IBM System z for Social Business

Most IT people do not think of the System z for social business. Probably they think more in terms of x86 systems running Linux or Windows. Some might think Power Systems and AIX. The System z, however, has a good story to tell when it comes to social business, and with the zEnterprise and zBX machines that story only gets better.

Social business today generally refers to some form of collaboration, information sharing, or interaction through social networking or social media. Blogging and micro-blogging, like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and such are what usually come to mind. Here’s a link to the Society for New Communications Research, which covers this topic in depth.

IBM, through its 1995 acquisition of Lotus Development Corp that brought it Notes, has been involved in social business for quite some time. At that time Lotus Notes was called groupware, but even then it did considerably more. Basically, it included what amounted to a Notes application development environment. Groupware was a vague concept back then. Still Notes, even then, went beyond groupware and shared documents.

Social business today is equally vague, although the market seems to be coalescing around the concept of information sharing and personal interaction, mainly for the purpose of some form of business collaboration. Lowe’s Home Centers, for example, uses IBM Connections, a Lotus Notes social business product, to enable its floor staff to quickly locate expert resources across its stores in response to customer inquiries. Lowe’s is a mainframe shop, but like many large enterprises, it supports a number of platforms. It deployed IBM Connections on AIX.

As it turns out, IBM offers several social business tools from its Lotus group. Dubbed the Lotus collaboration suite, the tools can be run on the System z or other IBM platforms. Find details on the Lotus social business tools for z here.  Of course, running the social business tools on the z instead of a distributed platform brings the advantages of the mainframe’s scalability, availability, manageability, and security.

The Lotus collaboration suite includes:

  • Lotus Domino and Lotus Notes—the original server and client components as an enterprise-class platform for critical business, collaboration, mail, and messaging applications
  • Lotus Quickr—consists of  team collaboration software for accessing and interacting with the people, information, and project materials and provides team spaces, content libraries, team discussion forums, wikis, and connectors to simplify the sharing and management of documents and information among a team
  • IBM Connections—social software for business by enabling the development and management of networks of resources and expertise
  • Lotus Sametime—the Notes platform for unified real-time communication and collaboration

For organizations looking to run these tools on the System z or zEnterprise the workloads could qualify for the System z Solution Edition discounted pricing with either the System z Solution Editions for Enterprise Linux or the IBM Enterprise Linux Server, both of which provide discounted hardware, software, middleware, and maintenance for Linux deployments on the z platform.

With any social business tools, the question of ROI becomes tricky. It is difficult to identify quantifiable measurements for collaboration or information sharing. Managers will have to look at business processes like new product development or customer service and even then the one-to-one correlation may not be there. For instance, if a Lowe’s floor person can get the right answer to a customer’s question on the spot while the customer is still there in the store, it might save a sale. Or, Lowe’s might have gotten the sale anyway. Go figure.

With the advent of the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, the System z social business story gets more interesting. It should be possible to deploy pieces of the IBM collaboration suite on different platforms and manage them as a single virtual platform under the z.

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