This post was created originally in the spring of 2016 in reaction to the concern over the delayed release of version 9.0.2. Since it continues to get attention, and IBM has made several announcements recently regarding their roadmap, I felt it deserved a bit of an update.
In September of 2016 IBM announced they were extending the support for Notes 9.0.1 till 2021. There will be no new releases of Notes, but instead the fix packs are being renamed feature packs, part of a continuous delivery process. Check out this blog post for details. 2018 would have been the year that support ran out for 9.0.1, so this provides some comfort to customers and helps to calm the rumors that Notes is going away anytime soon. My personal opinion is that this is more of a reaction IBM’s to the flood of blog posts (many from typically quiet and highly respected technical folks) about the future of Notes than a strategic direction. Regardless, for customers it has helped.
The updated roadmap mentions ICAA, a new version of the Notes client that could be used to access Notes based applications. This replaces the Notes Browser Plugin. It also could provide a solution for customers if the Notes client itself were to disappear. Check out this blog post for more detail.
Although we now have delivery dates from IBM (with disclaimers attached) in my opinion not much has changed. Attend any of what used to be the Lotus User Groups, most now sponsored by IBM, and you will continue to get the sales pitch on Cloud, Connections, Verse and Watson. IBM continues to mine the Notes & Domino community for sales. Notes & Domino content is typically delivered by the partner community.
The reality is that anyone delivering Notes & Domino services still are focused on migrations, us included. We have sunk a ton of money into DOCOVA V5, which addresses how to migrate custom Notes applications to SQL. Sadly, that is where the market is going. IBM may be trying to close to the barn door, but that does little good when the horses are disappearing over the horizon.
Original Post from May of 2016
The rumor “Notes is Dead” has been going around for over a decade now, there seems to be a feeling of resignation resonating with both customers and partners that has not been there before. There are still the die hards loyal to the technology, those in the crows nest who continue to salute as the ship settles further and further into the water, but their ranks are growing thinner.
I highly doubt the Domino component of IBM Notes & Domino will disappear anytime soon. It is just too strong technically, and too entrenched with customers and IBM internally. In certain environments replication is key, and not something other technologies do well if at all. The Notes client on the other hand has become heavy and awkward. Adding Eclipse to the mix left a bad taste in a lot of mouths, and the recent chatter on many blogs suggests the Notes client could follow the same path taken by Domino.Doc, Quickr, Workplace, OS2, Warp and a number of other IBM products and technologies.
One of the first indicators of a product is near the end of its life is the frequency of new releases. Although it can be argued that the fix packs are still coming out for Notes and Domino (9.0.1 FP6 was just released with FP7 scheduled for August) new releases are another story. A good timeline of IBM Notes & Domino releases was reported on Darren Duke’s blog from September of 2015. Many business partners expected to hear about the release of 9.02 in February of this year. If that had happened, which it didn’t, it would have been 28 months since the previous release. We are now at 32 months, and counting.
At Engage in Eindhoven NL in March Inhi Cho Shu, the new GM of ICS (what used to be the Lotus Pillar in IBM) indicated to partners that the Notes/Domino road map would be revealed at the IBM Connect 2017 event in San Francisco next February. Like IBM Connect 2016 in Orlando earlier in the year, there was almost no mention of Notes/Domino at EngageUG from the IBM directly, which is odd considering this is an event that used to be called the Belgium Lotus User Group. In the actual sessions Notes & Domino was well represented by the business partners.
IBM Connect used to be called Lotusphere, and like Engage the OGS was a steady stream of IBM Connections, Cloud, Verse and Watson. This was the case in the past, but at least there was some time devoted to IBM Notes & Domino. If it happens at all now at these events it seems to be more of a whisper, and something you have to go digging for to find.
The message delivered at EngageUG and Connect 2016 is consistent if you look further up the food chain at IBM. In January of this year IBM CEO Ginni Rometty made it clear what the focus was on, and it did not cover the collaboration products. Check out the article published in The Register in the UK earlier this year.
According to a CNN report this past April, since Rometty took over as IBM CEO in 2012, the S&P 500 is up 67%, Microsoft is up 117%, but IBM is down 22%. IBM has reported their lowest quarterly earnings in the last 14 years. The pressure is on IBM to show some results to shareholders, and the “out with the old and in with the new” seems to be the message to shareholders as the way to turn the ship around.
Another indicator that the Notes client may be going away sooner rather than later is the appearance of IBM Verse. It is interesting that IBM is devoting effort to creating a new mail client when it appears that they have already lost out in that market. Peter Presnell from RedPillNow.com posted a blog that attempts to answer the question “what is the Lotus Notes Market Share?”.
In that post he suggests that in 2009 IBM had approximately 60% of the enterprise messaging market, and that number has fallen to a current level of only 12%. Why would IBM be investing in a new mail client for a market that is in serious decay? Some say because it is needed for the cloud. It could also be because the current mail client will not be around over the long term? Internally, IBM is converting 25,000 internal users per week from Notes email to IBM Verse, a number quoted by Ed Brill at IBM Connect 2016. Also interesting that IBM has announced that Verse is now available for purchase on premises.
Something new that support the theory that the Notes client may be going away is the appearance of the IBM Client Access Application. That is another Notes client offering that replaces the Notes Browser Plugin. If the Notes client were to disappear then ICAA could be used to access applications.
I have been an advocate of Notes & Domino for over 20 years now. At DLI we invested heavily to make our flagship DOCOVA product work on SQL simply because the risk was too high to continue to try to market a solution that runs on the Notes/Domino platform. Even with no formal statement from IBM on the future of Notes & Domino, many customers are reluctant to continue to invest in the technology. Many already have a migration plan. I have witnessed IBM selling other products to the Notes/Domino customer base for years. Eventually the bones will be picked clean. I think that point could be reached in 2017.
Do not get me wrong. This is not a doom and gloom post. If it were to happen that IBM announced the end of life of Notes it would NOT be a bad thing. The question around the future of IBM Notes & Domino has created a huge migration market. Making it official would only strengthen that market. At Engage 50% of the vendors on the showcase had some kind of migration solution. Mail migration is relatively easy and well understood, but whoever can crack the nut around migrating custom Notes applications is going to do very well.