Domino and Linux get cozy

Lotus has taken a number of steps to make Linux available for Domino.

Linux is being greeted warmly by the Domino community, and Lotus is responding to the enthusiasm.

Lotus has taken a number of steps to make Linux available for Domino. But while the free open source operating system has grabbed the attention of the Domino community, concerns about scalability issues which have relegated it to a specific-use server niche and lack of Notes client support continue to linger.

There are plenty of signs that the Domino community is open to Linux. A recent search Domino poll found 60% of those responding were extremely or somewhat interested in Linux.

Lotus is finding that data matches its figures as well, based on the download counts for the latest Rnext beta. Greg Kelleher, Lotus' Domino for Linux brand manager, said during the first two weeks of posting the latest RNext, Domino for Linux scored 1,100 hits compared with just 80 for Solaris and more than 6,000 for Win32.

"The 23-year-old crowd is very much into Linux," Kelleher said.

Lotus' strongest Linux base is in Europe and Asia/Pacific. But there is a young American contingent in the wings.

Kelleher said Lotus' Linux strategy has been to push Linux as a specific-use server to address the scalability issues.

"We're working with the Linux community to address this and are up to 600 users with the 2.2 kernel, " he said.

Scalability is key

Jason Perlow, president of Argonaut Systems, a systems integration firm in northern New Jersey, and frequent contributor to Linux Magazine, said scalability is the key before Linux can be wholeheartedly embraced.

"The last benchmark tests were done on 2.2," he said. "Lotus needs to re-benchmark Domino to show it can handle more users and processes."

The other knock that Perlow says users are grumbling about is Lotus' lack of support for the Notes client on Linux.

"If Lotus is dropping the ball at anything," he said, "it's on the desktop level."

He said that is not surprising, because IBM sees Linux as a server competitor and a way to sell its hardware. In a stronger economy, Lotus' Linux desktop efforts would be stronger, he said.

But Lotus' Kelleher said Linux is simply not ready for use on the desktop, which is why Lotus has not pushed Linux for Notes.

"There has been a substantial delay on how Linux is evolving on the desktop market," he said. "We're confident we made the right choice. The standard is Microsoft whether the Linux community likes it or not."

Kelleher said Lotus has responded to demand for Notes-Linux by placing instructions on its Web site on how to run the standard Win32 Notes client over WINE, an open-source implementation of the Windows API that permits Windows applications to run on Linux.

Windows NT crowd

Another hurdle for Lotus to overcome is the Windows NT side of the track. Although Linux may save money for businesses on hardware, it may be a big leap on the administration side if training and support become burdensome for the NT crowd, said Perlow.

"If you already have a significant AIX infrastructure," Perlow said, "it's a no-brainer. But it you have an NT-based enterprise then there will be a huge learning curve. I just don't know if it makes sense from an NT environment point of view. It would mean a major philosophical change for IT management to go that way."

But Don Harbison, Lotus director of worldwide product marketing for Domino, said the NT crowd wants stability above all.

"We see NT people as being aggressive, and in reality, they're looking for reality -- the stability that Linux provides," he said.

Meanwhile, Lotus is continuing to work on Linux for Domino. Linux for Domino currently supports the earlier 2.2 kernel. /p>

"Unfortunately," Kelleher said, "the 2.4 shipment didn't match our testing cycle. We're shooting for 2.4 support in 5.0.9, sometime in the fourth quarter."

Enhancements include symmetric multiprocessing as well as large file support, but the major plus is an overhaul of the installation procedure, upcoming in 5.0.9 or Rnext. Lotus is switching to a tri-annual maintenance schedule from its previous quarterly maintenance releases.

While unable to provide a target date, Kelleher said the Linux community has no problem with unsupported versions so Lotus will make versions available for testing.

MORE INFORMATION

A complete look at Linux and Domino is available at this searchDomino Featured Topic site: Domino and Linux

Dig deeper on Domino Resources - Part 4

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