Lotus Angers Developers

New support for J2EE in Notes and Domino will mandate a switch to WebSphere server.

IBMs Lotus Software division ignited a developer revolt last week by announcing plans to support J2EE 1.3 in future versions of its Notes and Domino groupware platform.

Developers of applications that run on Domino were upset that, as a result, Lotus will replace its proprietary Garnet Java development environment with an embedded IBM WebSphere application server.

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

"I will be looking at other tools apart from Domino—or anything IBM—to use to develop solutions for my customers," said Joe Groh, owner of Innovative Consulting, a Lotus business partner in Cincinnati. "Ill have to devote a substantial amount of effort to gain an understanding of the server [platforms and applications] and development tool kits out there. Im not averse to learning new tools, and, in fact, have been doing so all along. ... I just dont like being forced to when there appears to be no other motivation than IBM internal politics."

J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.3 suppport will be part of Notes and Domino 6, which was formally introduced at the show. A final beta of the software, formerly code-named Rnext, will be available within 30 days, and the shipping version is due in June or July.

Domino 6 will also come with a JavaServer Pages tag library for Lotus Domino objects, as well as support for design element locking, reuse and sharing of personal agents, and built-in support for external data connections.

The beta includes mobility enhancements for roaming user and multiuser support, more control over replication, and improved wireless access. There are also interface enhancements to the mailbox, calendar, welcome page and bookmarks.

Lotus General Manager Al Zollar at Lotusphere said J2EE 1.3 support would take the Cambridge, Mass., company to the "next level of collaboration," allowing customers to standardize on available platforms and thus have better interoperability among applications.

Carl Kraenzel, technical strategist for Lotus worldwide development, said Garnet was removed because it is a nonstandard variant of J2EE. Developers will no longer be able to use Domino as an execution environment but will require WebSphere or any other J2EE-compliant Web server.

"We didnt want to take our customers down a blind alley," Kraenzel said. "Eventually, we would have been taking our customers into building applications that wont play in a standard J2EE environment."

Even developers who lauded the move criticized Lotus handling of it, saying the company was moving them too quickly from Garnet to full J2EE programming.

Others saw this as one more sign that IBM was subsuming Lotus. At the show, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., announced a new services strategy for Lotus that calls for Lotus salespeople and consultants to work more closely with IBM Software Group sales teams and IBM business partners to deliver solutions with IBM and Lotus products.

"We feel that this is the end of Lotus Domino as a product," said Leif Lagebrand, project manager, 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."