Last week I received a call from the folks at Phase2 - a recent Lotus Business Partner with big plans. Apparently, they are a company that hosts Notes and Domino apps on a SaaS Model. They contacted me because they had a customer (apparently an Exchange shop) that wanted to talk about using hosted Lotus Notes with our productivity software. That got my attention. I'm always delighted when I can give folks a new outlook on their productivity tools and I love it when folks decide to exchange what they are currently using for Lotus Notes/Domino.  I'm all for anything that can be done to make this process easier. I had hoped that LotusLive iNotes or LotusLive Notes might be that solution but it's not ready for SMBs yet and, from what I understand, they don't yet allow the use of custom mail templates, like eProductivity which is a deal killer for our clients that want to be more productive with Notes. I've always wanted to see someone offer Notes in a SaaS model without the heavy toll of a large startup fee or a high minimum number of users. It looks like Phase2 might fit that bill.

There's another reason why I'm interested in learning how well Notes as SaaS works: As a result of my public speaking on productivity and knowledge management, I'm frequently in a position to show how I use Lotus Notes to get things done, this invariably leads to a number of discussions with people that have never used Notes/Domino before and who want to know how to get started. Unfortunately, I can't help these people and I hesitate to encourage them because I don't want to inundate our support desk with calls from first-time Notes users that can't find the download link from the IBM site or who have questions about installation. The best I've been able to do so far is to point them to this page I wrote for first-time Notes users and then offer to refer them to any of a number of respected Lotus Business Partners that I know. For Domino hosting, I often refer people to Prominic. Clients that have used them tell me they have been pleased with the result.,

Sometimes, however, a company doesn't want to deal with the  licensing issues involved in managing their own or even a hosted Notes/Domino solution. Even with the reduced complexity of licensing (thank you Lotus!), it can take a lot of time and money to stand up a Lotus software suite with Notes, Domino, Quickr, Connections and Sametime. if someone can get this right as a turn-key operation, I think it would lower the cost (and hesitation) of doing pilots with the Lotus software suite. This is where it looks like Phase2 may comes in with their Lotus as SaaS model -- at least if I understand their web site right. They will set up the environment and provide the licensing for one monthly fee. (See update below)

This afternoon, I spoke with the folks at Phase2.com again. Apparently, one of their clients asked if it was possible to connect our eProductivity suite with their hosted Notes account. Absolutely - it's just a mail template that can be installed by end-user or administrator. I told them I was interested to see how the Phase2 customer experience worked. I wanted to know just how easy it is for a new user to request, provision, and deploy hosted Lotus Notes in order to experience the power of Notes. Well, it looks like I will soon have my answer. the folks at Phase2 are going to set me up with a few test accounts so that I can test the process. I’ll plan to write a follow-up post to report on how things went after I've had a few weeks experience with their offering.

I'm glad to see there’s someone hosting Lotus products in the cloud using a SaaS model for small numbers of users and I look forward to testing their solution.

Meanwhile, you can learn more at Phase2.com.

Update 3/8/2010: According to Phase2, they have negotiated a special license agreement with IBM which allows them to do this. I will try to share more details as I learn them.

Discussion/Comments (10):

Bruce Elgort (http://elguji.com): 3/8/2010 7:30:30 PM
Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Eric,

Thanks for sharing this info. Elguji has been using Prominic for over two years now and the SaaS service that they provide for us has been outstanding. We are hosting more and more IdeaJam customers with Prominic.

They are truly the leader in Domino hosting of ANY kind. The Experts!


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 3/8/2010 8:05:42 PM
re: Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Good to know, Bruce. As I wrote, I've been sending folks to Prominic for years and I even set up some clients on their hosted Domino servers. I did not realize that they were also offering Domino on a SaaS model. That's all great news for the Lotus community.


Chris Miller (http://www.IdoNotes.com): 3/8/2010 10:02:54 PM
Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

@Bruce - interesting to hear since IBM offers no SaaS license modeling, billing, provisioning or anything else along those lines for their portion.

I believe we have some customers of yours using Elguji software in the same hosted model.

@Eric- anyone that inquires on eProductivity, we point them to you to obtain licensing and then we run it for them on their hosted environments. The issue has to do with how IBM handles licensing. The ISV's, such as yourself, have an excellent opportunity. It is the bigger hurdle of how they access the Domino servers.


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 3/8/2010 10:07:41 PM
re: Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Chris, according to my conversation with the folks at Phase2, what makes their offering unique is that they now HAVE an agreement with IBM that permits them to offer Lotus software in a SaaS model. This has long been the stumbling block for hosted Notes/Domino. I'll share more details as I learn them - I've shared all I know, so far. If anyone from Phase2 is reading this and is able to provide specific facts I invite them to do so.


Jon Schultz (http://Prominic.NET): 3/8/2010 10:14:42 PM
Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Eric,

That's an interesting comment to hear, about offering a SaaS model. Do you consider "hosting" different from "The Cloud" different from SaaS?

I think there's a lot of overlap and ambiguity between them all, and I don't think the industry has really sorted out the meaning of all of it yet. And that's assuming there is a difference, besides the label.

Anyway, thanks for your continued commitment to Notes - it's certainly good for all of us!


Update:

Eric,

Also, regarding SaaS/rental licensing, IBM has had (a well hidden) option for years. You can read about it at { Link }

It's not particularly friendly (i.e. you still have to purchase them yearly as a provider, unlike BES licensing, for which you just pay monthly for your actual user count), but it's something.


Although that being said, based on your update, apparently Phase2 has something special in place. We'll have to learn more about that.


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 3/8/2010 10:30:04 PM
re: Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Hi Jon!

I agree, there seems to be a lot of overlap and even confusion in the terms. As I understand it, the concept of SaaS is that the entire experience is hosted on a monthly (or similar term) basis and the end-user simply subscribes to the software "as a service." Wikipedia describes SaaS as a model of software deployment in which the provider licenses an application to its customers for use as a service on demand. I think the key is "on demand."

That is, there are no lengthy licensing agreements, no commitments (other than what the provider may offer to lock in a lower subscription rate) and the user can start or stop at any time.

The upside to this model is that it lowers the cost of entry/startup - e.g. no Notes/Domino licenses to negotiate and it also lowers the cost of exit for the customer as they will not be left with any infrastructure or licenses should they decide to cancel their subscription. Of course, there are pros and cons to this agreement. In many cases, I think the traditional hosting model may be more cost effective over a longer term. However, the low/no commitment startup and low monthly costs and the ability to cancel at any time definitely make SaaS attractive. I now routinely buy hosted services from Amazon, GoDaddy, and others just to experiment with new software. If Phase2's offer delivers, then I could see myself turning up services any time I want to test some new feature of Notes/Domino/SameTime/Quickr/Connections. When I'm done testing, I'll just pull the plug. Now that's a service!


Art Pufford (http://www.alacrinet.com): 3/8/2010 11:22:56 PM
Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

It is very cool to see Phase 2 doing so well. I was engaged by them through Alacrinet to design and implement their initial offering of Lotus Domino with a custom xSP configuration, Sametime, Quickr and Lotus Connections. They have a very talented pool of engineers and technologists. I wish them continued success in the cloud.


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 3/9/2010 12:00:40 AM
re: Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Art, I had a look at your site. Interesting. Thanks for sharing. Let me know if any of your customers want to learn how to GTD-Enable Notes to get more done...


Adam Smith (http://www.phase2.com): 3/11/2010 2:51:41 PM
Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

It is true that we offer Lotus software via SaaS [pay-as-you-go] license model. No long-term contracts, no software to buy, and includes data migration, site customization, SSO, high-availability, training, and 24x7 support.

We have programs available for any ISV/consultant referrals, and we welcome any talented development partners that add value to our services like eProductivity.

Thanks for the post Eric, and hello Art...


Lisa Duke (http://www.simplified-tech.com): 3/11/2010 3:16:33 PM
Move Notes/Domino Apps into the cloud with Phase2 SaaS

Just wanted to give an additional shout out to Prominic. They are one of the few "Darren Duke approved" hosting/cloud/SaaS/whatever providers out there. They've been great supporters of the LUGs here in the Southeastern US and definitely bleed yellow!



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