Friday, November 28, 2014

IBM Notes: 25 Years and Counting...


Today marks 25 Years of IBM (Lotus) Notes. It's a pretty impressive lifespan for a product. Sure, Windows has been going 29 years and there are many older systems out there but few I suspect have retained the incredible levels of compatibility that Notes has. Can you still run Windows 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 or even 95 programs on the latest Windows? Sometimes, but not really. Not without emulation. Notes applications however still run fine on the newer notes platforms. 

What is Notes?
For so many years, people thought that Notes was email - in fact, they still do today.  I have no idea why they have that impression, after all, IBM/Lotus sold a separate product, CC:Mail for years before finally deciding that Notes handled mail well enough to not require it any more. 

Nevertheless, Notes always drew comparisons with outlook and lots of companies moved away from Notes mail because it was fashionable (and a safe bet) to use Microsoft and because they figured that the new versions of Outlook did mail better than their Notes (which usually hadn't been upgraded in years). Many of the companies which "moved away" still run conveniently forgotten back-room Notes installations for their applications. Mail is moved but the applications are still there. 

I mostly blame IBM for this, for failing to answer the simple question - what is notes? 

Notes is a rapid development and runtime environment with built-in collaboration, security and replication. 

That's what Notes is. 


Where to from here?
I picked the screen shot at the top of this post deliberately to show that the current version of Notes still has the workspace that the original has. I don't use the workspace, I haven't for about a decade. We have our own nice front end. 

The future of Notes is the web. 

Most of our in-house applications operate equally well in the Notes client and on the web. At the moment our users are still using the client and our customers use the web. The plan is for the development/admin team to continue using the client and for everyone else to use the web. 

IBM have a web offering for Notes/Domino apps but the beauty of having your own domino server is that you own your own cloud. Also, if our customer base want a new system,we can simply and easily develop, test and deploy it, without having to worry about extra runtime requirements. 


What I want from IBM
  • Clear Messages
    Stop muddying the waters with name changes, Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, Cognos and the web versions of these and all your other products. Make a clear statement of what the product does, why it is different to the other products, how it connects and how it adds real business value. Stop treating Notes like it's mail product.
  • Rapid Application Development
    Sort out the XPages mess. Yes, they're good but they take the R out of RAD.
  • Mobilize
    We want a compiler that will wrap up basic android, iOS and Windows functionality into APPs that work with a web-based domino server.
  • Be Proactive not Reactive
    The poodle attack vector was uncovered about 18 years ago. IBM was informed (apparently) 5 years ago. We (the customer base) had to fight way too hard to get a fix delivered -- and even then, I haven't installed it yet because I've heard too many horror stories about the installation.
  • Use OpenNTF Wisely
    OpenNTF is a great resource. All of the standard Notes templates should be developed there with the collaboration of the global notes resources. This would allow real users to provide instant feedback and suggestions for mail and calendar improvements. 


Here's to another 25 years of Notes/Domino - I want to retire before it does.