ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mikael Ankerstjerne, a Notes manager with Danish insurance firm Topdanmark, was scouting the Lotusphere product showcase for tools to manage his messaging infrastructure. At the same time, he was hoping to arm himself with something less tangible -- but perhaps more valuable: information to convince his bosses that Domino's future is bright.
"They think Domino is going to die," Ankerstjerne said. "You have to explain to [management] that, if you make the right investments, Domino can live on for another 10 years or more."
That message may be sinking in among the rank-and-file Domino die-hards assembled here at the annual user conference. This year, users seem to be doing less grumbling about the platform's life expectancy and more strategic planning.
Not only did IBM Lotus dedicate the better part of the opening general session to explaining how companies can leverage their existing Domino investments and skills in an increasingly Java-based world; business partners and third-party vendors are singing the same tune on the show floor.
Products from some of the 157 providers are being pitched for their ability to help Domino shops operate within a well-known environment -- while not missing out on the benefits of keeping up with technological changes.
On the administrator front, Brightline Technology Inc., Portsmouth, N.H., rolled out a new server designed to let small and midsized businesses extend their existing Domino applications into J2EE environments. Priced at $2,500, Brightline Application Server 1.0 lets companies that are moving toward Java use familiar Domino controls, such as Domino Directory, LDAP and the Lotus security model.
Bottom line: Domino administrators don't have to learn J2EE for deploying, administering and managing applications.
"IBM is setting the tone," said Brightline CEO Jim Wilson. "We're training wheels, so you can take the applications that come in at the departmental level and deploy them in a J2EE environment."
For developers, Trilog Group Inc., Woburn, Mass., is also paving an easier-to-trod path to Java. FlowBuilder 3.0, a development platform released at Lotusphere this week, lets programmers reuse their existing skills by building J2EE-based applications in an environment that looks and feels like Domino.
"[Domino developers] would be lost, from a skills perspective, on WebSphere Studio," said Alex El Homsi, Trilog's CEO.
In FlowBuilder, developers will find forms, views, APIs and constructs that are similar to Domino Designer. The latest version of the development platform also features an automated migration tool for converting existing Notes applications to J2EE, as well as integrating with the J2EE-based Workplace product line. FlowBuilder starts at about $10,000 for smaller installations.
The added help is no doubt welcome news to Lotus customers like Big Lots Stores Inc., Columbus, Ohio. The discount-store chain has 2,400 Notes users and is exploring ways for Java to play a larger role in the organization -- especially since the company seems firmly entrenched in Domino.
"We've had a resurgence in pushing Notes out," said Patti Burris, the company's communications analyst and acting Domino administrator. "We underwent a change in management and have [since] made some real commitments to Domino."
Big Lots' renewed enthusiasm translated to a recent deployment of Lotus Instant Messaging (formerly called Sametime) and Lotus Team Workplace (the former QuickPlace). Burris and others found plenty of tools here to help them manage those offerings, which are especially useful in this era of increased regulation.
DYS Analytics Inc., Wellesley, Mass., rolled out Control 4.2, e-mail management software that also supports Lotus Instant Messaging and Team Workplace. In addition to tracking user-mailbox sizes and generating canned reports, it now logs instant messaging conversations and scans exchanges for offensive words and phrases. DYS is also introducing a desktop edition designed for SMBs.
Meantime, PistolStar Inc., the Amherst, N.H.-based password management vendor founded by a former Iris developer, is planning a new server appliance that will feature 20 seats of either Lotus Instant Messaging or Team Workplace bundled with DB2 Express and WebSphere Express. It will also include management tools for keyword monitoring, reporting and auditing. The Facet Server Appliance will cost $15,000.
Because users can leverage their Active Directory passwords, the rack-mount IBM box is designed to get SMBs that run Exchange to sample Lotus collaborative technologies.
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Special event coverage: Lotusphere '04