If IBM Project Vulcan succeeds, the IBM Lotus Notes Client we know today is dead

April 13 2010

Peter Presnell wrote a very interesting blog post entitled Saving Notes: Why The Notes Client Must Die that has gotten some attention (via PlanetLotus.org) and a bunch of comments. What I find funny is that it has taken just under three months for this discussion to take place in the Lotus blogsphere since IBM Project Vulcan was announced.

Yes, the Notes client we know today is dead.

What do I mean? Well, if IBM Project Vulcan is successful, the Notes client we have today will be dead. The goal is to build a modern application platform using Web 2.0 technology. The goal is to build a new platform for the future which also keeps the existing Notes application model present. Xpages are the app model.

So looking at that direction, why could the Notes client not be just a packaged, installable application that made off-line mobile applications easy to deploy and control? Why not take a complete web experience, wrapped with the off-line capabilities of HTML5, and make an EXE out of it? For me, the #1 feature coming from Vulcan is the goal to have a single application platform that deploys to the client, web, and mobile devices.

If you do the research on many of the moves off Notes & Domino to other platforms (and other platforms to cloud based email), it's almost always do to the TCO of the Notes client. IT shops don't want to manage software on the desktop. They don't want to deal with applications that have to be managed. They want fast, lean, pretty, and easy to manage and support. There is no reason why Vulcan can't be the answer to this model - for both email and applications. Plus, as email becomes more of a commodity over time, collaboration and custom applications are the model everyone will focus on. Even collaboration, starting with on-line meeting and IM and then moving to team rooms, project based solutions, and more complicated and enterprise solutions will become commodities over time.

IBM needs to jump forward and I believe Project Vulcan is their opportunity. It is a gigantic effort - which is why we have no dates for delivery. But I would have no issue with the Notes client as we know it today going away ... as long as there is a solution to take our applications into this new client space. The piece missing is what will get those Notes Client only applications into the new platform? There are rumblings of folks working on Notes Classic apps to Xpage conversion tools. I personally believe the reason we are seeing work on DXL by IBM is to facilitate this move. Who knows what else we might see here. But modernizing Notes Client applications to become Web 2.0 applications that look great, focus on end user functionality, and fit into 2010 and 2011 deployment models and devices is where I think people should focus. You will hear and see more from PSC on this space very shortly.

14 Responses to “If IBM Project Vulcan succeeds, the IBM Lotus Notes Client we know today is dead”

  1. 1) Carl Tyler says:

    Been thinking the same thing. If people are building XPages apps too and run them in the client, they're basically using an embedded browser.

    So then the question becomes why have a Domino server, that XPage stuff can just as easily be served up by Websphere which is the preferred application server for IBM anyway.

    Which leaves Domino doing what, email? Won't everyone be running that on IBMs cloud soon? Hold on a mo, if Notes is dead and Domino is no longer needed????

  2. 2) John Head says:

    Good food for thought Carl. I have some more thoughts here ... but still letting them germinate

  3. 3) Craig Wiseman says:

    This is a valid train of thought IF IBM can get it's software up to, say, East German (before the merger) quality levels.

    Looking at ST 8.5, the ST gateway (ANY version), etc. I'm not very hopeful.

  4. 4) John Head says:

    Craig - compared to horror stories I am hearing about other software platforms these days, IBM is not where near alone. Plus, we haven't had any issues with Sametime 8.5 internally at PSC. Luis installed it and it was up and running with no issues. Maybe people should bring Luis in to do their setups ;) LOL

  5. 5) Craig Wiseman says:

    Well, you heard it here, folks.

    Mrs. Davis & Mr. Tyler - you suck. ;-)

  6. 6) John Head says:

    I didn't say they suck at all Craig - nice try. Just saying the product isn't a complete piece of trash. It's usable. With huge room for improvement

  7. 7) Erik Brooks says:

    @1 - NSF will still be needed. So you'd need Domino (or something) to still serve that to whatever your Xpages/HTTP renderer turns out to be.

  8. 8) Carl Tyler says:

    @7 not necessarily. Fix DXL, get that data out of nsf, but why can't websphere be made to server up nsf data, IBM has the code that knows how to read NSFs.

    @5 We've just deployed it more environments than inside PSC so our experiences have been different. Also it depends on what parts of sametime 8.5 you're using, what your network topology is, and what your expectation levels were. Just IM then no issue. Lots of hardware great. No firewalls, perfect. etc.

  9. 9) Darren Duke says:

    All this talk of "dead" is a tad premature. I think "evolution" is more correct. Just like Hanover evolved the "basic" client, as will Vulcan evolve Hanover.

    I do, however think Xpages is genius idea. It is not new, it is JSF. And JSF component libraries can be served from any Java application server meeting the spec....hint, hint, cough, cough.

    And you all thought "write once, run anywhere" was on the client/browser. We're all suckers here, as that also holds true for the server too.

    And while email maybe a commodity, everyone needs to take a breath. I'd rather be at the pointy end of a Village People gang-bang than use GMail as my primary mail client, so if that is commoditization you can keep it.

    What is missing (right now) is offline support (think DOLS) and "legacy" Notes apps. Why not just rename Domino as "Domino classic" and have done with it (al la Sametime). Get that right, and the old Notes client maybe "dead". Long live the new Notes client.

    Viva la evolution!

  10. 10) Lisa Duke says:

    What do you call it when something is dead, but it's still walking around everywhere? A zombie? A vampire? The UNDEAD?

    I say Notes is undead. And good news, the undead are really hot right now!

    { Link }

  11. 11) Vaughan Rivett says:

    Lotus Notes as we knew it - R4.5 was dead with the release of R5

    Lotus Notes as we knew it - R5 was dead with the release of R7

    Lotus Notes as we knew it - R7 was dead with the release of R8

    Lotus Notes as we know it today will be dead with R9/Vulcan

    You see there has been an evolution to what we now know Lotus Notes to be. Yes, Lotus Notes will change and will continue to change. Over the last 10 years people have threatened it's existence with WebSphere, but we are still not there. If this was IBM's intention, wouldn't Lotus Notes already have a WebShpere version and a sunset date?

    For me this is the same old story on another day.

  12. 12) Henning Heinz says:

    There already was a Websphere version (called Workplace) and maybe Lotus Notes already has an internal sunset date (I do not know). I also doubt that you would need nsf for Vulcan. Vulcan is an initiative that goes well beyond Domino and nsf so I assume nsf can be one container to store data (but not the only one). The reason why Websphere does not support nsf probably is (imho) that IBM sees no demand for such an old storage facility. They did even ignore CouchDb when it was an IBM driven project so I am not surprised they don't see any value in nsf. And in it's current state with poor old Notes Rich Text and 16Bit database limitations I see no value either. You can probably run Websphere with many NoSQL databases anyway (Cassandra, CouchDb). IBM, as a big company, is trying many things, see { Link }

  13. 13) Roberto Boccadoro says:

    @12 - There has never been a sunset date for Notes.

  14. 14) Ian Randall says:

    Lets get real, XPages is fantastic for new greenfield web development and also when you need to update a very, very simple legacy application with a Web 2.0 look and feel.

    However when you have complex Domino applications that contain tens of thousands of lines of code including over 250 Forms, 300 Sub-Forms and 300 views, and many users are still running on Domino 6.5 & 7, then XPages is not an such an easy option.

    I also have many customers that rely heavily upon Lotus Notes Clients to overcome very low speed connection to many remote and urban fringe locations (with comms lines heavily biased towards other other applications such as SAP further limiting network speeds).

    There is also still a huge gap in functionality between the Notes Client and Web browser (like lack of a universal spell checker and poorer integration with MS Office).

    I really don't see the Notes Client ever going away in the same way that I also don't ever see the MS Outlook Rich Client going away. Web browsers are fine, but they are never as good as the real thing.


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