Product review: Notes/Domino delivers killer ROI

Release 5 (R5) of Lotus Development's flagship Domino server and Notes client delivers a bevy of impressive improvements, including expanded Web capabilities and broad platform support, while blending both groupware and application server facilities into a single solution. This release, which shipped last week, is a "must-have" upgrade for current Domino and Notes customers and a "must-consider" for sites that need a solid, scalable solution for corporate collaboration and applications.

There are many compelling reasons to investigate R5 and the positive impact it may have on the corporate bottom line. For starters, R5 boasts platform support that extends from personal digital assistants to mainframes. Support for Web standards opens the Domino server up to clients other than Notes. Likewise, the Notes client's Web capabilities enable it to work with servers other than Domino.

New functionality in the Domino Designer development tool -- also part of R5 -- enables organisations to build and deploy either Domino or Web applications. In addition, the Domino R5 server can be used as an application server environment given its hybrid Web features and strong back-end support for corporate data.

Administrators will find R5 delightfully manageable with its centralised client setup facilities. Further, managers can configure clients to initially use the familiar "workspace" interface until training on the new Notes client interface is completed.

With all of these additions, Lotus delivers a stiff challenge to competitors on multiple fronts. In particular, Domino R5 issues a strong challenge to Microsoft's Exchange and Novell's GroupWise. The impressive Notes R5 client leaps ahead of Microsoft and Netscape with a new interface that blends e-mail, calendaring and scheduling, and application access, along with Web surfing as well as internal and external searching capabilities.

Though the wealth of R5 collaboration additions keeps the pressure on groupware rivals, Lotus also takes on the application server market and new competitors, including BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, Oracle, and several other application server providers.

Perhaps the most noticeable enhancements in this release can be found in the dramatically overhauled Notes client. Lotus has flushed out the beta bugs I previously found during my evaluation of the beta version. (See review at www.infoworld.com/printlinks.)The tabbed workspace design has been replaced with a customisable interface. The new screen layout will bring welcome relief for end-users because they will be able to perform a wide range of tasks from one place.

Corporate managers will also experience welcome relief through a reduction in the number of software components that will need setup and ongoing support. Notes client support for all of the varied functions in one integrated environment is an improvement over other solutions that require multiple client products.

The plethora of capabilities introduced in Release 5 of Domino, Notes, and Designer definitely warrants investigation. Sites that want to blend collaboration and application serving in a single scalable solution that spans multiple platforms with open standards support will find R5 right on the mark.

Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) is a senior analyst at the InfoWorld Test Center.

THE BOTTOM LINE: EXCELLENT

Domino Server Release 5, Notes Client Release 5, Domino Designer Release 5This impressive groupware and application server solution will yield a breathtaking return on investment (ROI) by allowing IT managers to reduce the number of server and client products they need to install.

Pros: Good administration tools; broad platform reach; strong support for corporate data; built-in Web capabilities; open solution.

Cons: None noted.

Lotus Development: www.lotus.com

Price: Domino Server: $US695 for Mail Server, $US1,795 for Application Server, $4,995 for Enterprise Server; Notes Client: $40 to $70 depending on type of client; Domino Designer: $495.

Platforms: Domino Server: S/390, AS/400; Solaris; HP-UX; AIX; OS/2; Windows NT; Notes Client and Domino Designer: Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0 Workstation; Mac PowerPC 7.6, 8.1.

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