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Making Domino a citizen of a Web services world

Lotus made a big splash back in January at Lotusphere 2002 by pledging allegiance to Web services, an emerging set of technologies and standards that could one day allow applications and systems from all vendors to interoperate. Now that the dust has settled, SearchDomino asked Dwight Davis, a vice president with Boston-based analyst firm Summit Strategies, how Web services will impact Notes and Domino and whether Domino pros should fear the componentization of Domino.

In a nutshell, what is Lotus' Web services strategy?
It really looks to leverage Web services standards to integrate Lotus' products both within IBM's WebSphere infrastructure and also with outside Java-based platforms, and ultimately .NET platforms as well. What impact will Web services have on the Notes and Domino products?
The simple answer is that it should make them better citizens in a world of interoperable computer systems and software products. Like most products of their generation, Notes and Domino have had their own API sets. Developer communities have focused on learning how to program to those platforms and getting really product-specific skill sets to work with them. Increasingly, Lotus has adopted Web service standards. There will still be unique elements to any product, but Web services will give Notes and Domino and any product that supports them a common denominator form an interoperability perspective.

Another element, which has always been a relatively high priority strategy for IBM, has been to look at its software portfolio and think about the possibility of building hosted services. By supporting Web services, it lowers the hurdles you have to clear to expose hosted applications. Are there any ways Lotus' strategy differs with the overall IBM strategy?
Not particularly. Over the past couple of years, Lotus has become more of an IBM operational unit and less of an independently run company. At this point, everything from the product orientation to the services is pretty much intertwined with the broader IBM model. Why is that?
A few years ago, when people first started talking about hosted applications, not many were Web enabled, meaning that a client with a Web browser could access them. Domino has supported browser-based access for some time, but moving these apps into a hosted environment is still a much more complex proposition than just dropping them on some service providers' computers. You have to interface to a lot of other admin systems, billing, management, quality of service systems, etc. In large companies, you almost always have to integrate with other apps that may be hosted altogether by a service provider, or run in-house by the company that's using the hosted service, and there hasn't been an easy way to link all of those apps together.

With Web services, that's the barrier that gets lowered. A Domino server that supports SOAP and WSDL had a common way to connect to other software products, like billing and management systems, and also had a common way to publish the availability of a service, and the programmatic interface to that service. You wrote that Web services will play a large part in making Domino play nicely with WebSphere. To that end, do you think the Domino community has any reason to be apprehensive about Web services, such as if Domino becomes too componentized?
Well, any kind of architecture change raises alarms among IT managers. What Lotus and Domino have working for them is that IBM has taken a leadership role in the whole push to create Web services standards. It was instrumental with Microsoft in establishing the core interoperability standards like WSDL and UDDI. Perhaps more importantly, it has worked with several standards bodies on higher levels on Web services standards in development right now.

So in regard to a company having institutional knowledge of the core Web services specifications, you couldn't ask for a better parent than Lotus has in IBM. I would expect it will be able to work pretty easily to make that conversion and adhere to the standards properly and understand how to apply those standards to any company out there. Can you give me an example of how a Web service would work with (or be incorporated as part of) Notes and Domino?
Broad-based applications consist of a lot of smaller areas of functionality. Each one of those functionality components can be exposed as a Web service, as well as the entire, full application. So there could be elements within Domino -- say a search capability or some file folder -- that could be offered as independent Web services that would plug into other apps and provide their core pieces of functionality to another application other than Domino itself. So broad-based, complex applications such as Domino can be mined by their owners for independent functionality that might be offered as Web services for sale in some fashion, not to mention the option of offering the full-blown application as a complete Web service.

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What's your advice for Lotus professionals? What should they be learning about or preparing for as Web services become more prevalent in Lotus' products?
Education about what Web services are is important, and working with tools -- like the IBM WebSphere Studio toolkit, which support Web services in its current version -- and doing piloting work to get some exposure to Web services. People are starting to roll these out already, and it's already getting late in the game to get some experience with Web services because development tools like Visual Studio.NET, WebSphere Studio, and others from BEA are already out there. There's no shortage of tools, and I think Web services will be a high priority in a short time. Lotus is part of IBM, which was one of the founders of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) along with Microsoft, one of Lotus' biggest competitors. Do you see any conflicts of interest there for Lotus?
I don't think there's any conflict of interest. IBM -- along with Microsoft -- has come around to being open to having Sun participate (in the WS-I). That organization is already made up of competitors that have competitive offerings to Domino. All things considered, it's important for competitors as well as partners to agree on a foundation of standards, and I think the WS-I will prove beneficial to the broader industry.

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