Lotus Moves Replication Beyond Notes

FRAMINGHAM (03/20/2000) - Lotus next month will release the first two of four components that will finally expose Notes replication to non-Notes clients and let those clients use Domino-based applications offline.

Lotus will release its Domino Offline Services (DOLS) tool kit and the corresponding Synchronization Manager April 15, company officials said last week. The two "plumbing" pieces are the first steps toward exposing replication to the world outside of Notes and Domino. Replication lets users bring data and applications logic down to their desktops, work offline as if they were connected to a server and then synchronize those changes back to the networked server.

Lotus later this year will release code to support replication in Microsoft Outlook, but the software, dubbed iNotes Access for Outlook, will only be released in beta form on April 15. The iNotes Web Access code also will go into beta testing at that time. Lotus plans a midyear release of both iNotes clients which are built using the DOLS tool kit.

The DOLS tool kit lets developers build features into Domino-based applications that automatically generate chunks of code that are installed on non-Notes clients. The Synchronization Manager automatically installs the code - ActiveX controls or plug-ins - on those clients, most notably Web browsers and Outlook.

Offline access to applications and replication have been the hallmark of Notes for years but are only available in the full Notes client. DOLS, while not a replacement for the Notes client, answers IT executives' pleas for Lotus to offer client options beyond the full Notes client.

"Replication has been the reason to give certain users the rich Notes client," says Gregg Smith, senior software specialist for American Express Technologies in Phoenix. "Now we can provide that feature through a browser. The importance of not having the Notes client means we don't have to load it on every desktop and manage it."

Initially, Lotus will offer offline use and replication support for mail, calendar and task features for Outlook and Web browsers. The support in iNotes Web Access will also allow offline use of Domino applications enabled with DOLS.

"This makes Notes more universal," says Jonathan Spira, an analyst with the Basex Group, a New York consulting firm. "DOLS has tremendous implications for mobile users."

In order to support DOLS, Lotus has to deliver the long-promised 5.03 upgrade to Domino, which provides such features as calendar and printing enhancements.

DOLS is only supported on Domino 5.03 and runs on Win32 platforms. An OS/2 version is planned later this year.

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