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After 6: What's Coming from IBM Post-Lotus Notes/Domino 6?
After Lotus Notes and Domino 6 arrives in Q3 of 2002, what's next? IBM's Al Zollar, Jeannette Horan, Beverly DeWitt and Steve Mills provide answers.
By Elizabeth Olsen, Lotus Advisor Managing Editor, and John Hawkins, Advisor Editorial Director
The release of Lotus Notes and Domino 6 in 2002 Q3 is an important advancement. But even before customers absorb and adopt what's new in 6, everyone is asking, "What's next for Notes and Domino?"
Some answers came from Al Zollar, general manager of IBM Lotus Software; Jeannette Horan, vice president of worldwide development and support; Beverly DeWitt, a Lotus product manager, and Steve Mills, head of IBM Software Group.
Horan says the next generation ("NextGen") of Lotus Notes/Domino will build on Lotus' evolutionary history, from the introduction of Notes at the birth of messaging/groupware more than a decade ago, to the "ICE Age" (integrated collaboration environment) of the late 1990's, to the "Contextual Collaboration Age" of roughly 2000 to 2005. As envisioned by IBM, the Contextual Collaboration Age involves:
- Web services
- Standards-based infrastructure
- Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools
Lotus Notes and especially Lotus Domino are evolving on a rapid schedule. Zollar says the next major release will be approximately 18 months after Notes/Domino 6. Whether it will be Notes/Domino 6.x or 7 isn't known, says Zollar, but you can look for product previews in 2003 and a new release in 2004. Compare this to the more than three year gap between releases 5 and 6 to see how aggressively IBM is pursuing its new product roadmap for Lotus Notes and Domino.
Zollar says the plan is to modularize products and exploit J2EE and Web services. The product roadmap to Lotus NextGen Contextual Collaboration has four levels, from most to least "application richness," evolving over time:
- Lotus Domino
- NextGen collaborative infrastructure
- NextGen collaborative components
- RAD for J2EE
In the near future, says Horan, developers can expect more Lotus QuickPlace and Lotus Sametime modularity, Java APIs, broader support for SIP (a server-based instant messaging protocol) and LDAP. A RAD tool for Lotus J2EE components will be based on the open-source Eclipse development environment. Also in the works are plug-ins to make Domino development in WebSphere easier. Some of this arrives with Notes/Domino 6, which includes a large set of tags for Java Server Pages (JSP).
How can tech professionals drive into the NextGen world? Horan describes a road, with Domino and WebSphere as adjacent lanes. Domino developers can continue cruising the "yellow brick road of Domino," or they can straddle the Domino and WebSphere lanes of development. The NextGen road is yet another lane which Lotus Software is actively building.
Lotus expects it will be easy for tech pros to change lanes, but to use it all, there's plenty to learn. In a demonstration of RAD capabilities, DeWitt used wizards and tags to build a help desk application involving Lotus Notes, Domino, a browser, a mobile device, Visual Basic, and J2EE.
"Today/soon" in the NextGen strategy, developers can use J2EE and Web services, says DeWitt. Tomorrow, as Lotus modularizes and evolves its products, developers can switch from products to components. Naturally, IBM hopes use of Lotus components will involve WebSphere. But since everything is being built on open standards and supported on every significant platform, companies will be free to choose vendors, products and platforms as they desire (in sharp contrast to the proprietary technology of Microsoft .NET).
Zollar says fears are misplaced of a sudden or forced shift of Lotus customers to J2EE components, because Lotus Domino and Lotus NextGen will take considerable time to converge. He says Domino will evolve over years, allowing customers to change at their own pace rather than having to rip out and replace.
In 2003, Zollar expects that NextGen will be a server to install next to Domino. By 2005, there will be full convergence of all capabilities into a single J2EE platform. Even then, Domino and J2EE will coexist and interoperate for as long as customers require, but, predicts Zollar, naturally and eventually, most application development will evolve to Lotus NextGen.
Of rumors that IBM is going to dump the Lotus Notes/Domino .NSF file format and replace it with IBM DB2 Universal Database, Zollar points to the ongoing customer-driven expansion of how tightly Lotus Notes and Domino integrates with external and relational data stores. For example, in Notes/Domino 6, a view can display a virtual column of data that appears to be coming from Domino but is actually in an external database such as DB2. It is predictable that this will evolve, and someday, customers will find it beneficial to store all data in DB2. At some point, years in the future, .NSF will become a "legacy" format. Zollar says one benefit of moving Notes/Domino data into DB2 is leveraging its Experanto native XML features.
Lotus also continues to evolve its other products in anticipation of greater integration with Domino. For instance, Lotus Sametime 3.0 will include a stand-alone Sametime server, but also an enterprise meeting server, and a standards-based server for Sametime e-meetings. Rather than needing Sametime-specific expertise, administrators will be able to use their standard Web application management skills with this new real-time collaboration server.
Long-time Lotus customers may wonder, is Lotus really important to IBM? Al Zollar says yes, and provides some big numbers: Lotus has sold about 85 million seats, it has about 50 thousand customers, and it contributes about 20 percent of the total revenue of IBM Software Group (comprised of Lotus, WebSphere, DB2 and Tivoli brands).
Here's an interesting fact from Steve Mills, head of IBM Software Group: IBM has more products running on Microsoft Windows than Microsoft does.
Copyright ©1994-2002 ADVISOR MEDIA, Inc.