Letter From Lotusphere: Part 2 - Portal in the Details?

At Lotusphere, Lotus announced a road map through 2007 that emphasizes the integration of Domino and WebSphere-based services. At the heart of the plan is a strong commitment to a Workplace client technology and WebSphere Portal, which should open debates in every organization about the future of client and portal strategies.
Written by Matt Cain, Contributor

At Lotusphere, Lotus announced a road map through 2007 that emphasizes the integration of Domino and WebSphere-based services. At the heart of the plan is a strong commitment to a Workplace client technology and WebSphere Portal, which should open debates in every organization about the future of client and portal strategies.

META Trend: Throughout 2004, organizational productivity strategies will drive the integration of knowledge and human capital management efforts into a holistic program to improve workplace performance and innovation (WPI). Focusing on the connections of people to teams, communities, process, and information in evolving workplaces will become a vital discipline for adaptive organizations by 2005. Knowledge management methods and practices will become critical for blending business processes and social networks to maximize enterprise productivity and drive competitive advantage through 2008.

After years of conflicting messages about the relationship between Domino and WebSphere-based content and collaboration services, IBM has settled on a clear and coherent strategy for the long-term evolution of the two platforms. Domino will be a participating server in the IBM Workplace strategy, supplying content and applications within the Workplace environment. The intention is to have common authentication, LDAP directory services, backup, and hygiene services across Domino and WebSphere-based servers. The goal is to evolve Domino customers to Workplace at their own pace, where Domino applications increasingly become integrated with Workplace services, and new development and collaboration services are hosted on WebSphere platforms. However, IBM’s goal is to entice Workplace customers to adopt the entire WebSphere Portal (WP) Server platform. To this end, IBM announced a bundle of all Workplace modules, plus the WebSphere Portal Server Enable edition for $400/seat, which will drop to less than $200/seat in large-volume deals. With the purchase of WP licenses, firms will have access to the entire portal framework to create custom applications and have the use of extensive portlet and middleware libraries that come bundled with WP. The IBM On Demand Workplace strategy espouses an industry-specific, role-based work environment, where the enterprise portal extends to employees, customers, partners, and suppliers. Central to IBM’s value proposition are WebSphere Portal, Lotus Workplace, and IBM Global Services offerings. IBM views WP as the focal point for capturing a considerable part of organizations’ knowledge worker (KW) infrastructure, putting the onus on firms to plan long-term KW strategies prior to committing to the IBM Workplace strategy.

The most important news coming out of Lotusphere was the planned rich-client technology for Workplace and WP. The Workplace client code will be based on open source components emerging from the Eclipse project, which started its life as an integrated development environment platform, and has since been devoted to developing a rich-client platform. Eclipse clients will incorporate the Open Services Gateway initiative (OSGi), which enables the loading/unloading of service agents without the need to restart the client, creating a flexible and dynamic environment. Lotus has contributed multiple components to the client effort (e.g., system-tray integration, generalized status bar, workbench themes, multiview instancing). To this base of open source components, IBM will add Workplace-specific extensions such as component provisioning, data replication (based on SyncML), Web Services for Remote Portals (WSRP) consumers, and a J2EE client container. IBM will use the Informix-heritage Cloudscape database as the offline repository for Workplace content. By supporting the Eclipse rich-client project, IBM hopes to deliver a “smart client” framework that alleviates many desktop management concerns (e.g., configuration, patch), as client-side components are cached and managed in a stateless manner (functionality that Microsoft will not deliver until Longhorn 2006+). Workplace clients will support the native user interface model of any platform it runs on (e.g., Windows XP Linux, Longhorn), promising more options for clients in terms of their end-user platform strategies, smart clients, and operational management. IBM intends to push automatic provisioning, update, and maintenance to broaden corporate appeal of the Workplace client. IBM will use Workplace as a poster child for Eclipse-sourced clients, and will attempt to build industry support (via ISVs), positioning it as a “portal on the desktop.” We expect IBM to add pluggable productivity tools (e.g., editors) and connectors to Microsoft Office. The first use of the Workplace client technology will be in Workplace Messaging 2.0 (3Q04), for which it will provide offline e-mail support as well as enhanced security and S/MIME encryption. Replication of the Cloudscape store will be via SyncML. In addition, the client technology will be coupled with a Workplace document management package, which will use a pluggable editor to enable users to import, edit, and save documents. With Domino 8.0, the Workplace client will use Notes client plug-in components to enable Domino applications to be run in a Workplace client. IBM also revealed short- and long-term changes to Domino. Such changes underscore that the primary development strategy IBM is following with Domino is to add capabilities that will smooth integration with the WebSphere strategy at the expense of any groundbreaking functionality improvements to the core Domino platform. IBM will strive to create operational efficiencies for Domino via scalability and management improvements and make some application refinements (e.g., presence-enabling Notes, embedded instant messaging).

Domino 6.51. Released in January 2004, Domino 6.51 includes instant messaging at no additional cost (for those on a maintenance plan), reflecting IBM’s desire to build a large installed base of IM customers to both block Microsoft’s attempts to penetrate Domino accounts with its own Live Communication Server, and to demonstrate the value of embedded presence and IM. Lotus already set the stage for IM integration with Version 6.5, which automatically launches IM in the Notes client and displays presence information on names exposed in the Domino directory. Decision makers should examine the pros and the cons of using the Notes client as the only method for users to obtain IM services. Sametime Connect (a separate IM client) retains some functionality not found within the embedded tool, and users may appreciate a loosely coupled IM model, rather than having IM available only within the Notes application. Domino 6.51 also includes better Outlook integration with the Domino server, a service that Lotus has struggled with over the years. With virtually no uptake in the market, Lotus continues to view an opportunity to maintain Domino e-mail servers in place by enabling the use of the popular Microsoft e-mail client. Functionality dropout (e.g., free and busy calendar lookup) and sluggish performance had been barriers to adoption. Domino 6.51 also contains some scalability and performance enhancements on the server side as well as administration enhancements. As a major step forward in its effort to integrate Domino with Workplace, Lotus introduced Domino Web Application Portlet (DWAP), which enables Web-based Domino applications or data to be deployed as JSR-168 and WSRP portlets for consumption in a compliant portal framework such as WebSphere Portal. Using Domino Designer, developers will take existing Domino applications, convert them to Web applications, and then configure them for DWAP support.

Domino 7.0. Version 7.0 of Domino is scheduled for a 1H05 release. It will offer optional native implementation of DB2 (substituting for .NSF), as well as external access to DB2 in a three-tier architecture model. Although IBM is touting Web service support for this release, it will still require developers to manually add Web service support for applications. We suspect that Web service support for Domino has now been largely bypassed in support of the DWAP portlet architecture. Domino Version 7.0 also promises a much-needed 50% boost in per-server Domino Web Access scalability. Domino 7.0 also promises some administration enhancements, including domainwide views and better agent and application administration. Native Java debugging, better smart-upgrade features, and client-lockdown facilities are part of this release. In this version, Domino Designer has the ability to blend collaboration services (e.g., IM, Web conferencing) into Domino access and expose .NSF data to DB2 via DB2 Access Views. IBM will also release a common mail portlet, which will provide a consistent user experience against both the Domino and the Workplace Messaging back ends.

Domino 8.0. Lotus has disclosed little about this release, which is expected in 1H06, but the main attraction will be the release of the integrated Workplace/Notes client previously referenced. We also expect integration between various Workplace and Domino components such as calendaring (via ICAL) for base-level interoperability and IM (via a SIP to VP gateway). All firms must ascertain the appropriate path forward with an integrated KW strategy. For Domino shops, decisions must be made about commitments to Domino, Domino and Workplace components, or Domino and a full-blown commitment to the WebSphere Portal strategy. Decisions will hinge on infrastructure plans (e.g., directory, database), application development directions, application portfolios (e.g., SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle), and content management and portal plans.

Bottom Line: Domino organizations should begin ascertaining Domino upgrade/migration strategies, choosing between full WebSphere portal support, Domino-only, or Domino and Workplace integration. Upgrade/migration strategies must be part of overall knowledge worker infrastructure plans.

Business Impact: Closely aligning content and collaboration strategies with corporate infrastructure strategies will yield operational and functional efficiencies, leading to competitive advantages.

META Group originally published this article on 1 April 2004.

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