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Lotusphere: Attendees hope Lotus doesn't repeat mistakes with ND6

Attendees at Lotusphere say they are reluctant to move to Notes/Domino 6, even though Lotus says the new product offers a much lower total cost of ownership and new features for developers. Though few will move to it right away, users are optimistic that Lotus won't repeat the mistakes it made when it rolled out Notes/Domino 5.

The complimentary muffins Lotusphere attendees are eating this week may be part of IBM's effort to soften them up for some big changes. As the company creates more ties between Lotus Domino and WebSphere, it is also trying to entice its customers to migrate to Notes/Domino 6.

The latest version of Lotus' collaboration platform promises cost-saving as well as productivity-boosting network data compression and spam-filtering features. Notes/Domino 6 has important updates for developers, and the platform should eventually be able to take advantage of features found in DB2.

Developers using Domino Designer 6 are able to manage JavaScript Libraries as part of the list of script libraries, which are shared resources that can be managed centrally across multiple databases. And Designer 6 offers developers an improved events model that reduces the amount of recoding they'll have to do for Notes and the Web.

Despite these advantages, Notes/Domino 6 is just 3 months old, and few IBM customers are eager to risk implementing a brand new product. Many are still reeling from the wrenching upgrade to Notes/Domino 5.

"With all of its incremental upgrades, Domino 5 was complete mess," said David Greer, system administrator at Dallas-based Dean Foods Co., which produces dairy products and other beverages under the Verifine, Borden and Land O' Lakes labels.

Dean Foods, however, remains a committed Domino shop, preparing for an eventual upgrade to Notes/Domino 6. "We have renewed our licenses specifically for that purpose," Greer said. "But I need to hear first from other people that R6 won't be a repeat of R5."

Dean Foods is not the only Lotus customer taking a wait-and-see approach toward Notes/Domino 6.

"I can't see going to Domino 6 for another year," said Adair Alexander, system administrator at Minneapolis, Minn.-based Accenture, known formerly as Andersen Consulting.

Accenture waited a year after the release of R5 to upgrade from R4, while other companies slogged through a seemingly endless string of bugs and fixes. "With over 450 servers and 70,000 seats, we have to ask ourselves if we can justify the expense," Alexander said.

Yet IBM is trying to convince Accenture and others to view Notes/Domino 6 as a cost-cutting tool for tough economic times. The company recently teamed with Ferris Research on a report that illustrated how migrating from Domino 5 to Domino 6 can reduce an organization's TCO by as much as $3.60 per user each month, a reduction of about 16%.

IBM is also trotting out the names of some recent Notes/Domino 6 migrators, including Kaiser Permanente and Countrywide Financial Corp. Although the company is citing big customer names, it is not giving out any precise numbers. Instead, IBM is calling its Notes/Domino 6 deployment figures "significant."

But any claims that substantial numbers of R4 and R5 customers are migrating to version 6 "should be viewed skeptically, especially given the current business climate," said Meta Group analyst Mike Gotta. Migration costs will impact any TCO reductions that IBM is claiming, he said.

However, IBM is sharing some feedback it received from its early customers who deployed beta versions of Domino 6 in a production environment. Those early adopters of Notes/Domino 6 "reported a 20% reduction in spam," said Paul Raymond, a development relations manager for the Lotus product introduction team at IBM.

Dean Foods' Greer said he likes what he has heard this week about the stability of Notes/Domino 6 from early adopters. "I'm also encouraged by what IBM is telling me about its reliability," he said. "I just hope it's true."

And the word on the street is that Notes/Domino 6 is a solid performer, "which it had better be," said Gartner Inc. analyst Simon Hayward. "Domino 6 is not the major update that Domino 5 was, so one would hope that it is relatively clean," he said.

Notes/Domino 6 also permits administrators to subscribe to multiple DNS blacklists and to established server-based rules for Notes clients, two features not available in Notes 4 and 5.

LZ1 compression for file attachments also helped reduce server-to-server network bandwidth up to 40%, when both servers are running Domino 6, Raymond said. Domino 6 also cut bandwidth between servers and clients by an average of 30%.

System admins attending Lotusphere, meanwhile, said that they have been experimenting with beta and trial releases of Notes/Domino 6. "We've already started gathering results and reactions to Domino 6 from our usual group of test subjects," said Accenture's Alexander.

Mark Baard is a freelance writer based in Milton, Mass.


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