Call this the year of the upgrade. According to new SearchDomino.com research, more than two out of three Notes shops running old versions of ND will make the move to version 6 within the next 12 months.
Some of those who took the online survey said they want to use the latest version of Notes/Domino to expand their commitment to Web services or take advantage of new messaging and collaboration options.
Whatever the reason, 38% of 313 respondents said they would migrate to Notes/Domino 6 during the next six months. Another 29% plan to upgrade within six months to a year. Only 15% have no plans to run ND6. (See chart.)
IBM Lotus released ND6 in October 2002, and the company isn't commenting on how many customers have upgraded. It has, however, said that ND6 migration rates have exceeded those of previous Notes/Domino releases, notably R5.
During the ND6 launch, executives touted more than 1,000 enhancements to the Notes client, as well as the bundling of Domino with a scaled-back version of WebSphere, among other improvements. They placed their emphasis squarely on the product's ability to lower total cost of ownership.
Last month, IBM Lotus made available ND6.5, which includes tight integration with Lotus Instant Messaging (formerly called Sametime) in the Notes client, as well as new spam controls that give users the ability to block mail by sender.
In an effort to entice current ND customers to upgrade, IBM Lotus is now offering 20 seats of WebSphere Portal Express and 20 seats of Lotus Instant Messaging free to companies that move to the new offering before year's end.
"We're really interested in the integration of Sametime into the Notes client," said Bryan Schmiedeler, a Lotus Notes programmer at Walsworth Publishing Co., a high school yearbook publisher in Marceline, Mo. Walsworth is planning a move to ND6, and the company expects to benefit from the offering's Smart Upgrade feature, which simplifies the upgrade process by saving admins from having to visit individual desktops during the migration.
Angie McMartin, a Notes administrator at a large technology firm in Australia, said her company plans to move next month from R5.10 to ND6.5. The new version will allow McMartin, who also spends half her time developing in Notes, to build J2EE Web applications with new JSP tag libraries.
Many see ND6 as a bridge that could transport the Domino developer into a new WebSphere programming world -- even if not every programmer is ready to make the move.
This summer, IBM Lotus made available Notes/Domino 6.0.2, which includes Lotus Domino Toolkit for IBM WebSphere Studio 1.0, a set of WebSphere plug-ins that developers can use to pull Domino objects into IBM's Web application platform.
IBM Lotus' marketing manager, Arthur Fontaine, downplayed the notion that IBM is beginning to phase out Domino development and instead said, "The word is 'integration,' not 'migration.'" He insisted that IBM Lotus is "committed to Domino as a self-contained platform."
Still, many users realize it's time to update their skills, and they see ND 6 as a way to take advantage of a new programming environment that IBM is clearly committed to.
"J2EE is a whole new breed of programming, one that Notes and Domino developers will have a hard time learning," said Bruce Elgort, editor of a blog and discussion forum for Domino developers. He believes that the J2EE tools IBM is developing are based on Domino Designer, which means building J2EE apps may one day be as simple as coding for Domino.
Simon Hayward, an analyst with Gartner Inc., thinks developers should begin getting familiar with J2EE.
"Change is painful, but it is also inevitable," Hayward said. "If [IBM] carries too much of its Lotus baggage along to protect customers who don't want the world to change, it could very well fall behind."
SearchDomino.com also found that roughly 29% of Domino shops are already running ND6. Among them is Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, a New York law firm. It's relying on the platform to access client data -- in all of its formats -- through a single WebSphere portal.
"The portal aggregates content from Domino, as well as our document and records management systems and Microsoft SQL servers," said systems analyst Nathaniel Kanner.
Of those not yet on ND6, 66% are still running R5, and 2% are on R4. Lotus has said that companies can upgrade directly to ND 6 from either of those versions.
SearchDomino.com news editor Jon Panker contributed to this article.
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