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The Way Off Lotus Notes is "Through it"

Lotus Notes is old software and I should know, I've been using it for 30 years. It's so old that it pre-dates the internet and it's considered to be one of the first popular "email" platforms. It's still widely in use today but many users simply don't want to talk about it.

A Quick Apology

I want to begin with a quick apology for the inflammatory title and the use of the word "Lotus". After all, we don't call PowerPoint "Forethought Presenter" anymore do we?

There's a very specific audience that I'm talking to with this post and if you're not calling it HCL Domino, then that's you. 

Wormhole Image generated by Stable Diffusion AI

Are you still on the platform?

A lot of people who believe that they migrated off the Notes/Domino platform many years ago are still using the software. It's so capable that it's hard to replace. It's quite often still running major operations from dusty unloved servers in back rooms. 

When people talk about having moved off Notes, they often mean that they migrated their mail to outlook but they never talk about the applications. 

In today's security conscious environments, it's unprofessional to be running old server software. Domino, like all the other software around us, is constantly being patched against the latest security threats. If you are running the software, you owe it to your users and your board of directors to keep it current. 

There was no "Magic Migration"

There are a lot of companies out there who claim that they can "migrate you off notes" but the truth is that these are all scams. These companies can do the "low hanging fruit" migrations - such as mail but they can't move your domino applications - they can only rebuild them. 

There is no suitable alternative software out there. Things like Microsoft's PowerApps can mimic only a fraction of what Notes can do (and quite poorly too). I'm yet to find anything that comes remotely close to the out-of-box security that Notes/Domino provides. 

The only viable alternative to Notes is to build a lot of expensive and complex bespoke applications - and then try to maintain them and their frameworks yourselves. I've been down that path and it's not a good choice. 

The Road Ahead

HCL, who acquired Notes/Domino in July 2019 have put an enormous amount of work into the product and into the supporting environments. If you have Notes/Domino anywhere in your environment, it's well worth another look.

Since this post is about migration, I'm not going to cover the benefits of the platform but they are many and it's worth reading the whitepapers on the HCL site and  watching some of the videos on HCL's YouTube channel before you make any big decisions.

Getting Off Domino

HCL now have a product called Volt. It's a low code environment which can read and write domino data and it can also read and write data in other systems like SQL server. This product will allow you to selectively upgrade your domino applications. It supports the Notes languages but can convert and display them as modern languages so that you no longer need specialized domino knowledge to audit and tweak them.

The product is already available and is helping people mobilize their domino applications. There are  plenty more features on the way and it's becoming much easier to move the entire data source off Domino and onto other NoSQL alternatives like MongoDB. 

This means that if you really want to move your domino systems to Azure, HCL Volt will get you there.

First Steps

If your organization is planning to get off Domino, then the first steps in that journey are to talk to HCL and upgrade to the latest release of Domino (currently 12.0.2). You also need to have some conversations with them about Volt.

For me personally, I don't see any pressing need to migrate off the platform. It's still secure, robust and efficient to run. It's still much less trouble and much more capable than anything we have on Azure but it's good to know that at HCL, vendor lock-in and proprietary code are becoming things of the past.


Bobo said…
I completely agree with you, there is no alternative platform to Lotus. I too have been working for more than 30 years and still today I help companies that perhaps would like to change platforms, but then realize that the costs are prohibitive and that no product is remotely comparable to Lotus out there...

I believe that the new Rest APIs made available with version 12.02 can be an extraordinary tool for keeping Domino alive for a very long time, perhaps by connecting it to Volt or to a low code platform such as Bubble. I'm amazed that this big news hasn't yet been adequately commented and highlighted by our community...
Anonymous said…
The internet's birthday was in 1983, before Notes came along. The web was 1993 after Notes. Notes and Domino has embraced both.
Anthony Holmes said…
This is a great synopsis: thanks so much for putting it together.

When I was a kid my family lived in a house constructed in the 1880s that hadn't been updated much. My parents renovated it and added mod-cons like central heating and a dishwasher. Nowadays I see it has solar panels and a swimming pool. It's a beautiful solid residence that's completely up to date: much better than a place a couple of doors down where they demolished an original house and replaced it with something "modern" a couple of decades ago.

So also with Notes/Domino: a beautiful residence: please reach out to HCL Software if you need advice on how easily you can ensure it's completely contemporary.

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