What is FirM - the Federated Identity and Resource Manager - for Lotus Domino ?

Meeting lots of new faces, talking to lots of people. Folks are somewhat confused to find me as a semi-literate, not-quite-ewok height, possibly pleasant and sometimes amusing person. You see, you shouldnt always judge a book by its blog.. And some very special folks met my wife, whom I have described here as SWMBO - She Who Must Be Obeyed - and described the situation when we were dating when she set me on fire.. Of course, in person she's far far nicer than that (I have to say that, right?), and I think more than one person were amazed that she could keep me under control..

More than one person was amazed about the product that myself and my business partners in HADSL have been working on for the last FIVE years. Count em. More than one person asked what it did, why we did it, how it helped, and had I ordered my Ferrari yet (Sadly, No). So. This post tries to put more detail behind my very public persona.

The History

A long long time ago, a very nice man by the name of Ian Tree - now our companies chairman - pursuaded me to help out in a very large engagement, helping to write a tool (many other folks were involved!) which basically automated the management of Lotus Domino. This was back in the v4.6.1 days, and had to be done in C-API - horrible, tedious, slow, painful stuff. Powerful, to be sure - but painful

Why ? Why do this ? Well, it was a new customer environment, and they figured to support the hundred thousand or so folks in the environment, they'd better come up with a smart way of managing users. So Proxy User Management was born - the idea where a non-technical, non-secure (that is - someone without access to certifiers) can actually create requests in a secure manner that will then turn into Lotus Domino administration actions.

After a lot of effort - it worked, and it meant that an environment that required over 1,000 notes admins could be managed by 800 business people, and a handful of actual administrators looking after the servers. (Think of the cost savings - or even use our ROI calculator - to see how that helped.)

Time passed, and this product was made into a Lotus Product - called Domino.User, and then Lotus Directory manager. After a while, I was involved in a customer engagement where this tool was installed - it took 8 man weeks - but it worked. Soon after, Lotus dropped support for LDM.

At that stage, myself, Richard Sampson and Roy Holder met up and decided that since we'd been involved in the original product - and indeed supported it for a number of years - that we actually knew more about enterprise proxy administration than anyone else out there. And that we should create a product.

The Start

Notes 5 was out and Notes 6 was on the cards - this meant that we didnt have to resort to the same C-API horrors that we previously did. We coded our new product from scratch, in object orientated LotusScript. We found very quickly that in order to actuall produce a product - a shrink wrapped product - we had to produce at least NINE times more code to make it flexible, create an installer from scratch (We looked at NotesPump - good product - but didnt do what we did), write documentation, marketing material, do graphics, sponsor web sites, sponsor user group events, speak at events, hire a lotusphere stand (four so far!), attend conferences, promote, and so forth. Its true. Product is harder than internal development.

The Product

So what does this thing do ? It automates, integrates and delegates Notes user, group and application, administration, Active directory users and groups and now BlackBerries. It gives you administrators the ability to delegate complex administration tasks to your helpdesk, or HR, or business users. So you get more interesting stuff done on your servers, and the users can manage themselves. 24x7

This year has been amazing for us. We've managed to get promoted, get a salesman, win an award, pick up some sales. We even have started bidding in other countries against our main competitors, and I'm hopeful that we'll soon be known as the best product in this market.

And Now..

This week was amazing. One of our customers - a very large UK government department - had purchased some time ago, and we were getting concerned that they'd not asked us to go on site and help them install the product (part of our package). They're very very busy - so we just thought it was a timing issue. Not at all. They'd tested, and then installed it in the live environment. This tells us that our product - although very complex - is now properly "shrink wrapped" and anyone can get it running. Of course we're there to help, and enjoy meeting the customers, helping them get working - but it seems that we've written ourselves out of that particular job in this case.

This week at ILUG I did a couple of presentations - the latter on the product to over 40 administrators from all over Europe. Judging by the the questions, we did a good job on that. And since we sponsored the ILUG presentation CD-ROM, we were kindly allowed to put time-limited evaluation copies of our product on there.

The Summary

Whats the message ? Behind the hype, and behind the "Man in the skirt" lotusphere persona, there's quite a serious, motiviated guy, with a product and message which I hope will help you all cut costs and help your users. Take 5 minutes to check it out - it might just help you too.