IBMs Lotus Software divisions release of Lotus Notes and Domino 6 is expected next week, but developers of the software are already looking beyond this version to the messaging and collaboration platforms Web services future.
Domino 6 will deliver some much-desired improvements, including native anti-spam support, a revamped formula engine for faster and easier application development, improved security for spreading Domino applications across multiple servers, a smoother upgrade process, and a host of usability enhancements.
Developers, however, are getting excited about new Web services capabilities expected as soon as next year. The release of those services was originally planned for the middle of next year, according to a technology road map laid out by Lotus officials in May.
While officials would not confirm the current release plan, sources close to the company said a follow-up release to Domino 6—tentatively known as Domino 7—is slated for July. That would line up with previously announced plans for J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) support, which will enable developers to expose Domino collaborative applications to non-Domino applications as XML-based Web services.
Lotus officials, in Cambridge, Mass., said Domino has included some Web services support since Release 5, but the forthcoming J2EE capabilities will make development much easier.
“The concept of making Lotus apps available for collaboration with other software is just another crucial piece of the puzzle,” said Maurice Johnson, a contract Domino developer at Hitachi Software Engineering America Ltd., in New York. “At this point in the game, IBM/Lotus should be one step ahead in making Domino work with other bundles, and looking to get Java from Sun [Microsystems Inc.] as open source is a step in the right direction, as are the moves theyve made to widen their already-open arms to XML.”
The move to J2EE and Web services initially was met with resistance from some Domino developers when it was announced in January at Lotusphere.
: Furor Subsiding”>
But much of that furor has subsided since parallel development tracks were announced in May that would allow customers to go on using Domino as they do now, while opening up the platform to Web services.
“That was actually the biggest fear that Domino developers had as a community—that Domino would devolve into IBM WebSphere Collaboration Components,” said Stan Rogers, an analyst at CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants Inc., in Markham, Ontario.
“While I welcome the integration and the coming ability to natively expose Domino as Web services/J2EE components, losing Domino as a stand-alone platform—making the core collaboration features accessible only as components—would have nearly invalidated Domino for any purpose,” Rogers said.
Chris Harvey, senior technical analyst at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co., in Fort Wayne, Ind., said his company is interested in delivering Notes mail, scheduling and workflow applications as Web services without having to leave the platform.
“Our future is … WebSphere, but we dont plan to leave Notes behind,” Harvey said. “We are interested in keeping the functionality we have today via Web services in the future, but we are a year or two away from needing this type of capability.”
Many developers said they hope the opening up of Domino to Java, and of Domino rapid application development capabilities to Java programmers, will revitalize the platform and increase the demand for their skills.
Hitachis Johnson said the job market for Domino professionals has proved to be worse than that for other IT professionals during the economic slowdown, with many Domino professionals looking to expand their skills to other platforms.
“My abilities with Domino would never be ignored as long as opportunity exists, and Im sure others feel the same, but if companies are afraid, cynical or lacking the same confidence in Dominos importance or value, it presents a more crucial concern that IBM-Lotus needs to fortify against,” Johnson said.
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