Domino Horizons Widen

Tech analysis: Apps push Notes/Domino to Linux

Two recent product introductions make it easier for companies to use Linux to deliver IBM Lotus Notes/Domino-based messaging, calendars and scheduling.

At the end of July, IBM introduced a version of its IBM Lotus Notes client for Linux, allowing companies running Linux on the desktop to gain access to messaging, calendars and scheduling, and database applications. In June, Net Integration Technologies released Nitix with IBM Lotus Domino, a version of the Nitix Linux-based server operating system bundled with Domino Messaging Express.

IBM Lotus Notes on Linux is priced starting at $96 per user; the client is available at no cost to current Notes users. Nitix with IBM Lotus Domino is priced at $599 per server with a five-user license and $99 per additional user.

The IBM Lotus Notes on Linux client isnt exactly a native implementation: It runs on an Eclipse-based IBM Workplace Managed Client platform. However, it is a fully supported client; previously, Linux users would have had to also run the Windows version of the Notes client using virtualization technology.

In contrast, Nitix with IBM Lotus Domino embeds Domino on Net Integration Technologies version of Linux, delivering a new wrinkle to the companys appliance on a disk: Domino runs in a virtual server on Nitix OS, eliminating the need to install the Domino software. However, administrators will still need to run Dominos setup and administrative processes to configure the server and manage users and databases.

Nitix with IBM Lotus Domino is available with two licenses—one that allows access to e-mail and group calendars and scheduling, and another that allows e-mail, calendars and database applications.

Similar Notes, familiar tune the technology that makes notes on Linux possible is the IBM Workplace Managed Client, an Eclipse-based framework.

IBM Lotus Notes on Linux delivers the key functionality, security, replication and rich message content found on the Windows and Mac OS Notes clients. Users will likely appreciate the Notes on Linux client the most for its ability to bring e-mail and calendars offline through Notes replication, but the client also supports access to the thousands of database-driven applications available for Notes.

During tests, we liked the overall experience that IBM Lotus Notes on Linux provided: The client supports common Notes elements, such as the Workspace, the use of bookmarks to manage and distribute links to applications, and the customizable Welcome Page. When composing messages, the client uses the familiar tabbed Notes object management window for defining text fonts and paragraph styles.

The main Lotus Notes client is currently at Version 7.0.1, and Lotus Notes on Linux shares both the 7.0.1 version number and much of the same look and feel. However, at times we saw in Lotus Notes on Linux some of the inconsistency that is the hallmark of a 1.0 version of an application. For example, when we opened applications within the Lotus Notes on Linux client, the client didnt always display a vertical scrolling control.

Installing Notes on Linux is a two-step process, but the installer manages both steps (installing the Workplace Managed Client and then installing Notes on Linux itself). Linux desktop users must have full rights to the Linux/opt directory.

At the time of our tests, Red Hats Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Update 3 was the only Linux distribution supported by the new client, but IBM Lotus plans to add support for Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. Notes on Linux can be run on other Linux distributions with some relatively minor upfront work.

Small-Business Server

For a low cost, nitix with lotus domino bundles features and functionality that give small businesses a good start at deploying an easy-to-manage IT infrastructure, from networking to backup to e-mail and collaboration.

One thing that makes Nitix with Lotus Domino so cost-effective is the fact that it installs IBMs Domino Express, which is geared toward companies with 1,000 or fewer employees. Companies that want to use Domino to host database-driven applications in addition to messaging and group calendars must purchase a license for Domino Collaboration Express, which costs $898 per server (including the first five users) and $149 per additional user.

Nitix with Lotus Domino is particularly adept at insulating administrators from the complexities of Linux through a simple, Web-based administration console. The same doesnt hold true on the Domino side, however: Administrators will still need to manage setup of the Domino server using the Remote Domino Setup application. Admins also must use the Domino Administrator client to manage users, and they will have to install the Notes client and Domino Administrator client.

Nitix with Lotus Domino does eliminate one administrative headache—the task of backing up Domino databases. Administrators will need to configure Domino to regularly back up databases, but Nitixs built-in disk-based backup utility manages ongoing data backup. The Nitix with Lotus Domino backup utility can maintain regular snapshots of the virtual server that Domino runs in, as often as every 15 minutes, and it backs up that data to disk, giving administrators a quick restore capability.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at