ANALYSIS -- With Notes 7 in its fourth beta and scheduled for imminent release, the Notes community is already looking ahead to the following version, code-named Hannover. All indications point to a very interesting, increasingly extensible, more productive and more aesthetically pleasing Notes client.
End users consuming applications in the new client will see integrations of native Lotus Notes applications and J2EE-based Workplace applications, and most of them won't care much about the nuts and bolts underneath. Hard-core Notes administrators and developers will, of course, care very much about what is happening behind the glass, as it will affect the way they do their jobs. And that is where the story appears to have taken an interesting turn.
Ever since IBM Lotus started talking about J2EE in relation to Notes, we have all been very curious as to how IBM's vision would all play out on the ground. It has been clear for some time now that the future of the Notes client was centered around the Eclipse framework. Notes applications would be surfaced natively within that framework alongside Workplace portlets and other J2EE-based functionality.
Recently I had the opportunity to ask IBM a few questions about the technological underpinnings of the client that we were seeing in the Hannover screenshots and where the technology was heading.
Apparently, the way things are shaping up in the development labs, the Hannover client is essentially the same collection of Notes DLLs we have come to know and love, with some Workplace Client Technology (WCT) components added in. Where we expected to see a J2EE framework combined with Notes components, it looks like it will happen the other way around, at least for the Hannover release.
In the Notes 7 timeframe, we will see a bridge from the Notes world into the Workplace Managed Client. In other words, Workplace shops will be able to surface Notes applications in the Workplace client. With Hannover it appears that the bridge will go the other way as well, giving Notes users the ability to get at Workplace applications, J2EE applications and composite applications as well, made up from heterogeneous components like Notes, J2EE/Workplace and other third-party applications.
I have been told that the Hannover client direction is still in development and is not final, and in any case even if Hannover comes together as Notes with some WCT widgets added to it, in the future the client will most likely conform to the original vision.
Either way, it seems that for Lotus customers IBM's end goal is the same -- to add the power of Workplace portlets based on open standard J2EE technology to the already powerful Notes platform, without abandoning native Notes functionality.
To my mind this is an interesting twist to an already interesting strategy. And I have to admit, as a longtime Notes geek this direction is more than a little welcome.
Think of the possibilities if this direction stays on course -- Notes developers using Workplace Designer to develop J2EE applications that will access Domino data, perhaps even without a Workplace Server as a requirement for those applications. These composite applications will be presented with a web user interface and surfaced seamlessly in the new Notes client.
Again, this is something that is not fully baked yet. After talking to IBM I got the feeling that the possibilities ultimately envisioned for the WCT components may reach their deepest potential in a full blown WCT client.
In the meantime this seems like a nice blend of the old and the new as it will allow Notes shops to ease into Workplace-style portal development. As a developer I can't think of a better way to cut my teeth on Workplace Designer than to start surfacing Notes data with which I am intimately familiar along with Workplace portlets within the context of the Notes client.
One final note. My understanding is that with Hannover, IBM is also considering a version of Notes where the Workplace add-ins would be optional.
Whatever the case, I am constantly amazed at the work coming out of the IBM development labs.