Sure, IBM's Lotus bills it as more stable and more secure, and touts its server-consolidation features. But is there anything else compelling Notes/Domino users to latch on to ND6?
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Apparently, yes. R4 and R5 users are concerned that, as IBM's next-generation e-mail and collaboration products materialize in the coming years, their current platforms will suddenly be antiquated, unstable and unable to connect to J2EE applications and databases.
Some are counting on Notes and Domino 6 (ND6) to build a bridge between messaging's past and its future.
"The applications you use send a signal to your customers," said Andreas Walker, IT manager at BBDO Interactive in Dusseldorf, Germany. As the producer of Web sites for Volkswagen and Ericsson, BBDO Interactive is delivering very advanced technology. "We're setting an example by using those technologies ourselves," Walker said.
BBDO Interactive serves as the advanced technology group for its parent company, advertising powerhouse BBDO Worldwide. Walker said ND6 is helping keep the firm at the leading edge of a general industry trend toward Java technology and new knowledge management systems.
"We only have 110 people working in a project-based environment," Walker said. "And when people leave, they take away a lot of information, not on disks or anything, but in their brains."
Walker said that BBDO Interactive has an annual employee turnover rate of roughly 30%. ND6, with its links to WebSphere and DB2, will better support the company's knowledge infrastructure by capturing information from e-mails, individual documents and other sources, he said. "And we're going to want to give that to our users with a single interface," he said, "perhaps using WebSphere Portal Server."
IBM WebSphere Portal Server aggregates applications and information into a single personalized portal for end users. The product ships with a migration kit for users of IBM/Lotus K-station.
IBM is marketing ND6 as an important interim step that users can take toward WebSphere/J2EE without overextending their current programming capabilities. "This is not an either/or proposition," said Lotus marketing manager Art Fontaine. "R6 lets you develop solutions with the best of both platforms and get them to market faster."
Developers will be able to use IBM Lotus Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio to create a two-way street that lets both WebSphere (as IBM would have it) and Domino developers share resources. Domino-centric shops can use JSPs and servlets to extend ND6 applications. WebSphere users, meanwhile, will have an easier time exploiting ND6 applications and data for portal applications, for example.
For many Domino users, finding the right time to upgrade is just one hurdle.
Domino users should upgrade to ND6 "to avoid falling behind" in the march toward Java, said Stephen Arees, director of business development and marketing at New York-based Rave Software Solutions Inc. Rave, which is an IBM business partner, has helped migrate 30,000 Notes/Domino users to ND6. Rave's customers include financial services firms, law firms and pharmaceutical companies of various size running R4 and R5. While most make the move to ND6 from R5, Lotus is also supporting migrations from R4.
Arees said he expects to oversee the migration of 200,000 additional seats to ND6, mostly at pharmaceutical companies, in the third quarter of this year. "If you don't upgrade to ND6, you're looking at an even more expensive, painful process getting up to speed with next gen in the future," he said.
Arees said that more advanced users of QuickPlace, Sametime and iNotes have been eager to upgrade to ND6. He notes that the applications are becoming more intertwined, but administrators may still have a hard time making a case for a major migration.
"Even though the costs of upgrading to R6 are not that much," Arees said, "it can still be hard to calculate the savings in hard figures. But if you want to get involved in WebSphere and, if you want to do a lot of collaboration, ND6 is clearly a step in that direction."
Holding out for 100% J2EE next-generation products, which may take up to three years to surface, will be a tough strategy for programmers deprived of any exposure to Java. But ND6 will reduce the downtime caused by next-generation migrations and ensure that programmers are more productive once next-generation tools are installed, Arees said.
Lotus' Fontaine reiterated IBM's claim of "a great uptake" in migrations to ND6, although IBM has never produced a figure to back that up. (Fontaine said he was basing his claim on "early deployment team information.")
Nor is it likely that IBM's small customers are among those migrating to ND6. "I'm not even able to get my own company to do that," said Thomas Roberts, senior application developer at an IT consultancy based in Columbus, Ohio. Roberts is one of only two Notes/Domino specialists at his company, which employs 40 developers. Roberts' managers have told him that they'd prefer to stick with their current e-mail system.
Roberts' clients, most of them 50-person shops with one or two Domino servers, will continue, in the near term, to use R4 and R5. "Many of them don't have internal IT people, and they are reluctant to spend any money at this time," he said.
Larger businesses, however, are more likely to have the resources to at least experiment with ND6. Scott Good, president of Columbus, Ohio-based Teamwork Solutions Inc., sees it this way. "Midsize and large companies seem much more ready to jump to ND6 than they were with R5," he said. Among his clients who are testing or upgrading to ND6 are an automobile manufacturer and a large chemical manufacturer.
Lotus' Fontaine attributes large enterprises' interest in ND6 to the potential of J2EE to streamline their business processes.
"They're excited about taking a step toward J2EE, which removes the barriers between application types," Fontaine said. "They're creating environments where the infrastructure becomes one big application."
Mark Baard is a contributing writer in Milton, Mass.
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