Thursday, December 21, 2006

Domino's place at the table

The discussion over on Ed's blog is about why people believe rumors that Notes is dead. I posted a lengthy comment there, but I had some more thoughts on the subject that were more contentious and I didn't want to take over Ed's blog with my ramblings.

It isn't Notes that is threatened. It's Domino. Look at the recent announcements:

  • Sametime RTC Gateway
  • Lotus Component Designer
  • Activity Explorer
  • Workplace Forms
  • Domino Toolkit for Websphere Studio
  • Domino and Extended Product Portlets
  • Lotus Expeditor
It's all about Websphere. Where are the Domino innovations? IBM's lack of focus on Domino, while claiming it is a focus on Domino, is creating FUD. There is a roadmap for Domino and there has been a commitment to new releases for the next decade or so. The question is what lies along that road?

I'm not suggesting that Websphere is replacing Domino. When I look at everything laid out in front of me and I start connecting the dots, Domino's role and even it's usefulness isn't clear. End users don't care about the difference between Notes and Domino, and you need to look no further than the above examples to understand why people are willing to believe the rumor that Notes is dead. Strictly speaking, though, it's Domino that is more likely on a path toward extinction.


  1. If you're right Charles, it's not a terrible thing. The market has talked about federating the Domino server for a long time, so you could have something simple to handle messaging needs that's distinct from your web-delivery server.

    It's always been the case that the depth of integration is both Domino's greatest asset and it's Achilles' heel.

    My much bigger complaint is that the other incredibly useful things that IBM is doing require so much elaborate technology to go underneath. The RTC Gateway *requiring* WAS and DB2 is just absurd, for instance.

  2. I agree with that sentiment, Nathan. Things like Activity Explorer and Sametime RTC Gateway requiring WAS and DB2 just strike me as completely wrong-headed. Make an Enterprise version that runs on those and make a SMB version that is totally Domino based, but don't force everyone into a solution engineered for the Fortune 100 when we're part of the other 99% of businesses.

  3. The thing I am cocerned about is that SMB's will have to use multiple platforms/technologies to get these new 'features'. One of the strongest points for my company's domino customers in the past was the fact that all they needed was a domino server and we could integrate (with either lsx, decs, or lei) their db2 systems with a front end whether it was a notes or web client. Now it doesnt seem like this particular functionality(although there may be more appropriate situations with the maturation of nsfdb2) will go away, but the simplicity and the RAD cycle seemed to be the real selling point.

  4. Charles, bear in mind that if something like AE or the RTC Gateway simply shipped as a single install on a DVD, and you could just point it to your Domino server to auto-setup, you probably wouldn't care whether it was running WAS, DB2, Exchange, Oracle, or SCO UNIX -- as long as it got up and running easily and fulfilled it's functionality while integrating with your existing framework.

    The problem that IBM has with addressing the SMB market is that they haven't figured out that IT professionals are users, too. I remember the days of installing Notes 3 Server on OS/2 2.0, with the extra TCP/IP stack, on a Microchannel network card. It would take literally two days to get the box up and running, and god help you if you wanted SMTP mail with that.

    Systems like WAS and DB2 are still like that to get up and running. Which is why no 500 person shop wants to have to deal with them. But if the Activity Server install hid all that complexity behind some simple wizards, and just read straight from your Domino Directory to define it's users and get email information, etc -- would you really care whether it stored the data in an NSF? I doubt it. Sure, there would be advantages, but it would hardly be life-changing.

  5. There will be lots of information about the Domino releases after 8 discussed at Lotusphere 2007. We've approved the plan internally and allocated new resource to that project. Domino is not fading to black, don't worry.

    At the same time, I can understand the sentiment and I have been sharing similar thoughts inside of IBM. I think we have to be able to do both, provide new capabilities and invest in existing...the hardest part is that there are indeed segments of the market that WILL NOT ADOPT DOMINO, regardless of how good it is. So we build for all market opportunities, and some for upgrades and growth of the installed base. Tough dance.

  6. Nathan, I agree completely. If the installer were completely self contained it wouldn't be as much of an issue. There is still the hardware requirements to overcome, and there would still be debate about whether it was an appropriate infrastructure choice, but at least the installation wouldn't be so painful.

    Ed, I've said before that I welcome opening Domino up more, if Domino ends up as the directory and e-mail services server plus acts as an integration hub for the rest of the collaboration components, that's a good thing in my opinion. I'm not bemoaning a change in Domino's role in the least.

    What concerns me is the way it's being done it appears to be sneaky and underhanded. I'm sure that isn't the intent, but look at it from our perspective.

    We were told Domino was being replaced by Websphere, then we were told it isn't. Then Workplace was launched, but we were told it wasn't a competitor to Domino, even though it was painfully obvious it was. Then Workplace was dropped as a product and now we're seeing portions of it being offered as add-ons to Domino while requiring a Workplace infrastructure.

    The updates to Domino we are seeing mostly address decades-old complaints (Out of Office Agent) or providing even more integration points to Websphere (web services). Some portions of the core functionality of Domino are not being improved, though (web server), and the new innovations being requested for Domino are being offered in other platforms instead (Websphere).

    That's my perception, anyway. It could be totally off base.

  7. There are core investments for 8 - and definitely beyond 8 - in areas like directory, security, administration, management. If you get to the closing session at Lotusphere and don't feel like you've heard that information, I'll let you write your Lotusphere summary on

    However, I think you should also expect to hear a lot about the capabilities that happen to be being delivered on WAS/DB2 backends, such as Activities. And for the reason I stated.

  8. I was particulary interested in the discussions concerning the apparent lack of fixing things in Notes/Domino. These conversations were over at,,, and others. But it seemed as though most of the stuff were at those sites.

    While I am an Admin, I find those "development" issues interesting. As IBM continues to push Notes/Domino forward, you developers (and to some extent us Admins) are left to fill in the holes with workarounds. Or "wait for the next release."

  9. It is worth repeating that THE most important issue concerning the adoption of WAS/DB2-based services in smaller shops is the ease of installation and setup. Even Domino itself is not "easy" to set up if you're not an experienced Domino hand, but if you are, it is at least very quick. If the various related services sitting on different platforms were as easy to deploy, we'd only have to talk about cost issues.

    I've been thinking a lot about this lately, and I see no reason IBM should not be able to offer a turnkey server box that runs on Linux and can with little effort become anything from a Sametime server plugging into an existing Domino infrastructure to an entire brand new Domino/WAS/DB2/Sametime platform for a small enterprise.