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Lotus Foundations Solution Partners Can Introduce Hidden Costs When Forcing a Windows Server

Bill Malchisky  September 29 2010 02:00:00 AM
I have seen this scenario a few times, and rather than pinpoint any particular vendor, I want to provide a perspective and proposed solution to help make Foundations product offerings more viable for potential customers with a truer price model when they calculate their numbers...and help some great ISVs make better products in the process.

The ISV Perspective
  • We have a great product and would like to provide a Foundations flavor
  • It runs on Windows and we have no Linux roadmap
  • Great, Foundations 1.2 provides a VMware server, which we can leverage
  • So, let's advertise that we are Foundations Ready

Potential Foundations End-user Perspective
  • Our current Windows solution requires a lot of work (some of which we do not even know we need) and have a vendor fix occasionally (including server maintenance)
  • We do not have an IT Team on-site, nor will that change soon
  • We are looking to cut costs
  • We want to simplify our environment
  • Potentially have too many vendors

Foundations Reseller Perspective
  • Lotus Foundations provides many services that you (the customer) do not have now -- included in the stock package
  • It requires only a very short window to setup
  • Foundations provides a true near maintenance-free solution that just runs
  • We can support it remotely
  • Saves our clients money by not needing server CALs
  • Much less maintenance and customer downtime
  • Nice margins overall

Now here is where it can get interesting. ISVs expand their offerings to include Foundations. This is a good thing. Foundations resellers learn of the new product that works with Foundations; sometimes it is even co-marketed with IBM/Lotus as a great solution. Also quite good to see this trend. The reseller will generally investigate further and look to see if any of their existing customers are open to using the new solution (a true win-win), or see if the product melds with their future sales initiatives. Again all good stuff. But, you dig deeper and learn that the product must run on a Windows server. Are these firms just trying to get on the Linux train without actually having a ticket?

Reseller Dilemma - Looking at Both Sides Of the Coin
  • The ISV add-on is a quality offering that can provide a valuable solution for our customer
  • One of our selling points is that the cost of Microsoft SBS over 25 users balloons whereas Foundations remains cost-effective
    • Partly due to the zero server CAL requirement
    • Partly due to the more intelligent licensing model Linux provides
    • And several other reasons which are introduced with Linux, but I digress
  • Near zero server maintenance required for Foundations
  • Less headaches for our support team
  • Providing a box that just runs
  • The vendor solution requires a Windows server requirement
  • Foundations 1.2 provides the VMware server included, making it now possible to run Windows -- which is a great capability overall
  • Forcing a Windows server for just one product now throws many of the cost-saving aspects away
  • Client would need to purchase and maintain CALs throughout the product's life
    • CAL requirement varies based upon which Windows Server is utilized
  • The Windows server needs to be maintained with far more scrutiny than Foundation's OS
  • Does it install in a similar manner as all other Foundations applications?
  • How much additional training to install and support this program will we need to invest?
  • Overall, do we pitch a prospective solution with a potentially huge hidden cost attached to it, possibly negating key Foundations strengths?

recall that due to the high costs of SBS, over 1200 Microsoft business partners signed-on as Lotus Foundations business partners within the first year, simply because SBS is too expensive for sites with more than 25 users and does not compete well with Foundations therein

Lotus Foundations solutions that mandate a Windows server requirement introduce a hidden cost to the customer--beyond the software's basic fees, implementation, and on-going software maintenance: which exist for any software program. This hidden cost creates a client concern. How do you go to a client after the original Foundations sale and pitch a product that needs CALs, plus an $800 server license, plus the cost of the solution overall? I know several of my clients would question my ethics with a pitch like that. "You stated we would not need the cost of a Windows server and CALs with Foundations. We trusted you and purchased your solution. Now, a year later, that is no longer the case?" That is one conversation I will avoid--regardless of the respective ISV solution's strength.

Now if a firm has a particular application they are already using and moving to a Linux server would prevent their using this application (for now), then having the VMware Windows Server is a true value add, while working to decrease expenses for the customer. The hardware costs alone are less, plus the customer gets a simplified backup and restore capability for Foundations as well. Sure, you could argue that these are reasons to perhaps overlook the hidden price tag associated with a third-party solution with only one OS choice...but I would disagree. When you buy from Microsoft (for example), you know up-front you must use Windows. That is neither always lucid nor expected when purchasing from Lotus ISVs (to keep the post focused). Advertising Lotus Foundations support can appear that the product will run on the Foundations native Linux OS. Many customers are unaware of the new virtualization aspects, or even care what the back-end OS is, just as long as their product works.

Conclusion and Proposed Solution

Many firms that truly offer a Linux solution committed time, resources, and testing to ensure that they can provide a quality cross-platform product offering. When the product comes out, they have made an investment in the Linux flavor of their solution. In essence, they bought a Linux train ticket. This same investment keeps some ISVs to limiting their product offerings. I support any company that truly takes a serious interest in supporting Linux (here are a few). Now to be fair, some companies did not intend to bypass things, but it happened. When I present the hidden cost aspect of their product, the better firms agree to my argument and seek to provide full Linux support. Essentially, they are starting the process in arrears--akin to buying a ticket onboard a reserved train: you can do it, it keeps you in good graces, but it is a lot easier, cheaper, and less time consuming to buy the ticket ahead of time. (Hopefully the analogy works as intended when crossing time zones.) Regardless, I am always pleased when vendors offer Linux support for their product(s).

For now, when a partner states that they "Support Foundations," I ask, "Does your solution support Linux? Does it install like other Foundations programs (with the installer)?" If not, then I seek their input as to why. If they lack any Linux plan, I can wonder if they are just making things easy for themselves by keeping their solution in Windows, using the virtualization aspect in v1.2 and getting some quick and easy marketing. This prospect makes me uncomfortable--as the previous paragraph's topic sentence indicates. Overall, I am happy that many firms are taking an interest in the Foundations appliance and seek to strengthen this great SMB solution as a result.

So let's keep the process honest:
(1) If you require Windows, state that you can run with the Foundations virtualization capability (as an example).
(2) If you truly support Foundations, then ensure your firm provides a Linux-friendly package that is wrapped for Foundations and installs with one click just like Lotus Domino, and so many other programs.

Foundations' pre-wrapped installer and autonomic Linux OS combination are a true competitive advantage over so many other SMB options, that forgoing them would be a shame--as would a trend that deviates dramatically from this valuable aspect.

Thank you for reading this post. What do you think?

1Gaming Laptop  9/30/10 6:21:50 AM  Lotus Foundations Solution Partners Can Introduce Hidden Costs When Forcing a Windows Server

Really great post i have enjoyed your writing lot of information on your post.Thanks and hope to read more from you.

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