On Wednesday of this week, IBM will officially unveil Version 7 of its Lotus Notes and Domino family of products. Though the much-anticipated software will build upon the technologies that Notes customers have long used, it will also offer increased integration with IBM's DB2 and Workplace products. That integration will enable Notes users to take advantage of powerful capabilities that IBM plans to develop for its collaboration solutions over the next several years.
While Notes and Domino 7 will include many useful refinements on the client side, the new version will distinguish itself with its server-side enhancements. One of the most beneficial enhancements will be the improved scalability and performance of Domino 7. In benchmark tests, IBM has determined that Domino 7 could use up to 25% less CPU resources and support up to 80% more NotesBench mail users than Domino 6.5 on the same server hardware. The added scalability could allow Domino 7 users to reduce ownership costs by deferring server upgrades or even consolidating servers running earlier releases.
Administrators will also appreciate the expanded management capabilities of Domino 7. In the security area, the product offers more powerful spam filters and the option to use 1,024-bit RSA encryption keys and 128-bit symmetric keys for the Notes Remote Procedure Call protocol. In addition, IT managers can use policy-based administration to change mail and calendar settings stored in user mail files and to lock down all user settings.
On the server side, a new domain monitoring tool runs health checks on multiple Domino servers across one or more domains. The tool not only monitors domains for problems, but also provides probable causes for problems and suggests potential solutions. Administrators also gain an activity analysis tool that will help them to predict server growth and sizing requirements and plan for hardware and software changes. When the time comes to upgrade Notes clients, the enhanced Smart Upgrade facility will allow IT staffs to centrally manage installations and configurations without having to visit the desktops.
As for the desktops, Notes 7 users will gain several productivity enhancements. One new feature will enable users to view complete mail threads from within messages. Another feature will let users flag messages for immediate action, an enhancement that was pioneered by Microsoft Outlook. An "attention indicator" on emails will instantly let users know whether they are the sole recipient of the email or one among many. In addition, instant messaging (IM) users will be able to see who is online from within calendars, address books, discussion forums, and team rooms as well as from their emails. By the way, the Domino Web Access browser client will offer improved response times and will include many of the new features found in Notes 7. Domino Web Access 7 supports not only Internet Explorer on Windows clients, but also Firefox and Mozilla browsers on Linux clients.
Connecting to DB2, WebSphere, and Workplace
One of the key features of Domino 7 is its ability to use DB2 Universal Database as an optional, alternative data store to the Lotus Notes storage facility. This will allow users to access, view, and manipulate Domino application data using SQL programs. It will also allow them to make Domino data available to DB2 applications, including those running on the WebSphere Portal Server and Workplace platforms. This will make it possible to create collaboration solutions that offer a wider and more powerful palette of capabilities.
Unfortunately, IBM will not support the DB2 integration feature in initial shipments of Domino 7 for the iSeries. Indeed, the company is limiting the feature to DB2 UDB running on the Windows and AIX operating systems. However, sources inside IBM have said that the company intends to support DB2/400 on Domino 7 in the future. The date when support will ship is not yet clear.
IBM's intention behind these features is to give Notes/Domino users a way to run their applications on its WebSphere middleware and on Workplace, the vendor's WebSphere-based platform for workgroup computing. To make such integration easier, IBM is including a plug-in with Notes 7 that allows users to run Notes applications within the Workplace Managed Client. In addition, IBM is providing portlets with WebSphere Portal Server that allow Notes shops to "surface" their applications within the portal environment.
IBM's actions are setting the stage for Notes and Domino to participate in the next generation of collaboration solutions that the vendor is developing. These solutions will be composed of Web Services that can be quickly rearranged to support changes in business processes. This flexibility will be made possible by a service-oriented architecture that is based on WebSphere middleware and DB2. Notes users who want to use this architecture will be able to encapsulate their existing applications as Web Services and run them within the Workplace environment. With Notes and Domino 7, IBM is laying the foundations that will bring such capabilities within reach.
I will have more to say about IBM's long-term strategy for collaboration solutions in future articles. In the meantime, if you want to know more about Notes and Domino 7, check out IBM's Web site that is devoted to the new products. While you are there, you can sign up for one of the briefings about the products that the company is holding across the country this fall.
[Author's Erratum: In my MC Mag Online article dated August 22, 2005, I referred to Notes 7 as the product code-named "Hannover" that IBM will ship in 2006. This was a typographical error, as I meant to type "Notes 8." I apologize for the error and hope that this note clears up any confusion.]