The Lotus Roadmap – Stu Style!

Well at the moment even I’m still slightly confused as to where Lotus are going ….. so I’ve put my reading head on and tried to summarise here what I have found, or guessed. At the moment we have two streams:

  • Lotus Notes and Domino (and in their I include Quickplace for teamrooms and Sametime for instant messaging and conferencing)
    Lotus Workplace for Collaboration

So where are the 2 product streams going and what do i understand of the roadmap:

Notes and Domino run on proprietry protocols (with the exception of some browser based tools which run on open standards). The Domino server uses its own database format, the NSF. The products have evolved from the late 1980’s into the Notes and Domino we know today. Some love them, some hate them. However there is nothing else out there that can beat it in terms of integrating applications with email, combining this with a poweful, customisable application and email environment and allow such freedom in offline working (even from the browser).

However it is long in the tooth and must take a huge ammount of development effort to update each time a new release is required, and lets face it you evolve or die in IT.

Lets look at its new cousin. IBM Workplace, and note the word Lotus is dropped, is built on a framework of products already produced by IBM. Those being:

  • Websphere Application Server
    Websphere Portal
    DB2 or Cloudscape

The actual Workplace elements are developed on top of this framework using J2EE, a nice open standard environment. The service is scalable from the Express offering all through to thefull offering with options as to which of the elements you install so you can build a workplace to suit. The key here though is J2EE. This will allow not just IBM, but vendors and partners, to build elements of Workplace quickly and at less expense. I heard one partner say this would allow product lifecycles of 2-6 months compared to 12-20 months with Notes and Domino. So effectively as many advancements as IBM can cram into Notes Domino in 18 months down to around 6 months with Workplace. The basic architecture is shown below:

Thats great but there are still many thousands of databases on Domino and many many thousands of users on Notes clients. Well IBM have been quite canny here too. They presently have a Workplace client, which is richer than the browser interface and includes some nice peer to peer activity centric collaboration tools. This client plugs into the present Notes 7 client and allows you through the Workplace client to access NSFs and Workplace applicaitons. This won’t make anyone jump for joy – thats another application on my desktop!

From release 8 of Notes, Hannover, the clients merge. There is one client for Notes and Workplace. It will be interesting to see how it is branded.

I would then argue that despite all IBM’s statements that there is a future in both products that focus will begin to shift to the shorter lifecycle product. They have already addressed the developers needs and produced a workplace designer client which should be very familiar to your Notes developers. From the point where one client accesses both environments, both environments support a DB2 backend, it is only a matter of time before the workplace applications take over from Notes and Domino applications. Given the 6 month half life of most collaborative applications (i.e. the application matches the average life of your projects) then the number of NSFs would decrease and the number of Workplace applications would increase.

The trouble comes in this interim period – no-one will want to pay to run 2 systems (even if they can leverage existing Websphere and DB2 infrastructure). I think it will be difficult for IBM to sell the workplace platform until the Hannover client is released. Then I think they will also need some good tools to migrate NSFs into te J2EE workplace applications. Someone from IBM will argue against what I have written here. The future is Workplace in my view – but the big migration won’t start for 2 years.

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