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MWLUG 2017 – We Believe!

They call Toronto “Leaf Nation”, because so many of the population are passionate about the hockey team, the “Toronto Maple Leafs”.  No matter where the team sits in the standings, they “believe”.   The Notes and Domino community has been like that too over the last decade or so.  Regardless of how the technology is trending, they believe it is the best.

MWLUG 2017 in Virginia this past August, like most of the Lotus User Group type events, was a gathering of the Notes Nation.   Like a lot of those who attended at DOCOVA we are passionate about Notes and Domino.  We believe Notes and Domino are great products, even with the lack of attention they have received by their handler.  However, we have some other beliefs as well.

We believe:

  • the period of “political correctness” of years past with regards to the future of Notes is over.  At MWLUG the common theme around Notes was migrations.  Any partner with their roots in Notes had some kind of migration offering, be that a product or a service, or a combination of the two.  In sessions you heard  partners saying “Notes is dead”. You never used to hear that.
  • IBM customers want off Notes and Domino.  The Domino server technology will probably be around a bit longer than the Notes client, however, most organizations are not looking to stop at replacing the Notes client. They want off Domino too.
  • customers do not want XPAGES.  XPAGES would tie them to Domino.  Customers want open technologies.  XPAGES is a derivative of JavaServer Faces.  Its a bit of an oddball.  Transformer got it wrong.  It relied on XPAGES and the Domino server. That is not what customers wanted back when that product was introduced and it is not what they want now.
  • a lot of Notes applications are still valid business tools. Not all Notes applications are crap, with a high percentage of the code flawed or simply not used.  Many customers have invested years of effort in their Notes applications, and the business logic is tried and true, valid, valuable and used every single day.  In many cases Notes teams were skilled, and they built their applications well.  Not always, but a lot of companies did and we run into them every day.
  • most customers do NOT want to enter into a business process re-engineering exercise.  They do not want to have to gather users around a table to revisit the business logic and decide how they should change their applications . They want what they had, they just want it running on their preferred platform.  It can be argued that if you have an application with spaghetti code and you convert it you get an application with spaghetti code, but that is not a migration issue.
  • customers want SQL because that is what they have told us time and time again. Not a browser application running on Domino.  Not Mongodb. SQL. In a lot of cases Microsoft SQL Server, sometimes MySQL or another variety, but most of the time it is Microsoft.
  • customers want the ability to quickly modify their applications after they are migrated, and build new ones, like they used to be able to do with the Notes Designer.  Not a full blown IDE like Eclipse or Visual Studio, but a low code tool that is easy to use yet still powerful.
  • migrating or modernising Notes applications should not require an army of experts.  Customers should be able to “do it yourself” to make it affordable.  Sure they will need some initial help and training to get going, but once the ship is moving customers should be able to take the helm if they want to.
  • existing Notes and Domino resources have a lot to offer.  Customers with a Notes and Domino proficient team should be able to transition to new technologies over time rather than be replaced by new resources.

Is DOCOVA the “magic button” or “silver bullet” when it comes to migrating custom Notes applications?  Not yet. However, it does the heavy lifting. App Importer gets you most of the way there with the click of a button.  Re-writing applications, no matter what framework you use or how good your technical team is, simply does not make sense when you have dozens, hundreds, or in some cases thousands of Notes applications.   Do the math.  Even if you keep them on the Domino server the numbers simply do not work.

Want to learn more? Check out our DOCOVA Deep Dive Migration Video or attend  a DOCOVA Migration Webinar.

Watch as  we will migrate a Notes app to a browser and SQL Server environment within minutes.  Not a  slide deck, not a video, but a real time live migration.

Point, click, convert. Ya….definitely some magic there.

 

By |September 7th, 2017|Technical|0 Comments

IBM Connect 2017 In Review from Afar

This is the first time in 15 years that I have not attended the Lotusphere/Connect conference.  Increased costs for vendors, moving the venue to the west coast and a heavy focus on Watson in pre-event marketing were the basis of that decision.

So this review is not first hand, rather it is an opinion of the event based on feedback from my network.  I belong to several groups in the Lotus community, and these groups have quite active chat rooms, which provided some interesting insight.

Let me start with Ed Brill’s recent posting recapping Connect 2017.  In his posting he says that IBM made it “a priority to emphasize our commitment to IBM Domino as an application and mail platform.” He said that they have “announced a number of initiatives to provide clear examples of the value both IBM and our clients place on having a confident direction for the product and its roadmap”.  These included:

  • Extended Support
  • Feature Packs
  • Verse On-Premises
  • Application Analysis
  • API’s
  • Application Refresh (aka Modernization)

Lets look at each of these.  Extended support refers to support for Notes and Domino to at least 2021. Notes 9.01 was released in April of 2013, and as it was categorized in their life cycle policy as “enhanced” meant that it had a commitment of 5 years of support, with additional support available for a cost over the annual support fee.  That would take it to 2018.  IBM announced in September of 2016 that support has been extended to 2021, with additional support, for a fee, to 2024.  There was nothing new announced at Connect in this regard.

It could be argued that this is perhaps less of a commitment than more. Lets take a look at the math.  If in 2013 IBM was committing to support Notes and Domino ver 9.01 for 5 years, that would mean it was supported up to April of 2018.  If, when that end date was near, they extended it another 5 years the product would be supported into 2023.  By extending the support in September of 2016, they committed to support until at least 2021.  They are actually committing to a shorter window of time than if they renewed support closer to the end date of the previous period. Is that how the process typically works?  I tried to find out what was normal in terms of when they renewed support and I could not.  The reason is that it has never really been an issue before. Nobody really paid attention to the date for renewal of support in the past.  This time around was unique and created by the concern in the community about the future of the product.

Ed then addressed the new feature packs, which is a continuous delivery model that he explains is “more modern” than the older method of releasing a new version. Yet there was a lot of talk at Connect 2017 about Connections version 6.  It seems Connections is not using the more modern continuous delivery approach, at least not yet.  I still think that IBM is cutting costs when it comes to Notes and Domino, using the spin of “more modern” Feature Packs so they do not have to go to the expense related to the process required to release a new version.  Java 8 support in the latest feature pack is great, but keep in mind it was promised years ago and only just materialized.

Verse on premises shipped in December of 2016 and was once again highlighted at Connect 2017.  I think the announcement of a new browser based mail offering, coupled with the release of a new Notes client offering (ICAA) that allows customers to access Notes client based applications, suggests that perhaps the future of the Notes client is uncertain. I would not be surprised to see an announcement prior to 2018 that the Notes client will not be available for purchase.  That is just an opinion.  There has been no press released from IBM to support that.

The Rest API’s being available to Notes and Domino is definitely a good thing. Most other platforms have it, and have had it for some time now. This will allow better integration between Notes applications and other systems.  I heard some feedback that there is a feeling XPAGES is not going to see a lot of attention moving forward.  That has a lot of technical folks, especially those who invested a lot of time learning the technology, concerned. It really depends on whose report from Connect 2017 you read.  Some argue XPAGES is alive and well, others do not.

Prior to the event Ed indicated there would be a significant announcement around modernization of Notes and Domino based applications.  The big announcement seemed to be “contact a partner”.  IBM had Sopho do a demo of their application, and how it could surface Domino data.  He mentioned other product offerings, but not all of the ones available.  Sopho was a bit of a surprise, but in retrospect maybe it should not be considering IBM’s focus on social.  Sapho is not modernizing applications as much as scraping data and packaging it in a social media stream.  I personally thought IBM had something significant up their sleeve.  Notes and Domino is often classed as legacy, and could have really used a modernization face lift. I am not sure Sopho is going to help much. Here is an article that shares that opinion.

In addition Ed said for Notes and Domino application analysis customers with active M&S could obtain a free copy of the tool created by Panagenda. I cannot recall in the past where IBM showcased one partner product over another to such a degree. There are several loyal Notes and Domino vendors with similar offerings in terms of analysis tools, and to encourage one over another in my opinion is an unusual move for IBM.

Talking to partners who did attend the conference I hear that the vibe was good. Much more positive than last year. However, San Francisco as a venue received a lot of negative comments.  Over the years the gap between rich and poor has widened, and it was obvious at a glance. Also the venue did not have the same facilities as the Disney complex in Orlando.  It was not possible for the majority of the attendees to stay in the same hotel, as was the case in 2016, so the feeling of community suffered.

In my opinion, the debate about Notes and Domino being a priority for IBM is old news.  Anyone who has been involved in the “Lotus” community over the years knows what is going on.  The LUGS, formerly known as the Lotus User Groups, are now all sponsored by IBM.  They use these as a forum to market new products and technology to the Notes community. There is a lot of focus on new products, and Notes and Domino is definitely not new.

Is Notes going away in the next couple of years?  It would not surprise me in the least to hear the full client has been pulled from sales. Same for Domino Designer.  In my opinion, Domino, the server component, is not likely to disappear anytime soon.

 

 

How Complex are Your Custom Notes Applications?

When it comes to Notes application migration projects, the first thing that needs to be done is an analysis of the Notes environment. There are a lot of analysis tools on the market, and to determine application complexity many count and compare the number of design elements that make up each of the applications.  That is really not a very good indicator as there is specific code that is problematic when you migrate from a Notes client based application to a browser based application.

At a high level, you need to look at any calls that:

(1) stop the code and wait for user input (dialogbox, messagebox, picklist, prompt)

JavaScript does not support modal windows, where further code execution is stopped pending user action. Therefore, that code has to be re-visited.  In LotusScript, for example, there may be one function that calls a dialog which passes values to the remaining code. In Javascript, that needs to be split into two functions. Function 1 calls the dialog. When ‘OK’ is clicked, the second function is then called and passed the applicable values.

(2) affect document state (editmode, save, refresh)

The Notes client can track the state of the document, that is, whether it is in read mode or edit mode, and it can recompute individual values without having to reload the entire screen. A web browser, on the other hand, is stateless. It does not track whether a document is editable or not, and in order to refresh specific values, supporting code has to be provided (eg: dynamic HTML, Ajax) to do the updates.

If a LotusScript function changes a document into edit mode, moving that function to the web requires an assessment to see if the document needs to be reloaded in edit mode, or if updates can be done by sending an update to the server only. Similarly, a save or refresh type of call in a browser requires a trip to the server and either a full or partial document refresh. These calls must each be evaluated to assess the impact. A save or refresh call at the end of a function is likely to be fine and easily migrated, but will require work to be done when these calls occur mid-function.

(3) are not supported in JavaScript (goto, on error, viewnavigator, richtextnavigator)

Javascript does not support goto and on error commands. These have to be replaced by try{} catch{} or some similar type of error handling. ViewNavigator and RichTextNavigator are specific to Notes constructs and don’t have a direct migration path in Javascript. These calls need to be assessed and converted to lookups, or DOM document search type actions.

Here is sample output from the DOCOVA Notes Application Analysis tool, showing a listing of problematic code elements for a particular application:

Challenges1

The DOCOVA Analyzer looks through the individual applications for these various elements, and the number of occurrences, to come up with a complexity ranking. We call this the complex code number, or CC#.

Most customers have many applications, and the complexity can vary considerably from one to the next.  Here is an example of several Notes applications and their associated C#.

CC#

Go to our DOCOVA Migration page to register to receive a copy of our DOCOVA Notes Application Analysis tool.  There is more info available regarding DOCOVA V5, which you can use to migrate or modernize your custom Notes applications or migrate them to the SQL platform.  Access the page here.

 

By |February 7th, 2017|Technical|Comments Off on How Complex are Your Custom Notes Applications?