Top Lotus partner moves to support Exchange

By John Fontana, Network World |  Software

Lotus's top business partner made a significant move Tuesday to add Microsoft Exchange support to its collection of tools for building enterprise collaborative applications.

IT Factory announced it will acquire ECMS, one of the leading developers of collaboration and messaging software for the Exchange platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The ECMS acquisition now positions IT Factory to deliver collaborative applications that will run on both the Notes and Exchange platforms, which could greatly simplify corporate deployment of those types of applications.

IT Factory is Lotus's top business partner and develops several products for that platform, including the ITF Software Development Kit, a development architecture for Notes, and the ITF Business Suite, a set of building blocks for creating applications such as sales force automation and customer service.

"The question of which platform is best needs to be answered individually for each customer," IT Factory CEO Lars Johansen says. "We will be in the best position to help customers decide, strictly from a business point of view, which platform is most suitable for their particular business needs."

Lotus and Microsoft have been battling for years for corporate customers. Lotus currently has 78 million users, while Exchange has slightly more than 67 million. But Lotus has undoubtedly had the most business partners developing applications for its platform, therefore giving IT executives more choices.

"This shows that the Exchange platform is maturing," says Keith McCall, director of partner programs for Microsoft. IT Factory, however, said it has no plans to abandon the Lotus platform.

Historically, the rub for large enterprises, which typically run both Exchange and Notes, is that applications developed for one platform won't run on the other. IT Factory hopes to break down that barrier for IT executives.

"We will work toward a unified development environment that will support applications on both the Microsoft and Lotus platforms with a single code stream," Johansen says. "This will enable developers to build their applications once, and deploy as needed on either the Microsoft or Lotus foundation technology."

The ECMS deal adds to the integration foundation IT Factory began laying last year when it acquired Documentaal, whose BowTie software enables bidirectional file and data sharing between Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office.

IT Factory has been advised on its acquisitions for the past 10 months by former Lotus CEO Jeff Papows, who has encouraged the company to provide "platform-independent" products. Papows was instrumental in hooking up IT Factory and ECMS.

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