It's time for e-mail to go. Out of the datacenter, pronto. Get the hand trucks, hold the door, and roll those mail servers outta here. E-mail is a storage hog, a time-suck to manage, a compliance liability, and about the least strategic thing imaginable. It's one of the few "services" that seems absolutely perfect for the cloud: a commodity with a well-known, pedestrian set of expectations. Please, let somebody else handle it.
That's why I was excited to hear about Lotus Live iNotes, just launched by IBM. This makes IBM the third major vendor of hosted enterprise e-mail, following Microsoft and Google.
[ For InfoWorld's ongoing coverage of cloud services and how they integrate with the enterprise, read David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog. ]
It strikes me that IBM stands to be a pretty strong player in this space. Gmail has struggled with outages and its Premier version must overcome a consumer identity. Both Microsoft and its partners offer hosted versions of Exchange, but you don't hear a lot about that, thanks to Redmond's Hamlet-like ambivalence about the cloud and what it might do to its fatware business.
IBM has no such baggage -- or at least very little of it -- and until it has its own inevitable outage episodes, Lotus Live iNotes can leverage IBM's reputation for "reliability" and "security" (IBM's words) in the enterprise. When I talked with Sean Poulley, Lotus' vice president of online collaboration services, he reminded me that IBM already has a $20 billion dollar business running its customers' IT operations.
Of course, going with IBM does mean you have to use Notes, albeit the iNotes Web version. The good news is that Notes Version 8, upon which iNotes is based, is much improved over earlier versions. Plus the price of the iNotes service is right: $3 per month per seat if you prepay annually ($3.75 if you pay month to month). This is similar to Microsoft's Deskless Worker offering, which provides half the storage (500MB instead of 1GB) for $2 per user per month. Gmail Premier costs $50 per seat per year, with big fat 25GB for each account.
Yet IBM downplays the idea of replacing locally installed e-mail across the board. Poulley demurs when asked if he thinks we're at a tipping point yet on cloud e-mail for business, suggesting that Lotus Live iNotes primarily targets SMBs and/or companies with workers who spend little time at their desks. Moreover, he says, Notes is a collaborative platform that goes way beyond e-mail to integrate with business process, which can't be as effectively accomplished with the online version.
Whatever. I just want e-mail to be isolated as an enterprise-class cloud service, with all the modern archiving and anti-spam and compliance features you could ask for and a massively scalable underlying server infrastructure IT never has to worry about. Why is that so hard? Yes, I know some companies can't outsource messaging for compliance reasons. But for everyone else, the time has come to show e-mail the door.