQL Server.
A big thing is certainly the 4 to 8 hours for an initial installation for SBS. And that would probably be without any ERP or other third party tools on it. Up to 4 days for a migration from SBS 2003 is ridiculous. And that is, if everything goes as planned. Here foundations could shine, if we had more experience in migration from MS to IBM. I haven't seen an example so far

Domino in Foundations is from my point of view a plain vanilla Domino server. Except for a black box that does change notes.ini settings and does the initial setup of users and other stuff. I have made quite a few changes in names.nsf and nothing was ever changed back to the original settings. All the usual tasks are there and I am quite sure that we could even put Sametime on it.
I think IBM should stop make us believe, that there is some secret behind Domino on Foundations.

Richard Moy said...

I think everyone is spending too much time thinking about comparing SBS2008 versus Foundation. I believe it is the same problem that IBM has with Notes versus Exchange for mail. IBM should have focused what Notes did best applications.

If that is the approach, Foundation will never get a significant part of the market. We became a Nitix Partner at the beginning of the year, but not to focus on providing a replacement for SBS. Are focus is on using Foundations as the bases for a business appliance. The focus should be on application because that is the only reason you need a server. There hundreds if not thousands of applications for Domino. However, most of them DO NOT lend themselves to a small business. The ones that are need to be rewritten. A Domino application that could be tolerated by a large organization will never fly in a small organization. The interface design of these applications will kill off lots of these applications.

Richard Moy said...

I apologize for the typos

zaldivar said...

@Richard, I tend to agree with you. Developing Notes apps for SMB is tough. I hate to spend hrs training users on how to navigate the Notes Client and what it all means. For enterprises, they got the budget, for SMB, they barely got the time, let alone the budget. What is the sweet spot combination for SMB? Would it be give them Outlook, and make all apps web based?

The other thing too is that you have an Apache server, and Open source PHP, and MySQL ready to go. There thousands of great apps you can throw at the server that would work really well for the SMB.

I created a blog in the http://www.bleedyellow.com/blogs/lfsworkbench not sure if that is the best place or here @ the blogger.com that seems more generic.

Christian Tillmanns said...

@ richard moy
I agree with you and I don't. You would be right, if we were acting in a fast growing market. But we are in a mature market. Most of our customers want to replace a system and for this situations we have to know, what are the weaknesses and strength of Foundations vs. SBS.
I agree with you, that trying to sell Foundations as a system is not the way to go, but most of the BP's are selling solutions anyway. There aren't a lot of MS or IBM BP's who are just interested in selling the system. That is something for distributors. As a BP you still have to convince your customer, that Foundations is the perfect foundation for your (or any other ISV's) solution. Therefore the discussion about Foundations vs. SBS will come up anyway sometime.
As a standard IBM BP selling Foundations isn't very interesting. Not a lot of money to make here. Your approach is right. Sell services/solutions. But there are a lot of SMB's out there, who just need a file server and mail and can't/won't invest in specialized solutions and you can make them perfectly happy with Foundations because it is enough “solution” for them. I think it is worth the effort to talk to them anyway, because it makes your customer base larger. Even if you can not sell a lot of services to them in the beginning, but probably later on.

But we have had enough comparing now and can move on.
Isn't the new offering for Foundations just cool?

Richard Moy said...


Unfortunately, you have got me start on my rant. Developing applications useable applications for the SMB for the Notes client is torture, because the Notes client even the Notes 8 client does not give you enough interface control. I complained about a number of problems that they said would be fixed in the next release and when you wait to the next release, it is still the same. The Notes 8 Standard client is very attractive, but is too big.

However, we have spent over a the past few years creating an entire development and delivery framework for Notes and Domino that would lend itself to running in SMBs and we will be incorporating that with Foundations to create a business appliance.

Point well made. The new features are cool, but we need to have the ability to sell it.

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