Developers Revolt Over Lotus Plans

Developers of applications that run on Lotus Domino are revolting against IBM's plan to replace much of the existing Java support in Domino with an embedded IBM WebSphere application server.

IBMs Lotus Software division has caused a developers revolt by announcing support earlier this week for Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.3 in future versions of its Notes and Domino groupware platform.

At issue for developers of applications that run on Domino is that IBM intends to replace much of the existing Java support in Domino, known as Garnet, with an embedded IBM WebSphere application server.

The move, which was announced at the Lotusphere 2002 show in Orlando, Fla., earlier this week, has stoked long-held fears of Lotus developers that Domino will be replaced by WebSphere and may send many fleeing to non-IBM application development environments.

Joe Groh, owner of Innovative Consulting, a Lotus business partner in Cincinnati, said the move would require him to add another server to provide JSP (Java Server Page) functionality to his clients, which he could do natively with Garnet. The expense and overhead isnt worth it to him.

"It means that I will be looking at other tools apart from Domino – or anything IBM – to use to develop solutions for my customers," said Groh. "It means that Ill have to devote a substantial amount of effort to gain an understanding of both the server platforms/applications and development toolkits out there. Im not adverse to learning new tools, and in fact have been doing so all along in learning how to implement them within Domino. I just dont like being forced to when there appears to be no other motivation than IBM internal politics."

Groh is not alone in his feelings about the new J2EE support. A Web forum for developers on Lotus site shows that Domino developers are overwhelmingly opposed to Lotus announced Java plans for Domino.

"We feel that this is the end of Lotus Domino as a product," said Leif Lagebrand, project manager of IT & New Media at Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden. "In the future it will be a container with some functions for e-mail and collaboration used by the real Web server, WebSphere."

Lagebrand said the native JSP tools introduced in Beta 4 of Rnext—which will now be replaced by WebSphere in the final version—had put Domino developers "on the road" to JSP programming.

"[Garnet] gave us a chance to compete with MS IIS, Apache/Tomcat, Oracle and so on at entry level," he said.

Even those developers who lauded the move, criticized IBMs handling of it.

"The new Java support is tremendous," said Michael Bourak, Domino developer and technical director of a Paris-based Web agency. "Clearly it opens the world of Domino to any J2EE-compliant Web application server. What is unsatisfactory is the removal of Garnet, very late in the beta cycle, after more than a year of Lotus trumpeting about JSP and servlet support in Rnext."

Not all developers feel that theyre being moved off Domino. But they agree that IBM has mishandled the situation.

"What I do feel like Im being forced to do is invest heavily in a transition instead of dabbling," said Nathan Freeman, a consulting engineer at Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp., in Orlando, Fla. "Garnet made it possible for Domino developers to ease into JSP programming. Now were being asked to dive in the deep end, which inevitably means that a lot of people will simply choose not to get wet."

Carl Kraenzel, technical strategist for Lotus worldwide development, said Garnet was removed because it is a non-standard variant of J2EE. "We didnt want to take our customers down a blind alley. Eventually, we would have been taking our customers into building applications that wont play in a standard J2EE environment."

Kraenzel said much of what developers like about Garnet was in the J2EE tag library, which will remain. But developers will no longer be able to use Domino as an execution environment, but will require WebSphere or another J2EE Web application server, which Version 6 will support connections to. Lotus still has not determined just how Domino and WebSphere will be brought together and under what pricing model.

"Weve optimized Domino to work with the latest version of WebSphere, and well give developers attractive ways to get them together," said Kraenzel.

These pricing and bundling models will be announced as the year progresses, Kraenzel said, adding that they will be attractive to customers.

"The root of the anxiety among the developers is, Is it going to cost me more? Weve talked a lot about features, but we havent talked yet about pricing. We have to respond to their concerns. We have no desire to give our customers the impression that theyre about to take a price hit."

Kraenzel said the developers revolt is actually good news for Lotus.

"We just released Garnet in the fourth beta [of Notes/Domino 6]. That parts of our developer community are revolting means that many people liked the idea of developing Domino collaborative applications in J2EE."

J2EE 1.3 support is expected to begin in some areas of the forthcoming Lotus Notes and Domino 6, previously code-named Rnext. Lotus Notes and Domino 6 is the official new name of the next generation of software from Lotus, succeeding the current R5.

The final beta was announced at the Lotusphere show and is due for release within 30 days. The general availability release of Lotus Notes and Domino 6 is expected in the June-July timeframe.

New features in this beta include mobility enhancements for roaming user and multiuser support, more control over replication, and improved wireless access via PDAs, pagers and Web-enabled mobile phones. There are also interface enhancements to the mailbox, calendar, welcome page and bookmarks.

New application development capabilities include: support for design element locking and reuse and sharing of personal agents; built-in support for connecting to external data, which was previously available through a separate application, Domino Enterprise Connections Services; and support for a JSP tag library for Lotus Domino objects.

As part of furthering that integration, IBM also announced a new services strategy for Lotus at the show, known as IBM Software Services for Lotus.

It will call for Lotus Services salespeople to work closely with IBM Software Group sales teams and IBM business partners to deliver total solutions of IBM and Lotus products to customers and increase customer adoption of those products.

Teams will also provide consulting services to assist clients in technology deployment, infrastructure assessments, knowledge sharing and total cost of ownership measurement, as well as customer education and training.