It may not be going away, but Notes/Domino, such as its users have come to know it, is nearing the end of its golden years.
IBM Lotus is nudging programmers, ever loyal to Notes/Domino's rapid application development and tight database integration, onto a new track -- one committed to Java, Web services and integration with relational databases like DB2. Lotus has built its new messaging and collaboration platform, Workplace, on a WebSphere/J2EE framework. And the coming ND7 and ND8 releases will feature further Java integration.
Microsoft is taking a similar approach, by building conversion tools for its .NET framework to make its own take on Web services more attractive to Notes developers.
For developers devoted to Domino, experts say, the writing is on the wall.
"[Developers] really need to start looking at Domino as a legacy platform and decide what is the best way to take advantage of those assets," said Erica Rugullies, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.
Many Notes/Domino professionals have begun learning Java and are committing themselves to building new applications that can be accessed through the Web or portals.
"There are a lot of Notes developers and users who would like to stay very much where they are," said Jennifer Caldwell, a Notes developer at Minneapolis-based Graco Inc., a maker of pumps and sprayers. "But companies today are looking to move toward something more scalable."
Graco currently has Java and Notes applications running separately. They perform different functions on the company's Web site and extranet servers, Caldwell said.
But Caldwell, who taught herself how to code in Java, says developers should learn how to use WebSphere/J2EE to integrate their applications and databases. "You have to keep an open mind and realize you'll be accessing not just a Domino database, but -- at some point -- a DB2, SQL or Oracle server as well," she said.
Some developers are anticipating a new market for those with both Notes/Domino and Java expertise. "The incorporation of Notes/Domino into WebSphere is going to generate a need for integrators that can move the old systems into Java," said Spencer Kirk-Jackson, CEO of Pyramid Developments, a Roslindale, Mass.-based Web development firm.
WebSphere is not the only future available to Notes developers, of course. Microsoft has been promoting its Visual Basic .NET and C# .NET programming languages as alternatives to Java, J2EE and WebSphere.
Even so, Caldwell and Kirk-Jackson said that Java and the J2EE framework have the advantage of being growing, open source technologies, whereas .NET is a proprietary platform controlled exclusively by Microsoft. "If you learn .NET, you are limiting yourself in many ways to Microsoft products," Caldwell said.
Lotus is urging its customers to stay the course. The company is promoting ND7, due out in early 2005, as the next step for Domino shops taking a gradual approach to J2EE and relational database integration. ND7 will support DB2 applications, and users will be able to host their NSF data in DB2 databases. ND8, however, will mark the first major integration of the Domino and Workplace products.
Meanwhile, Michael Rhodin, Lotus' vice president of development and technical support, suggested that Notes developers learn to use IBM Rational Rapid Developer, a RAD development environment for integrating Web, wireless and portal applications. It integrates with WebSphere and the open source Eclipse framework to support WebSphere, DB2, J2EE and Tivoli applications. It also supports Visual Studio .NET development.
Rhodin said WebSphere and Workplace provide the means, via a portal-based architecture, for users to access a variety of back-end databases, including Domino. Rhodin called the process "horizontal integration." It's a level of scalability that Lotus believes Notes/Domino currently cannot offer developers.
Said Rhodin: "I think it's safe to say we won't be [adding] anything more to LotusScript."
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Interview: The real deal on Domino's future