A long time ago I read somewhere that e is the most-used letter of the alphabet. And, it seems to be true, especially when playing Scrabble. But, even if e isn’t the most popular letter of the alphabet, the advent of e-commerce and e-business has probably made it the front-runner. We’ve got email, eserver, eToys, eBay, e this and e that. Words no one ever imagined beginning with e are new members of the e-word group. But wait! A new letter seems to be giving e some competition these days—i. We no longer work with the AS/400. We now work with an iSeries server (or is that eserver?).
I guess, since IBM is beginning to use i, that it’s a natural progression for Lotus to use it too. With release 5.0.5 of Domino (the Notes server system), Lotus includes a new product dubbed iNotes. iNotes, put simply, is Notes for the Internet.
Notes—the client portion of a Domino/Notes application—is a powerful user interface with a lot of built-in groupware application features. But it is also a client system resource hog and a real installation and configuration nightmare, especially when the client user base is large or remote. For example, to keep up with the latest Notes updates from Lotus, your Notes users will need to update their software at least once every quarter with Lotus' Quarter Maintenance Releases (QMRs). Users may also find that they need to update their Notes software in between the QMRs with hotfixes known as Quarterly Maintenance Updates (QMUs). The good news is, once downloaded from the Internet, these updates pretty much self-install. iNotes, on the other hand, runs in a browser and can be used by anyone with the proper authority to the Notes database. For remote Notes application users, iNotes also offers the ability to work offline. When convenient, offline users can replicate (a.k.a. synchronize) their work with the server where the work of every user of an application is ultimately stored and maintained. This replication function is performed through the client iNotes Sync Manager. A typical scenario would involve a remote salesperson who processes an order for a customer offline using a browser. Later, when convenient, the salesperson connects with the home server and merges the orders processed offline with the Notes application. In this case, the remote client system requires the iNotes Sync Manager component (approximately 20 MB), a runtime module required to execute the application offline. The iNotes Sync Manager can be automatically downloaded the first time you access a Domino Off-Line Services (DOLS)-enabled application. The Sync Manager allows the user to control synchronization, including the creation of a replication schedule. For the developer, creating DOLS-enabled applications is a relatively simple procedure of copying some design components such as pages, forms, subforms, images, and an agent from the DOLS Resource database template (DOLSRES.NTF) to the application.
Now, it’s never quite that simple. In order for a Notes application to function well with a browser interface, it needs to be designed and developed for the browser. Of course, most Notes applications are written for the Notes client system, not a browser. (This could shift as Lotus adds more Web functionality to Notes.) Lotus’ marketing material may give you the impression that Domino delivers Notes applications to the Web, but the truth is closer to this: Domino delivers Notes applications designed and developed for the Web to the Web. Yes, DOLS will allow you to synchronize applications through a browser, but the assumption is that the Notes application is designed for the browser.
Fortunately, more and more Notes applications are being written for the Web. With release 5.0.5, as part of iNotes, Lotus includes two important application templates specifically designed for the browser interface: the Webmail template and the Web Discussion template. (Note that the Webmail template does not support offline processing of the Calendar and To-do components of Notes email.) The new Webmail template significantly improves the performance of the Notes email processing through the browser by replacing some applets with straight HTML. The applets, although function-rich, were slow to download.
Another feature of iNotes to consider is iNotes Access for Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is pervasive, but Exchange (Outlook’s server component) is not equally so. Why? For starters, Exchange is a single-platform solution, while Domino runs on all of the major platforms. (For more information about why you might want to use iNotes Access for Microsoft Outlook, go to www.lotus. com/inotes.) But the main point is, now your Outlook users don’t need to stop using Outlook for you to be able to use Domino as your email server. If you’re currently using Exchange server and want to switch to Domino, Lotus also provides the built-in Domino Upgrade Services (DUS) for Exchange tool for migrating Microsoft Outlook mailbox data to Domino. With DUS for Exchange, it’s possible to migrate to Domino without touching a single client desktop.
With the iSeries’ reliability, scalability, flexibility, security, and performance and iNotes’ ability to deliver information and services to the Web, iNotes on the iSeries can be a winning combination for the big e words—e-business and e-commerce. If you’re new to Notes, as many AS/400 and iSeries users probably are, iNotes is something you should definitely take a look at. If your ultimate goal is to use Notes/Domino to deliver information and services such as email to the Web, iNotes could be the most efficient way to get there. You may have to give up some of the power of the Notes client software, but you’ll reduce your administration liabilities, including the nightmare of supporting remote clients, and still be able to offer the ability to work offline. Now, the next time you play Scrabble, don’t forget about the power of i.