Lotus to Address Developer Concerns

IBM's Lotus Software division plans to address its developers' growing concerns that it is abandoning its Domino platform at the company's DeveloperWorks Live conference next week in San Francisco.

IBMs Lotus Software division plans to address its developers growing concerns that it is abandoning its Domino platform at the companys DeveloperWorks Live conference next week in San Francisco.

Although Lotus is not expected to make any formal announcements regarding the Domino road map at the show, Lotus General Manager Al Zollar and Vice President of Product Development Jeannette Horan will address the issue in their respective keynotes, Lotus officials said.

Lotus first roiled the developer community at its Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Fla., in January when it announced support for J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.3 in Version 6 of Domino that would replace Dominos own non-standard Java development environment, known as Garnet, with an embedded IBM WebSphere application server.

The uproar worsened in early March when IBM Senior Vice President Steve Mills publicly stated that Notes would be fully WebSphere-based as early as next year with DB2 replacing the current Notes file system known as the Notes Storage Facility, or NSF.

Lotus executives have since struggled to assure customers that they could evolve to new non-Domino technologies at their own pace and wouldnt be forced off the platform or lose their existing application investments. That effort will continue next week.

"Clearly, theres no vision in our line of sight that Domino goes away or any of our developers applications go away or wont be supported," said Ken Bisconti, a vice president at Lotus.

Bisconti said Domino will continue for "years on end." At the same time, Lotus will share with developers strategies for taking advantage of WebSphere capabilities, including J2EE, in their Domino applications. He said Zollars and Horans keynotes will clarify the muddled J2EE message at Lotusphere and give developers more specifics as to how theyll benefit from the new J2EE development environment in Version 6.

Sessions at the conference will also discuss so-called best practices for taking advantage of Java in Domino, including exposing Domino applications as Web services, Bisconti said.

As for the DB2 replacing NSF issue, Bisconti said that DB2 would only provide additional data storage capabilities for those Domino users who required it.

"Its not a matter of replacing NSF; were just looking to provide better support for relational, scalable data stores," he said.

Speculation has also been swirling in the Domino community that IBM would also replace Dominos system management capabilities with Tivoli and the Notes/Domino directory with IBMs SecureWay technology.

Bisconti did say that those IBM technologies would play a role in future Domino development, though he stopped short of saying they would replace the existing Domino technologies.

"Its a Lotus initiative to leverage other technologies across IBM as much as possible," he said. "We dont want to be writing new code for things that are already available in Tivoli, J2EE and relational data stores."

Still Sore Over DevCon

Domino developers may be tough to placate though. Many are still stewing that the Lotus Developers Conference, or DevCon, was swallowed up by the IBM conference.

"It sounds like Ken predicts they will deliver more empty assurances followed by marketing, just what we want right now," said Dave Taylor, senior systems analyst at T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, when told of Biscontis comments.

Taylor said though that he nonetheless would be interested in what Lotus executives have to say at the show and would withhold further judgment until then.

Amanda Gibbs, a Domino developer at Lloyd McKenzie Ltd., a Lotus partner in London, doesnt have high hopes for the conference either.

"I dont think IBM will do anything at DeveloperWorks which will improve the situation," she said. "They seem to believe that the world is WebSphere based, ignoring the 80 million Notes users."

Still, Gibbs said the architecture of Domino is less important to her company than a clearly articulated message from IBM, something she said has been sorely lacking to this point.

"What is worrying our customers is that IBM doesnt seem to be able to articulate a clear direction," said Gibbs. "We will lose customers to inferior Microsoft products, just because IBM cant control [or] manage rumor central and send clear, unambiguous signals to the market."