Lotusphere 2009: First Take

Here's my take on Lotusphere 2009 based on the posted slide decks and Lotus's analyst briefings of the last few days. Lotusphere runs from January 18 to 22 in Orlando, FL, and is the big annual Lotus user conference.

The General Session presents a mass of detail but is ultimately light on content.

Domino Designer 8.5 and Xpages

The major technical announcements and sessions address the integration of Xpages and Domino data services in a new Eclipse-based Domino Designer 8.5 client. This move to Eclipse mirrors a similar development that occurred under Notes 8.0 to the Notes client. The up-side of using Eclipse is that it provides a single platform across multiple Operating Systems (OSes). This allows Lotus to deliver a Notes, and in future a Domino Designer, client across Windows, OSX, and Linus OSes. The down-side is that, like Windows Vista, it is a resource hog.

Xpages was the User Interface (UI) mapping component of Lotus Workplace--a Notes alternative that sank without trace a couple of years ago. Its importance is that it finally delivers a modern (skinable CSS-based, AJAX, RESTful, DOJO, etc.) Web pallet to the Domino development community. It has to be pointed out, though, that without Lotus's "two-lane highway" diversion, this functionality could have been delivered to the Domino development community two to three years ago! This is highly useful functionality, and is better being delivered late than never.

Missing in Action

For the rest, two of the strongest Lotusphere 2009 messages are those that are going un-said:

  • Lotus has quietly withdrawn support for DB2 as an alternative to Notes Storage Facility (.nsf) repositories on Domino servers
  • There are no posted sessions on Domino Designer-based development of native Eclipse-based Domino applications

Replacing multiple .nsf repositories with a single DB2 repository was always a half-baked idea. There are two potential reasons for attempting to replace .nsf repositories with DB2 repositories:

  • DB2 repositories would be more reliable/scalable/performant than .nsf repositories
  • DB2 repositories would allow efficient SQL access to Domino data

Unfortunately, these two objectives often conflict with each other. The DB schema necessary to achieve the former renders the later difficult or impossible to achieve. It is my guess that this turned out to be the case with Domino DB2 repositories. In the case of a 20+ year old product like Domino, it was probably also the case that the hoped for improvements in reliability, scalability, and performance were never achieved.

Like Workplace, the move to DB2 is yet another example of IBM general management weaknesses when it comes to evaluating technical software issues. IBM general management has, sadly, a long history of not understanding technical software issues. FS, SAA, OS/2, and OV are a few pre-cursors.

With respect to the lack of sessions on Domino Designer-based development of native Eclipse-based Domino applications, there are two possible explanations.

  • Like a LotusScript editor for Domino Designer, the required functionality did not make it into 8.5, and will make it into a subsequent release.
  • There are, with the release of Xpages, three different approaches to Notes/Domino UI development:
    • The historic Domino Designer-based view/forms/etc. approach for arbitrary Notes client and Web deployment
    • The new Domino Designer 8.5-based Xpages approach for Web deployment
    • The approach employed to implement PIM (email, calendar, contacts, to do, etc.) functionality for Eclipes-based (Notes client 8.0, and later) deployment

IBM urgently needs to collapse these three into one approach to Notes/Domino application development. Having to develop each application twice--one for Eclipse, and a second for Web deployment, makes no sense.

Other Points of Interest

All of the Lotusphere 2009 presentations were created using Lotus Symphony and posted in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. [Symphony is Lotus's word processing, spreadsheet, and presentations applications suite.] This is a good example of Lotus eating its own cooking. At the same time, the absence of clip art and animation in this year's presentations is an indication of the distance Symphony still need to travel. The announcement of Pivot Table support in the Symphony spreadsheet is a strong indication that Lotus intends to travel the necessary distance.

[Editor's note: Nick Shelness, the author, is a former IBM Fellow and a former Lotus CTO].

... Nick Shelness

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