searchDomino users want to know -- about Linux, that is. A recent poll on searchDomino.com revealed that over 60% of users were Extremely/Somewhat interested in Linux. Lotus is finding that data pretty much jives with its figures as well if the download counts for the latest Rnext beta are anything to go by.
According to Greg Kelleher, Lotus' Domino for Linux brand manager, during the first 2 weeks of its posting the latest Rnext, Domino for Linux scored 1,100 hits compared with just 80 for Solaris and the (yawn) over 6,000 for Win32. Not too shabby for a free OS, wouldn't you say?
While Linux has been generously received within the Domino community, there are two key concerns: scalability issues which have relegated it thus far to a specific-use server niche and lack of Notes client support.
Tackling the enterprise first, Kelleher said that "we've been pushing 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."
Jason Perlow, president of Argonaut Systems, a systems integration firm based in northern New Jersey and frequent contributor to Linux Magazine, concurs that scalability is the key before Linux can be wholeheartedly embraced. "The last benchmark tests were done on 2.2," he notes. "[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 notes, "it's on the desktop level." That's hardly surprising, Perlow points out, since "IBM sees Linux as a server competitor and a way to sell their hardware." In a stronger economy, he hazards a guess that "[Lotus'] Linux desktop efforts would be stronger."
Not surprisingly, Kelleher sees the absence of a Linux Notes client a bit more optimistically. "There has been a substantial delay on how Linux is evolving on the desktop market," he noted. " We're confident we made the right choice. The standard is Microsoft whether the Linux community likes it or not."
In fact, Kelleher points out, Lotus has responded to its Notes-Linux wannabes 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.
Another hurdle for Lotus to overcome that Perlow thinks Lotus should focus on is the NT side of the track. Although Linux may save money for the enterprise on the hardware side of things, it may be a big leap on the admin side if training and support become burdensome for the NT crowd.
"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."
Don Harbison, Lotus director of worldwide product marketing for Domino, sees just the opposite in that 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.
Enough to chew on about what's lacking. What's in store for Domino for Linux?
Domino for Linux currently supports the 2.2 kernel. "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 acknowledges that the "Linux community doesn't have a problem with unsupported versions. We'll put things out so they can start testing."
While Kelleher and Harbison note that Lotus' strongest Linux base currently resides in Europe and Asia/Pacific, IT managers of the future take note --there's a young American contingent in the wings.
"The 23-year-old crowd is very much into Linux," Kelleher said.
Links Worth Checking
On Being Linus
Nikkei Electronics celebrates its 30th anniversary with this interview with Linux creator Linus Torvalds. http://ne.nikkeibp.co.jp/english/2001/30aniv/int2_1.html
Jekyll & Hyde: Linux or Windows 2000?
For anyone on the fence, here's more than enough food for thought. Notes.net brings you Ken Brunsen (Linux) and Joe Linehan (Win 2000) for a discussion of the major differences and similarities between the two, the way Domino works with both systems, and the Domino/Windows 2000 and Domino/Linux plans for Rnext. http://www.notes.net/today.nsf/lookup/linux_w2000_interview
Domino on Linux: Tune Up for Peak Performance
This April 2001 article from Group Computing is a MUST READ for inquiring minds. http://archives.groupcomputing.com//index.cfm?fuseaction=viewarticle&ContentID=544
Domino for Linux: Fast, Flexible
Get up to speed quick with Linux Magazine's March 2000 review.
Linux is the future, say former MS execs
It would hardly surprise me if Europe knew something we didn't. Whether it's sour grapes or the simple truth, this May 2001 article in the British Register is a jolly good read. http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/18768.html
Lotus' Domino for Linux Home Page
When it comes to Lotus and Linux, you've got to stop here. http://www.lotus.com/home.nsf/welcome/dominolinux
Notes Win32 Client on Linux
Lotus' instructions on how to run Notes on Linux. http://www.lotus.com/developers/itcentralnew.nsf/allpublic/2d96d32f0ed19d26852569dd0067b3d0?opendocument
White Papers and More Galore
A selection of white papers and articles from Northern Collaborative Technologies' Andrew Pollacks. Pro-L for sure but worth a look. http://www.thenorth.com/
Wendy Maxfield is a contributing writer based in Littleton, Mass.
This was first published in August 2001