Notes on Notes

With some 100 million Notes/Domino users and a large and vocal development community, IBM is smart to make soothing noises about the future of its ageing collaboration platform.

In recent years the Notes developers have been edgy about their skillset’s shelf life, a worry stirred up by the much-anticipated news last November about IBM putting Domino users on path to WebSphere. At that time officials said the parallel development tracks of Domino and the new Lotus Workplace, a platform for collaboration services built on Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition and DB2 relational databases (as opposed to Domino’s NSF database engine), would merge by 2005.

Supposedly, IBM has now ‘realized the importance of Domino’ and will eventually make it one component of IBM’s Workplace collaboration component architecture with Domino applications and functions available through a portal. In this scenario Domino would not be rewritten in J2EE.

Keynoting from Walt Disney World Resort Florida at last month’s Lotusphere, Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Lotus, ‘categorically’ rejected competitor claims that IBM would orphan its Notes/Domino user base. But Goyal did make it clear that things would have to move on from what he called the client/server ‘box’.

Goyal discussed a need to ‘federate the system’ describing the tight link between Notes and Domino as a factor limiting IBM’s growth in this space and citing customer demand for new network-based (portal or Web) technologies in Notes and Domino.

He claimed that customers were ‘starting to feel very comfortable’ as they won’t have to move from Notes 6 or 6.5 to some release of Workplace. Lotusphere also saw the announcement of Notes Version 6.5.1 and promises of more to come in version 7.

But for the long term — beyond versions 7 & 8 — and in Goyal’s own words ‘we cannot move forward if you remain in that box’, it’s clear that Notes/Domino customers who want to stick with IBM’s collaboration future will have to haul themselves up the learning curve to the J2EEE-based Workplace. Interoperability can only get you so far; the 80s veteran can’t punch on forever.

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