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.