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Does it make sense to build on our current Domino platform, adding WebSphere and DB2, or scrap it al

We developed a enterprise application within Domino 5 years ago in-house, and it does everything for our organization, from sales/marketing to claims, policy and underwriting (being a insurance company).

At the time the application was spec'ed, we assumed a certain amount of transactions and data storage requirements. So far, we are right on track.

However, current growth projections have us doubling or tripling in size data-wise in three to four years. Some of our databases could extend past one million documents.

Upper management has charged me with the task of evaluating our current platform and comparing it to a Microsoft .NET infrastructure in order to handle the expected increases.

With IBM's nudging of the Domino community to Websphere/DB2, how does this compare to .NET? Does it make sense to build on our current Domino platform, adding WebSphere and DB2, or scrap it all for a .NET solution?

While I am not looking for you to solve my dilemma, any thoughts you can add on this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

It sounds like you've built standard "transaction" applications in Domino to manage your business as well as the normal collaboration and document management features Domino delivers. I'm assuming today, as an insurance company, objects like policies, claims etc. are persisted in a database (DB2 most likely) and accessed using LotusScript (versus storing them just as Domino documents in an NSF). Correct?

Although you do have options on HOW to migrate to .NET or WebSphere, I expect a move to .NET would usually involve MORE development work for most customers. There ARE many options on how to run with WebSphere. Your best option depends on YOUR business priority to make the move, specific application features you need, how you've implemented your current Domino applications and your scalability requirements.

In my experience, Domino doesn't scale for transactions as well as a first-class relational database like DB2. IF you want to run on a Microsoft server, DB2 and WebSphere do that well. You also should look at your application architecture to determine HOW you'll use WebSphere. Obviously WebSphere is designed for Web applications based on the Java J2EE specification. Any LotusScript agents you have won't directly run in WebSphere, but they will still execute in your Domino server.

If you are looking at an incremental strategy to move their over time (versus a one-time conversion), you can:

  • Create Java Web applications quickly with IBM's WebSphere Development Studio (like Domino Designer, it minimizes the amount of manual coding) that access DB2 and your Domino databases using the right Domino jar files so you can update documents, run agents, etc.

  • Integrate to existing Domino Web applications using URL routing to a Domino server from WebSphere. (I like this better than other IBM options because the Domino server and WebSphere server are independently managed.)
If cost is an issue, get help planning your requirements accurately up front. You MAY be able to use WebSphere Express (versus the other WebSphere servers: Application Server and Network Deployment), which will save significant money. If you need clustering, you'll want to spend the money for the higher end versions of WebSphere. Also, make sure you get the LATEST versions of WebSphere and DB2. Older versions of WebSphere (version 4 and earlier) have very different administration models and limited support for current Java runtime environments (J2SE 1.4, etc). Also the Apache HTTP server, version 2.047 or later, offers very good management features for production quality Web sites and it's free from Apache.org. WebSphere will plug in nicely to this Web server. IBM also ships their own version of the Apache HTTP server WITH WebSphere so you can use that one if you want.

You'll definitely want clear help to understand the differences between the Java Web application models using the Struts framework and JDBC versus the Domino Web application model you're used to.

There are other options on integrating WebSphere and Domino. I recommend you get good help from a business partner that has already done it (created Domino apps, WebSphere apps and integrated the two). I've gone through the IBM Redbooks on this, and they can provide some good insights but usually leave lots of valid options out on how to do this.


Editor's Note:
See also SearchDomino.com's Domino and WebSphere Integration Learning Guide.

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