The most pressing challenge for IBMs Lotus Software division isnt what product it should build next but how to make the products it has work together in the future.
Domino has long been the core of Lotus product offerings, and, based on eWeek Labs tests of a number of new Lotus offerings, Domino will continue to be exploited not only for its enterprise-class messaging capabilities but also for its ability to host applications and serve as a central repository for administration information.
Indeed, the strength of Lotus products is their collaboration capabilities. However, with the current push toward Web services, the business problem evolves from sharing and collaborating within a company to integrating with Web services standards. Lotus needs to find a way to keep delivering messaging, collaboration and document management services to its customers while smoothly building a bridge to the world of J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and IBMs WebSphere development environment.
Even as the former Lotus Development Corp. becomes more deeply subsumed into the IBM culture and product environment, Lotus and IBM officials have been trying to maintain good relationships with Lotus Domino developers. However, as the “Garnet” controversy showed earlier this year, it will be difficult to keep everybody happy over the long haul.
Garnet was the code name for a Lotus project designed to embed J2EE capabilities within Domino, including servlet and JavaServer Pages editing capabilities in Domino Designer. Garnet was available in beta releases of Domino 6, and a group of Lotus developers were none too happy when Garnet was pulled out of the final release of the new Domino platform.
Replacing Garnet in the shipping Domino 6 is Domino 6/WebSphere Entitlement, which allows Domino shops to use IBM WebSphere Application Server 5.0 with their Domino applications.
Organizations that purchase Domino Enterprise Server (not just the messaging server) can download WebSphere Application Server from the IBM Lotus Passport Advantage site. A big restriction with this download, however, is that WebSphere can function only with applications that use the Domino data store; connections to other data sources are not supported under the license.
The Domino and WebSphere platforms may converge in years to come, but it will be a while before that happens in any useful way.
On the development front, Domino Application Server currently is the recommended platform for rapid application development. In addition, because Domino works well with unstructured data, it is a suitable foundation for document management and collaboration applications. Applications that require significant scalability (more than 5,000 concurrent users) should be built on WebSphere.
It wont be easy to go from one platform to another. More than a technology issue, it will be difficult to translate Domino development skills to J2EE and vice versa.
Based on eWeek Labs tests of the raft of products Lotus released in October, it is clear that Lotus powerful technology can benefit customers today but that synergy among the various products must improve for customers to get a complete return on investment (even when taking the whole WebSphere element out of the equation).
Lotus software APIs are substantially different from product class to product class. As a result, application integration is not as easy as it could be.
The road ahead will be a rough one for Lotus—and Domino shops—as it attempts to juggle new technologies and standards with legacy applications and IBM platform integration. Whether Lotus can keep all those balls in the air will go a long way in determining its long-term fate.
Domino 6 expands the functionality of Lotus enterprise messaging platform while adding features that make the server easier to manage and more efficient.
In addition, because Domino is the key component of virtually every Lotus product, the improvements in Version 6 should span far beyond e-mail. That may take a while, however: Some new Lotus applications, including Sametime 3, dont yet support Version 6 of Domino.
Domino 6 has a few features designed to reduce total cost of ownership, including the ability to support multiple languages on the same server, which should be a boon for multinational companies.
Domino 6 can also create network efficiencies. The new built-in network compression in Domino 6 takes client/server and server/server traffic and compresses data automatically with LZ1 compression. Lotus claims IT departments can expect to see a 25 to 50 percent reduction in network traffic using the compression, depending on the type of data sent.
Streaming replication is another feature that should enhance Domino performance. A single streamed remote procedure call is used to read multiple attachments and documents. As a result, replication times are shortened, and users can access data as soon as it is replicated.
Domino shops fighting the good fight against spam will also be pleased to see the inclusion of DNS (Domain Name System) blacklist filtering in Version 6. This feature automatically checks sites such as Mailabuse.org for lists of known spammers and rejects messages from them.
Domino 6 also includes Mail Message Journaling, which will be a big help to organizations that need to keep track of mail for regulatory purposes. Mail Message Journaling is not enabled by default, but in tests it was not difficult to implement. With this feature enabled, the mail router is able to store mail traffic in a database for later retrieval. For security purposes, Domino 6 allows encryption of files stored on the journaling database.
Dominos ability to run on different hardware and software, including Linux, AIX, Solaris and Windows, gives Domino users a freedom of choice that Microsoft Corp. Exchange shops will never know and will allow IT managers to get more mileage out of their hardware investments.
Domino Mail Server costs $894 per server; Domino Application Server costs $2,308 per server.
The Sametime 3 instant messaging system provides a powerful enterprise collaboration and communication platform.
In tests at eWeek Labs, we were impressed by Sametime 3s ease of use and capability. One somewhat surprising snag was that we could not run Sametime 3 on top of our Domino 6 test server. We had to add a Domino 5.0.10 server to the domain to get Version 3 of Sametime up and running.
The benefits of Sametime for organizations using Lotus products are twofold: Sametime can plug in to the administration tools of other Lotus products, which allows easier user management. In addition, Sametime makes Lotus products such as Notes and QuickPlace aware of the presence of other users for more seamless collaboration.
In eWeek Labs tests, the Sametime 3 client was fairly easy to install. There was a minute or so of uneasy pause after we entered the Sametime Web page for the first time and joined our first Sametime meeting (as components were downloaded), but after that everything ran fairly quickly and smoothly.
Using the Sametime Web page, we were easily able to create and arrange meetings. In the Sametime Meeting Room, we could test meeting setup before the official start of a meeting to make sure participants could log in and see presentation elements.
The client interface of Sametime 3 is fairly easy to navigate, and powerful functions such as application sharing and whiteboarding can be engaged with just the click of a button.
It was also easy to share control of meeting elements, allowing, for example, participants to write questions directly on presentation materials and make modifications on the fly.
New in this version of Sametime is Instant Messaging Gateway, which allows Sametime to communicate with other IM platforms using the Session Initiation Protocol standard. Also included is the ability to transfer files to meeting participants.
The new release of Domino.Doc, Version 3.5, is a client-only upgrade that should make integration between Lotus document management software and productivity suites such as Microsoft Office even tighter. On the server side, Domino.Doc 3.1 (released last year) remains the most updated version of the server, which is probably good news for the many shops still trying to upgrade to it.
The Domino.Doc 3.5 client upgrade adds Open Document Management API support, which allows Domino.Doc users to use the “save as” function from any desktop tool to the document manager. Users can also now save e-mail attachments directly into the Domino. Doc repository.
While Sametime and the Lotus QuickPlace team collaboration tool provide rudimentary document storage capabilities, Domino.Doc has advanced capabilities including document locking, check-in and checkout, and versioning.
To give QuickPlace access to these capabilities, Lotus has added to Domino.Doc a mechanism that allows it to manage QuickPlace collaboration sites. The connector tool enables seamless document retrieval from QuickPlace to Domino.Doc.
In addition, with IBMs acquisition of Tarian Software Inc., Lotus and IBM now have access to e-Records Management software, which will allow customers to better manage the documents they have floating around. It is also hoped that this new technology will help Domino.Doc improve its ability to retain records and optimize disposal policies to meet new regulations in the health care, government, insurance and financial industries.
IBM Lotus LearningSpace 1.0 successfully blends the capabilities of products such as Sametime and Domino into a powerful e-learning solution.
We evaluated LearningSpace 1.0, which is available as both an online service and a stand-alone product, by attending a virtual class and viewing the management tools from the perspectives of both student and teacher.
Throughout our tests, we noticed that LearningSpace 1.0 relied heavily on Sametime 3 for most of its functionality, including whiteboarding, desktop sharing and application viewing. In the LearningSpace environment, Sametime 3 is also responsible for managing breakout sessions and for recording and playing back lectures.
Administration tasks such as user enrollment, session scheduling and reporting are handled by a Domino 5 server in the background, with all the reliability and manageability its clustering and replication technology ensures.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar is at [email protected]