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Developer muses on the Domino of tomorrow

Like many developers in the Lotus community, I have been a bit confused about the direction IBM is taking the Notes platform. For a while it looked like we would all have to become WebSphere developers. But after attending Lotusphere 2004, it is clear to me that Notes as we know it today still has a healthy tenure ahead of it.

If you have been paying attention during the last few years, you know that a lot of the Lotus marketing message is now devoted both to Workplace and WebSphere Portal. While at Lotusphere, I finally understood why. Workplace is, very simply, WebSphere Portal. Workplace has a lot of Lotus technology in it as well but, at its heart, it is Portal. Understanding what Portal is turns out to be very important to understanding what Workplace is -- and indeed what IBM's vision for the future of Notes is largely about.

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At Lotusphere, I hit a few of the sessions covering the tried-and-true Lotus technologies, but I also made sure to attend quite a few of the Workplace sessions. I saw an impressive array of new J2EE-based development tools targeted at a broad continuum of people -- from the casual business "developer" who simply wishes to customize a template to the hard-core applications guru who wants to see an API and create applications from the ground up.

As a developer, I find the WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD) and Workplace tools that are coming out compelling. Many of the familiar RAD concepts present in Domino Designer are showing up in Workplace. While these new tools are both interesting and exciting, I can't help but wonder how much real impact they will have in our day-to-day lives as Notes developers. Let's face it, when I got back to my cube, I was still staring at Designer.

There are a few indications that big changes might be coming to us in a few years. The most telling portent of things to come may be the Workplace Eclipse-based rich client. From what I've observed, there is some possibility that it could replace the Notes client. But, this isn't crystal clear, and I haven't gotten a straight answer from anyone about it. If it does happen, it will significantly alter our lives as developers.

Notes/Domino 7 will give us the ability to take our Notes data and dump it into a DB2 data store. For the first time, many of us may actually want to buy a DB2 server and use it in our production environments. In the same way that Garnet (the Java development environment left out of ND6) would have forever changed Domino development had it seen the light of day, Notes 7 will bring new features that may significantly affect the way many of us develop Notes applications.

For those of us who deploy Portal, our lives may be transformed sooner rather than later. For the rest of us, I think it will be business as usual until we see real J2EE integration in Designer.

Vaughan is a long-time Domino programmer who works as a senior software developer at URS Corp. in Tampa, Fla. He also runs the blog jonvon.net.

Read the column spawned from this one: Andrew Young's Developer to IBM: Keep it simple.

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