IBM announced Monday, Oct. 5, the debut of LotusLive iNotes, a Web-based e-mail and calendar service that company officials say costs $3 per month for each user.

With the announcement, IBM became the latest company to jump into the growing hosted e-mail market, which also includes products like Google Apps and Microsoft Office Live. IBM's LotusLive is a cloud-based suite of applications that includes instant messaging, file sharing and meeting services. These types of solutions allow users to access them via an Internet browser.

Sean Poulley, the vice president of IBM cloud collaboration services, said Monday that the aggressive pricing coupled with the company's expertise in managing mission-critical systems is what separates IBM's new e-mail service from its competitors.

"It's understandable that much of the government sector has a high desire and focus on security and reliability, and those are the stock and trade of the IBM company," he told Government Technology. IBM has a significant presence in the federal sector, which could mean there's an opportunity to bring iNotes to that market segment.

It remains to be seen if governments will choose en masse to move their on-premise e-mail systems to solutions where the data and software is stored in an online "cloud" hosted and managed by private vendors. Washington, D.C., is thought to be the largest government so far to adopt Google Apps, although most of the district's employees reportedly have chosen to continue using on-premise Microsoft Outlook even though Google's Gmail offering is available to them.

Some stakeholders and watchdogs are concerned about the security of sensitive government data that would be stored on servers that aren't owned and operated by the government. For example, when IT officials working for the city of Los Angeles unveiled a plan to migrate as many as 30,000 city workers' e-mail to Google Apps, L.A.'s police department and city attorney's office pushed back against the plan because of security concerns about their data. L.A. has not yet announced whether it will follow through on the proposal.

Poulley said IBM is exploring what steps will be necessary to make LotusLive iNotes certified under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) standard.

"My more immediate focus right now is making sure LotusLive is accessible via Apps.gov, because that seems to be a focus for the government," he said. When Apps.gov was launched by the federal government last month as a one-stop shop for software, storage and IT services that are certified for government use, federal CIO Vivek Kundra said all products on the Web site eventually have to meet the FISMA standard.

Last month, Google announced it would create a government-specific version of its cloud-based Google Apps suite, which includes hosted e-mail, word processing, collaboration and Web site creation services. Google's government cloud apps -- which are scheduled for launch in 2010 -- will be FISMA certified and they will run only on technology infrastructure located in the United States, according to the company.

 

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor