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Think integration, not migration

No one needs to dump Domino or shun WebSphere. Focus instead on learning how to make the two platforms work well together.

Despite the fear many Domino developers have that they must either stick with Domino, risking obsolescence, or dump Domino and move to WebSphere -- the decision is not nearly so stark. There are a number of ways to tie the two together, using each product for areas where it does best -- Domino for messaging tools and security features, and WebSphere for creating Java applications and enterprise portals.

The most obvious difference between Domino and WebSphere is that Domino has a lot of out-of-the-box capabilities -- such as directory services, discussion areas, document libraries, and so forth -- that enable developers to be productive right away.

In contrast, WebSphere provides a runtime environment for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) applications, but you either have to write those applications yourself or purchase them. IBMs business solutions Portal and Commerce are good examples of J2EE applications that run on WebSphere, but if you don't have those or other J2EE applications, then WebSphere isn't very useful.

Integrating Domino with WebSphere allows you to leverage the Domino directory for login name and password information, add e-mail and collaboration capabilities to WebSphere applications, and enable users to access Domino and WebSphere resources without having to log in more than once.

There are four levels of Domino and WebSphere integration. Each level, or layer, of integration provides increased functionality, but also requires higher levels of expertise from developers.

The four levels of integration

  1. API integration: This is the lowest (and loosest) level of integration between Domino and WebSphere, because the products are not configured to be aware of each other. The integration occurs because the developer writes code that accesses both Domino and WebSphere resources through an API interface. (For example, the developer can create a custom portlet that uses the Domino Java API to access Domino data and display or edit that data with the portlet.) This type of integration is required if you want Portal to be able to access Domino data.

    Administrators can leverage Domino Portlet Builder, a wizard-driven tool that creates views of selected Domino data. Also, Domino Web-based applications can be displayed within Portal by using the Web Domino Application Portlet. In addition, Domino ships pre-built portlets for displaying the Domino Instant Messaging (Sametime), calendar, e-mail and other Lotus products in Portal.

  2. HTTP integration: This second level of integration, in which Domino acts as the Web server for WebSphere, allows you to consolidate onto one Web server and enable deeper integrations layers, such as single sign-on. This is the easiest level of integration for most Domino shops, since it requires only basic Web server know-how.

  3. LDAP integration: With the help of the Domino LDAP Server, the Domino Directory can act as the user authentication directory for both Domino and non-Domino applications running on WebSphere. This helps reduce administrative overhead and ensure consistency of data by consolidating directory information onto Domino. But it also means that you must understand how to configure LDAP for WebSphere.

    If you use the Domino Directory as your enterprise-wide user and password authentication mechanism, then leveraging LDAP integration with Domino makes it complete. However, if you're using a different directory for Domino and other applications, such as Active Directory, then you should integrate directly with that.

  4. Single sign-on integration: The value of single sign-on integration is obvious: users no longer have to waste time logging on multiple times to access various applications. Instead, one user ID and password provides access to both WebSphere and Domino applications. However, while single sign-on is wonderfully convenient for end users, it does require you to have some expertise in configuring Lightweight Third Party Authentication (LTPA), which enables Domino and WebSphere to share login information. Single sign-on also requires LDAP integration with the Domino Directory.

Web services: The fifth dimension of integration

In the future, developers who opt to move to Domino 7 will gain yet one more level of integration capability between Domino and WebSphere. According to the folks at Lotus, Domino 7 -- slated for release in early 2005 -- will include native Web services support. Developers will be able to write WSDL (Web services description language) files in LotusScript or Java. So Domino shops will be able to create Web services for accessing select portions of Domino applications and data, as well as interact with non-Domino applications. (Although, the Notes client will not yet provide support for Web services.)

The bottom line

Integration, not migration, is how you should be thinking about WebSphere. No one needs to dump Domino or shun WebSphere. Focus instead on learning how to make the two platforms work well together.

About the authors:

Tony Higham is the chief solutions officer at FatWire Software and an expert on Lotus, WebSphere and Java technologies. He can be reached at tony.higham@FatWire.com.

Sue Hildreth is a contributing writer and editor based in Waltham, Mass. She can be reached at Sue.Hildreth@comcast.net.

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