IBM Lotus announced Wednesday that its next version of Notes/Domino will include support for Linux running on IBM's zSeries mainframe.
The expanded Linux support is expected to make it easier for users who currently use Notes on Intel-based servers running Linux to consolidate onto a much larger system, such as a mainframe, while still running their Notes/Domino apps in a Linux environment.
Notes/Domino 6.5, due to be released in September, will also support the Domino Web Access client (formerly known as iNotes Web Access) via the open-source Mozilla browser.
With Domino Web Access, users can access Domino functionality -- including e-mail, calendaring and scheduling, replication and business applications -- anywhere they can find an Internet connection.
Experts say today's announcement is a pretty big deal for customers because it marks the first time users can access a rich messaging client from a non-Windows desktop. Upshot: Users can run a completely Microsoft-free messaging environment.
Many IT pros, not just die-hard Linux fans, are likely to be excited about being able to shed Windows licensing and upgrade fees, said Mark Levitt, vice president for collaborative computing at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.
While IBM has supported Notes/Domino on Linux since the release of Notes/Domino R5 in 1999, this is the time IBM will support Linux on the zSeries.
While industry experts once considered Windows too pervasive to consider changing to another platform, that's just not the case anymore, "despite what the general industry is saying," Levitt said.
"A lot of customers are looking to Linux to get away from an Intel- or Windows-only environment," said Tim Kounadis, senior marketing manager for IBM Lotus Software. He said users just don't want to move to some open-source collaboration -- they want something that comes with full support and rich functionality.
"This will force users to think about Linux as a viable collaborative platform -- just as they do Windows or Unix," he said.
The real appeal to customers, however, is what this level of support means to shops looking to consolidate.
"We think this is going to be very interesting for customers that have Domino running on a server farm of 20 to 30 servers and are thinking about consolidation," Kounadis said.
Rick Golden is hoping that Notes/Domino 6.5 will allow his organization to do just that -- consolidate its 30 Intel-based servers onto one zSeries running Linux. Golden, director of networks and systems at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., is in the process of beta-testing Notes/Domino 6.5 on a z800 mainframe.
So far, so good, but no decision has been made as to whether the university will migrate its Notes/Domino apps to the mainframe.
Much of the draw for Golden to consolidate servers is that Notes/Domino is now being supported on the mainframe running Linux.
Golden said the university currently uses Notes/Domino as its standard collaboration tool and has versions R5 and R6 running on a variety of Intel-based servers. But Golden said there's just too much time and money spent on managing all those servers, and he's hoping this beta run is successful, so the university can move forward with a server consolidation.
"We're currently looking into the ROI [to see whether] it is going to cost less," Golden said. "Actually, at this point, I haven't seen any of the true numbers … so I can't say. In my mind, it should, but we need more time with it."
Golden realizes that much of the cost savings will come from moving to an open-source platform. "You can go out and buy Windows, or you can download Linux for free," he said. "There are support costs, sure, but they're much cheaper than they are for running Windows full blown."
"We're hoping that, through this platform, we're able to realize some cost reduction," Golden added. "So, let's run this up the pole and see if anyone salutes."