Workplace Impresses, but Domino is Still Tops

Lotus links Workplace with WebSphere Portal, but many customers still want Notes and Domino.

While IBM envisions greater ties between its venerable Lotus Notes messaging and collaboration platform and its next-generation Workplace software, many Lotus customers are hoping for a future that continues to revolve around Notes and the Domino application server.

At its Lotusphere user conference here last week, IBMs Lotus Software division unveiled a packaged offering that integrates Workplace—a Java-based platform built on IBMs WebSphere application server—and WebSphere Portal Server, as well as a rich client for Workplace.

Officials of the Cambridge, Mass., division promised to tighten the links between Workplace and Notes/Domino, including the capability to run the Notes client inside Workplace by Version 8 of Notes, but the product lines will remain separate.

Although pledging a virtually indefinite commitment to Notes and Domino, a Lotus presentation made to IBM partners at the conference spoke of "evolving" Notes and Domino customers to Workplace.

"Our direction is clear," said Lotus General Manager Ambuj Goyal during his opening-session keynote at Lotusphere. "Your applications, skill sets, technology investments and software license investment will carry forward. You can implement new technologies at your own pace without having to pay twice for Notes and Workplace."

Some Lotus software users, while not unimpressed by what theyve seen of Workplace, have no plans to start using the new technology yet.

Don Hornbeck, team leader for enterprise application integration and electronic data interchange at American Electric Power, in Columbus, Ohio, said his top priority is a planned migration to Version 6.5.1 of Notes and Domino. Hornbeck said he expects to be on Workplace eventually, depending on cost and licensing, regardless of IBMs assurances that Notes and Domino development and support will continue indefinitely.

"Everythings going to the Web," Hornbeck said. "You can drive a 20-year-old automobile and still find a mechanic wholl fix it, but if you want to stay in the forefront of technology, you have to look at where things are going."

Lotus, while focused on Workplace, also announced enhancements for its legacy software, including the 6.5.1 version of Notes and Domino. In addition to integrated instant messaging, the update includes a Workplace-like user interface that provides access to various collaboration applications from a portal, as well as a connector that enables Microsoft Corp.s Outlook client to better access Domino capabilities.

Robert Auten, a systems analyst with L&L Products Inc., in Romeo, Mich., said he was "blown away" by what he had seen of the new Lotus technology, both Notes/Domino and Workplace. Although L&L is running the current 6.5 release of Notes and Domino, Auten said his company still isnt taking advantage of everything Notes and Domino can do, using them for only e-mail and "simple workflow."

Auten said he hadnt thought Workplace would be suitable for his organization but plans to find out more about it. For now, hes looking to get more out of Notes and Domino.

"For security and reliability, itd be hard to beat Domino," Auten said. Meanwhile, as IBM pushes Lotus Workplace more aggressively, Notes and Domino continue to win new customers, about 1,500 in the past year, IBM officials confirmed.

"Notes and Domino customers are growing," said Larry Bowden, vice president for WebSphere Portal and Lotus products at IBMs Software Group, in San Jose, Calif. "We want to keep them very excited about staying on Notes and Domino and not looking elsewhere."