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Lotus offers Notes/Domino road map

Lotus has set a clear road map for future Notes and Domino releases, including a schedule that shows exactly what users should expect and when they should expect to see it.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- After taking more than three years to come out with the latest version of Notes and Domino, Lotus is planning an aggressive release schedule for upcoming iterations of its messaging and collaboration platform.

At Lotusphere 2003 last month, the company made public plans to issue Version 6.5 this year and follow it up with another major release in 2004.

The ramped up rollout schedule begins next month with the first maintenance release of Notes and Domino 6. Version 6.01 will include full roaming user support, the ability for iNotes to read Notes-encrypted mail, and single-copy template capabilities for storage savings.

During the second half of 2003, Lotus plans to issue Notes and Domino 6.5, which it calls a usability release. Users can expect full S/MIME support to read and write encrypted mail in iNotes; improved integration with Sametime instant messaging, including live presence awareness links in the Notes "To" field; and added integration with Microsoft Office.

On the server side, Lotus said 6.5 will feature Linux-related additions like vLinux support and the ability to access iNotes through a Mozilla browser.

Looking longer term, Lotus will make good on its strategy to "cross-pollinate" IBM software group assets. Next year's major release will give companies the ability to use DB2 as a back end for Domino.

"From a user perspective, the [next version of Notes] is going to look the same," said Tim Kounadis, senior marketing manager of Lotus messaging solutions. "You're still going to see the Notes client and [Domino] Designer the way you do today. The integration is happening at such a level that all the functionality the users deal with isn't going to change."

Lotus released Notes and Domino 6 in October with a host of new administration features designed to lower total cost of ownership. Among them are smart upgrade features, policy-based administration, automatic server restarts and server-side spam controls.

At Lotusphere, the company said that more than 1,000 customers have signed up to upgrade to ND6 during the next six months. Three-quarters are migrating from R5, and the remainder, primarily international companies, is moving from R4.6, which Lotus is also supporting.

To help them upgrade as painlessly as possible, Lotus has decided to keep its early deployment office up and running. The department, a virtual team of developers, software services employees and sales staff, was initially established to send out daily builds to ND6 beta customers like Countrywide Financial and Daimler Chrysler. It also promises to quickly handle migration problems.

Shops that migrated early are already promising a smoother move than admins faced with R5. Phil Usher, the executive vice president at Calabasas, Calif.-based Countrywide, said the ND6 upgrade was "most notable for its lack of incident."

That's what Todd Dahlberg is hoping for. The project manager at Ingersoll Rand, in Huntersville, N.C., is in the process of getting approval to migrate 25,000 users to ND6. But the project would come at the same time that his company consolidates 120 Intel servers to three AIX servers and outsources its data center functions. "We're going to bring in IBM to help us define the entire architecture and infrastructure," Dahlberg said. "They're going to work with us to get us to where we want to go. And whether IBM is actually going to do the work, we do not know yet."


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