In 2016, following the MWLUG event in Austin, blogs from individuals in the Notes community became very critical of IBM’s lack of attention to the product.  Version 9.01 was released in April of 2013, and despite promises by IBM, no new release had appeared.  That is a span of over 3 years.  Our DOCOVA product was initially based on Domino.  Due to all the uncertainty we now have a version that runs on SQL.

Prior to IBM Connect 2017, the conference that used to be known as Lotusphere, IBM responded with a redefined roadmap for Notes and Domino.  At the conference we got to hear about that in detail.

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.  Are they actually committing to a shorter window of time than if they renewed support closer to the end date of the previous period? It depends on how the process typically works.  I tried to find out what was normal in terms of when IBM renewed their support commitment for a product 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 Notes.

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. 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.  There was a lot of talk at Connect 2017 about IBM Connections version 6.  It seems Connections, a more modern technology, is not using the more modern continuous delivery approach.

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.

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, specifically Watson, Cloud and Analytics.  I think IBM will continue to sell these products to the Notes and Domino clients and continue to tell their customers that Notes and Domino are alive an well.

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.

For sure there is a cultural change going on within IBM.  For years they promoted the use of collaboration tools to allow employees to work from home.  Recently there has been a abrupt change, with employees being forced to physically report to specific geographical locations.   There are several blogs and articles that talk about this change, and what the reasons and implications could be.  Some, like this one from Geoffrey James, are not exactly supportive.

Like most vendors who had a commercial product based on Notes and Domino we have ported it to other technologies.  Based on that experience, and our two decades of experience with Notes and Domino application development,  we have found ourselves in the migration game.  At this time we feel we have the best solution on the market for migrating custom Notes applications to another platform.  Check out our Migration Methodology page for more info.