Users and analysts who have examined the first beta version of Notes/Domino 7 report that they're impressed with the platform's stability and increased support for DB2.
They also say that this first test version of the upcoming ND7 signifies the beginning of a new day in the Domino world -- an era marked by greater interoperability with Java, Web standards and relational databases like DB2.
Erica Rugullies, a senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, highlighted several features in the new version such as enhancements to Smart Upgrade, which automates client-side migrations; improved policy management; and new antispam options. But, she said, these additions are just a footnote to the real story.
"These are all what I would call minor enhancements," Rugullies said. "From a bigger perspective, we're seeing increased integration between Domino and Lotus Workplace."
Workplace, the messaging and collaboration platform that IBM Lotus introduced last year, is built on a WebSphere and J2EE framework. For a couple of years now, Lotus has been attempting to familiarize Domino diehards with a Java environment.
As a result, Rugullies said, users will notice releases moving toward functional parity between Domino and Workplace. Many users already have begun learning about Java and how to build applications that can be accessed via a Web browser. The ND7 beta "helps to build a bridge between Lotus Notes/Domino and Lotus Workplace," she said.
IBM said the first beta release of Notes/Domino and Domino Designer 7.0 features a higher level of integration with WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Portal. The company added that the beta offers developers a new Web Services hosting feature, as well as enhancements to Domino Web Access and Lotus Enterprise Integrator.
In an interview at this year's Lotusphere, Kevin Cavanaugh, Lotus' vice president of messaging development, told SearchDomino.com that his company is planning the final release of Notes/Domino 7 for the first half of 2005.
Stability, more IM support
Matthew Henry, a technical architect for the advanced technology team at Kemet Corp., a Simpsonville, S.C.-based manufacturer with 3,000 Notes seats, said he's impressed with the overall stability of the first ND7 beta.
"If you've worked with Notes/Domino 4, 5, or 6, the first betas were very unstable," Henry said. "Even in a semi-production environment [the ND7 beta] is much better than any of the betas that we've seen before."
Another treat in the ND7 beta is the increased access to Lotus Instant Messaging (formerly called Sametime). Henry explained that when ND7 users go into calendar and scheduling, team rooms or the Domino Directory, they will now see a presence awareness icon flashing next to people's names indicating whether they're online and available for instant messaging.
"It's the same interface that was in 6.5, but [IM integration] been added to other areas," Henry said.
When the final release of ND7 comes out, enterprise developers and administrators will have the option to use DB2 as the main data store, as opposed to the proprietary NSF database. Analysts said this will result in a quicker e-mail client and more dynamic views for end users.
IBM has said that companies wishing to use the relational database won't have to pay licensing fees during the testing period.
For developers, DB2 means more flexibility in that third-party applications will now be able to access data that may have been created through the Notes client, Rugullies said. It also means that developers will be able to create dynamic applications with multiple tables that are linked together. ND7 will also feature enhancements to Domino Designer and WebSphere Studio.
"I'm seeing more of a tie-in between Notes and WebSphere," said Jennifer Caldwell, a Notes developer at Minneapolis-based Graco Inc., a maker of pumps and sprayers. Caldwell hasn't had the chance to download the new beta yet, but said that she plans to. IBM "is migrating users toward a DB2 back end," she said.
Forrester's Rugullies explained that in the past there has been limited access to DB2 through Domino, but it hasn't been easy.
"You can have a Domino application access DB2 data," she said. "But you can't easily have WebSphere or Lotus Workplace applications access a Domino back end."
The new focus on Java, WebSphere and Workplace has left some developers wondering about Notes/Domino's future. While the platform is becoming more of a legacy system, Rugullies said it will still be around for a long time to come.
"It may not be going away, but Notes/Domino, as its users have come to know it, is nearing the end of its golden years," she said.
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