Monday, July 12, 2004

IBM Workplace 2.0: Better Rich than thin!

I read with interest how IBM's new collaboration product Workplace 2.0 (press release May 10th 2004) reconsiders and develops a Rich Client to overcome the barriers of poor browser-based functionality and imperfect connections typical of a server-client architectures and more importantly, to lower costs. I would also add the list, to facilitate offline support.

"The client-side technology used in Release 2.0 of IBM Lotus Workplace is a dramatic new model of delivery that will lower the cost of ownership while increasing the richness of the client."

I'm a strong supporter of rich clients for rich productive collaboration. There's a lot of talk these days about middleware, and this is only emphasizing the need to leverage enterprise client/server architectures with powerful edge rich-client technologies.

The benefits of rich-clients are evident:

-Client technology can provide powerful functionality, similar to that of standard PC applications, in contrast to, limited browser-based limited functional capabilities (even topped up with plug-ins).

- Offline Support. This means that you can work even when disconnected from the server. And believe me, this happens more often than you may think. Today, about a quarter of the U.S. work force works from home at least some of the time, while another quarter is mobile or works from customer locations (Source: When the Workplace Is Many Places, Harris Interactive). So if you're a remote worker (i.e. a road warrior, a home bunny and/or a wanderer), you'll be pleased to hear about this sort of connection capabilities.

- Reduce Cost. Today, rich-clients such as Workplace 2.0 and Groove can be delivered, managed, and updated directly from a central server, thus significantly reducing IT costs.

The ability to control and manage clients from the server side will definitely attract a lot of corporate IT departments; nevertheless, whilst having richer functionality, rich clients also have disadvantages. What appeals about thin clients is the ease and low cost of administration; it's easier to control, and as Gordon Haff, senior analyst of Illuminata points out in this MIT Tech Review article, "there's no doubt that the thin client is in general better for security. Simplicity and security go hand in hand". This is a very good point indeed. Corporations are desperate to build secure information infrastructures "in an ever-more-insecure online world". Rich clients thus, must be built from scratch within a very tight security model. This particular area is where Groove excels, since it ensures with a military strong 192-bit encryption both on storage and transportation that no-one will be able to sniff out data traveling through the Internet. For more on Groove security go to here.


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