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Current Events & Commentary / Analysis of News Events

Domino Short and a Fix Pack Late

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Domino is dying. But there is hope.

 

Last month, I wrote a piece about the future of IBM Notes/Domino called “The Domino 9.0.2 Waiting Game” in which I lamented at the lack of, well, Domino 9.0.2.

Lo and behold, just last week IBM put out an announcement for an update: Notes and Domino 9.0.1 Fix Pack 7. With a whopping 81 fixes combined between client and server since the last update in May 2016, the collective sigh from the IBM Domino user and ISV community certainly wasn’t heard ‘round the world.

I’m not going to get into the reasons why point releases are important to the Notes/Domino community. Instead, I’m going to tell you why this new incremental delivery model is a bad idea. But first, lets cover the announcement.

The IBM Social Business Spotlight Blog states: “Today IBM announced that support for IBM Notes and Domino, Traveler, and IBM Enterprise Integrator (formerly Lotus Enterprise Integrator) V9.0.x are being extended through at least September 2021. Support will also be extended through at least Sept 2021 for the associated entitlements to IBM Sametime 9.0 Limited Use, IBM Domino Designer 9.0.1, IBM Mobile Connect 6.1.5, and IBM Domino Global Workbench 9.0.1.”

So there’s that. Extended support is good news but not much to plan for. This means that they’re going to support these products for “at least” the next five years.

Furthermore, they do state they’ll be doing an incremental delivery model to provide features and fixes, so you can expect to see more fix packs be the status quo for the Notes/Domino product line. There is no urgency to label anything a point release.

Where have I seen this point release strategy before? You remember don’t you? It’s where fix packs were added ad nauseum with little to no information on the future of a product.

Oh, yes. It was IBM Lotus Quickr.

Quickr’s last update (Fix Pack 49!) for Windows, AIX, and Linux was in May 2016. The last Quickr update for IBM i was Fix Pack 47 back in April 2014. End of support for Quickr will be September 30, 2016. Now, for some reason, IBM decided to alter their numbering scheme and jumped from fix pack 13 to 25. It’s not worth going back and finding out why. Either way, there was a total of 37 fix packs before they took Quickr out to pasture and put a bullet in it. And it wasn’t a kill shot either.

That’s why I’m a little wary about this incremental delivery model.

Given this is a Power Systems magazine, you’re probably saying, “Hey, Steve, you rave about the IBM i Technology Refresh concept. What’s the difference?”

Well, there’s a difference in products. One is a software platform for mail/applications, and one is an operating system. For an operating system, we get a constant barrage of features and fixes by way of PTFs for all supported releases. The IBM i community has a clear path forward with plenty of communication from the IBM i and Power Systems teams. We’ve had three point releases for IBM i since 2010 (7.1, 7.2 and 7.3). The concept of a Technology Refresh is defined, as I know it, as the ability to add value to the IBM i operating system without needing to upset the apple cart of a release or point release upgrade. Based on the value added by way of the Technology Refresh process over the last number of years, I would think anyone who keeps up to date with maintaining their IBM i partitions would agree that it’s been a resounding success. Without those Technology Refreshes, the IBM i customer base would have to wait for those features to be included in a point release.

Microsoft is even doing that type of maintenance going forward with Windows 10, the supposedly last version of Windows. An incremental delivery of value makes sense due to the upheaval needed to upgrade an operating system.

Now when you compare operating systems with a piece of software that takes less than 10 minutes to upgrade from one version to another, the point of an incremental upgrade strategy is entirely lost me. Where’s the value? Can someone explain that to me?

Considering there were only 81 components of 9.0.1 Fix Pack 7, it would make it incredibly hard to call it 9.0.2. My question is, what are the Notes/Domino (cloud and on-premise) maintenance dollars going toward? I guess someone had to write the code for the iOS Verse application’s two splash screens.

Just a little dig at Verse. For what it’s worth, I do believe that it has the potential to be a pretty cool product. And from what I know, that’s where the development dollars and personnel are being focused. Is the future a stripped-down mail interface with limited features in the name of finding and focusing on the content that’s most important? Maybe for some.

But it’s not what I need.

What do I need? I need to be able to tell my executives that we have a plan. I need to be able to understand what features will be available and be confident they’ll be available in the timeframe given. I need to have trust in a vendor that will deliver. I need to have platform supportability requirements satisfied. I would like to see investment in Notes/Domino. That’s the product I’m paying maintenance on. A mere 81 fixes/enhancements just doesn’t show an investment. The Social Business Spotlight Blog touts some of the features delivered previously in that model, such as TLS 1.2. If I remember correctly, many customers and business partners kicked and screamed very loudly for TLS 1.2 before it was given due attention. Same goes for SHA-2 support. Support for Microsoft Outlook has been on the promise list for over three years. These are not features to tout as the results of an incremental delivery model. These are the results of customers and business partners not taking “we’ll take that back” for an answer.

More information needs to be shared about the incremental delivery model. It needs to be explained to customers very clearly and carefully. Otherwise, you’ll have people reading the tea leaves and making assumptions rather than being guided by their major technology vendor.

This is a problem. And declaring “Domino isn’t dead” isn’t helping.

Like it or not, everything dies. We’re all dying. It’s just a matter of rate.

For all its strengths with security and replication and still having a relatively large install base, Notes/Domino is dying. It’s been dying for a little while now. Unless this product gets some real development focus, and yes, a new version number, we will see it go away sooner rather than later. Either customers will abandon ship because of perception of it being a dead-end product or IBM will starve it to death in the name of the next big thing.

If I’m an optimistic guy, if there’s no new version or point release in the next 18 months, then I’ve got 3 1/2 years or less to figure out what to do. It’s taken my shop about 18 months to convert our Domino applications to PHP-based applications. That’s been our strategy, so the only thing I really have to worry about for the future is mail. Other shops with hundreds or thousands of Domino applications won’t be so lucky.

There is time to pull the nose up. Unless customers demand more for their maintenance dollars, we’ll have to accept whatever comes down the pike. If that’s Verse on premises, or Domino 9.0.1 Fix Pack 29, or something else entirely...make no mistake, now is the time to speak up.

From my perspective, that’s the reality of the situation.

Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Lotus Domino solutions since 2001. Visit Steve's website, follow his Twitter account, or contact him directly at steven.carl.pitcher@gmail.com.
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