Ask the Expert: Stefan Lage
Have you been recently involved in development or deployment of new applications based on IBM Notes and Domino? Can you please share any additional information?
SL: We have many customers who appreciate the advantages of the IBM Notes/Domino platform. We continue to sell Domino-based standard software and develop individual solutions for the Notes client. The investments required for this kind of development are comparatively low for the end customer, not only in terms of pure development costs, but also for deployment and employee training.
However, if you want to use a web interface, we recommend using modern frameworks, such as Angular or Vue.js, for front-end development. The Domino server will continue to be used as a database system and application server, which includes the familiar built-in user management and proven security functions. Both frameworks extend the original HTML5 syntax to generate a dynamic representation. By dividing the application into components, parts can be reused in subsequent modernizations, thus minimizing the development effort.
Since IBM will now also offer these capabilities natively with Domino 10, we feel that our “hybrid” approach is the correct one.
Regardless of whether our clients choose to continue using the Notes client or move their apps to a web interface, the powerful Domino server is, and will remain, in the backend for a long time.
“I am still a big fan of the IBM Notes client. Having worked with hundreds of IBM Domino applications over the years, for me, the so-called ‘fat client’ is unbeatable.”
The Notes client – pros and cons?
SL: I am still a big fan of the IBM Notes client. Having worked with hundreds of IBM Domino applications over the years, for me, the so-called “fat client” is unbeatable. For the past 20 years, it has become a habit to start my Notes client as the very first thing that I do in the morning. Of course, it is important that the Notes client is properly configured, and proper configuration is in fact one of the main problems that many companies with IBM Notes/Domino infrastructure have.
If there is no clean client management in place, the client will perform slowly and sluggishly, and the user will lose the pleasure of working in Notes. On the other hand, if, as a user, I’m provided with a high-performance Notes client, my performance, too, will be unquestionably faster, in comparison to working in a pure web browser interface. I’ll even be able to work offline, thanks to a robust replication mechanism, which is not something that we can say about the web applications.
The Notes client gives me access to 90% of my applications, Mail and Calendar, all of which are integrated in a single user interface. Granted, the interface may not appear “state-of-the-art” in today’s world. But, in my specific case, I go by the “form follows function” rule, and not the other way around.
A major problem with IBM Notes, though, is the lack of application programming interfaces from and to third-party products. Due to the a very high market share of competitive products, software providers usually only develop one interface and, unfortunately, they do not choose to make that interface for the IBM Notes client. In my view, this, again, becomes a matter of the “form follows function” rule (or the other way around, depending on how you look at things), since the Notes client offers several modern integration capabilities (such as REST API and others).
IBM/HCL team’s intention is to “go back to the genesis of the product”. How do you interpret this intention? What are your expectations?
SL: What was the original story behind Notes? When IBM Notes/Domino was still called Lotus Notes, there was an IBM subsidiary called the “Iris Associates,” which had the development contract for the Lotus portfolio. It was not until 2001 that “Iris Associates” was completely integrated within IBM, even though Lotus was already purchased in 1996.
Now, history repeats itself. Although HCL Technologies is not a subsidiary of IBM, it is an established global IT service provider with a clear mission to further develop the IBM Notes/Domino product portfolio.
My expectations are that this new labor, to further develop the entire IBM Notes/Domino product portfolio, will be driven forward more quickly, without neglecting customer requirements and modern technologies. The first six months have already shown that my expectations will probably not be disappointed.
With the Domino Jams carried out worldwide, the first step was to obtain the customer’s wishes to shape the future of Notes/Domino, based on the real wants and needs of people who use it. The “Domino Destination” website, which has just been launched, aims to keep the Notes community better informed and to provide expert answers and insights the future.
The first product announcements from IBM and HCL show how things are moving forward technologically – long missing functions and new technologies are starting to crop up in Notes as soon as this year with the upcoming version 10. I remain hopeful that the IBM/HCL product marketing machinery will now also kick into gear and bring the whole thing back on the track.
The Expert Profile
Stefan Lage is the Managing Director and founder of acceptIT GmbH, a yellow-bleeder for over 20 years, and an IBM Champion for Collaboration Solutions.
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