Rivals debate Web server costs

Intranet rivals Lotus and Netscape will let the barbs fly at Comdex this week, each touting lower costs of ownership for their respective integrated groupware/Web servers.

Intranet rivals Lotus and Netscape will let the barbs fly at Comdex this week, each touting lower costs of ownership for their respective integrated groupware/Web servers.

Netscape is pushing its specialised server approach with SuiteSpot as more efficient and scalable than Lotus' integrated approach with Domino.

Lotus has stated that managers will spend extra time and money on SuiteSpot because of its multiple-server model.

SuiteSpot includes nine servers, each with different access controls, object models, and agent support, whereas Lotus bundles those functions into one server.

Ken Bisconti, Notes marketing manager at Lotus, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says that with the Netscape model, "it'll take longer for managers to develop around the product, to wire together the directory servers, and to cobble together the object model."

But Netscape criticises Notes' monolithic-server model. "Large beta sites with 5000 or more users find it way more efficient and less expensive to deploy servers dedicated to different systems," says Gregory Sands, senior product manager for SuiteSpot at Netscape, in Mountain View, California.

One Notes user estimates that managers will spend two to three times the "units of work" on SuiteSpot than on Notes, which translates into bottom-line dollars. But he also says part of Lotus' argument will soon evaporate.

"Once the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol takes hold, directory inconsistencies between the SuiteSpot elements will become a nonissue," says Tim Crawford, technical project manager at National Semiconducto, in Santa Clara, California.

Industry analysts stress that Notes is a fourth-generation product, promising more reliability, and therefore less cost, over the long term than SuiteSpot.

"The ROI and maintenance costs of Notes are a safer bet than a virtual unknown," says a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based analyst who requested anonymity.

And IS managers should focus on long-term cost of ownership rather than purchase prices.

Industry analysts say initial outlay makes up roughly 20% of the total intranet cost. The bulk of long-term expense goes toward maintenance and management.

Coming from Lotus

Lotus this week plans to announce a collaborative commerce tool, code-named Onset, that runs on the Lotus Domino Server. The product will likely be called Domino.Merchant, according to sources close to the company, and it will give Web site builders templates for registering visitors, maintaining catalogues, and accepting credit cards. The product will be available in the second quarter of 1997.

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