Early last year I did a presentation at several User Groups entitled “Beyond XPages”. The presentation outlined an approach for building modern Web applications for Notes data that was not based upon XPages. We believe XPages has a shelf life of (at best) 5 years before companies will become very active in seeking to migrate to other development platforms. That by 2020 IBM itself will have abandoned the platform. This is why Red Pill Now no longer recommends to its customers development based around XPages.

We got a lot of feedback from the sessions, including disbelief that IBM would allow us to do a presentation like this. We knew at the time IBM would not want us to present such a diverging view and we invited various members of IBM to attend so we could get their feedback. They didn’t like what we were saying, but they also were unable to counter the arguments made. As an IBM Business Partner with a number of past and present IBM Champions we want to support and promote IBM products wherever we can. But we also recognize the need to retain our position as thought leaders in the application development space at a time when IBM (unfortunately) no longer seem to be providing a lot of thought leadership with products such as XPages.

Why Not XPages?

Simply put, there is little evidence that IBM is investing enough in XPages to ensure its long-term existence as a viable Web development platform. The world of Web development is rapidly changing and the technologies around which XPages are based are falling behind just as fast. In the pioneering days of Lotus Notes the product was an innovator and its community thought leaders. XPages is a follower.

XPages is based on dojo, a Javascript framework that is going nowhere. jQuery has long since become the de-facto standard, but it is often a struggle to use jQuery without dojo getting in the way. Domino Designer is still based on Eclipse 3.4 (circa 2008) instead of Eclipse 4.4.  The Domino Web Server is based on HTTP Servlet 2.5 (2005) instead of HTTP Servlet 3.1. The programming language used within XPages is based on Java 6 (2006) when Java 8 has been released for quite a while now and the world (outside of XPages) is already planning for a move to Java 9. The XPages scripting language (SSJS) is based on ES3 from all the way back in 1999 while the rest of the world is now exploiting the power of ES6.

From a design perspective XPages has One UI! Bootstrap is finally being integrated into XPages just as we are seeing companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even IBM moving on and investing heavily in the development of a new generation of Design Languages. XPages does not have native support for any of these, including IBM’s Design Language.

To be fair, this in no way reflects badly on the XPages development team in Ireland or Product Manager Pete Janzen. They get it, and understand the needs of modern Web developers. Its just that they are neither provided with the resources to develop the product in these areas nor are they provided with the opportunity to release enhancements back into the core product. For example, the adoption of Java 8 was developed quite some time ago, but there has not been a new release of Notes/Domino since 2013. With IBM’s market share declining, the situation is not going to get any better. The XPages team are active members of our community and are making as many enhancements as they can via OpenNTF. But as awesome as they are, too much is now falling on too few.

And that brings me to my next point. At Connect 2016 IBM made a number of announcement about the features likely to be coming in the “Next” version of Notes/Domino. This included support for Java 8, better touch screen support, Windows 10, improved calendar interoperability, template updates, the storage of views outside the NSF, support for document encryption and signing in XPages, and better integration with BlueMix from within Designer. All important features to allow Notes, Domino, and XPages to catch up with some of the changes in modern Web development that have occurred since 2013.

 

The above observation by Detlev Poettgen at DNUG last week is interesting given the response by Product Manager, Ed Brill that the roadmap for now merely includes “commitments” to fixpacks for Notes and Domino!

That made me wonder…. why would IBM suddenly only provide a commitment to fix-packs instead of taking the opportunity to remain committed to a new release, something customers and the community continue to push for? I may be wrong, but I suspect that having already gone three years without a release, should IBM decide to have a 9.0.2 release of Notes/Domino, this could potentially reset the clock for how long IBM would be obligated to support Notes/Domino moving forward. I am sure they will ultimately determine an appropriate length of support once it is clear to customers there are no new releases coming, but they probably want to leave as much wiggle room (legally) as they can. After all, they do employ one or two lawyers!

Back in March I suggested that new ICS GM Inhi Cho Suo was likely to make significant changes to the direction of ICS. The Road Map presented at Engage also was missing any reference to Notes/Domino Next. Perhaps a faster end for Notes, Domino, and XPages is part of that change.

Beyond XPages?

In the 16 months since I first presented Beyond XPages nothing has happened to make me believe XPages will have a future beyond 2020. In fact, I am not sure now if XPages even has a future beyond 2018! With an estimated 10 million Notes application still in use today organizations around the world should be taking stock of their application portfolios and planning carefully for the future. Thick clients such as Notes, Flash, Access, FoxPro, and even Outlook are on the way out. Instead the development of Web applications based around the holy trinity of HTML 5, CSS3, and ECMAScript 6 are on the rise. I do not see any true Rapid Application Development tools like Notes on the market which means moving Notes applications to more traditional IT-based development platforms. Bad news for citizen developers, but good news for centralized IT. The Domino database engine remains solid so there is no great urgency to migrate completely away from Domino at this time. But it is clear that future enhancements to existing Notes applications should now be developed with something other than XPages.


At Red Pill Now we are focusing on Design First (Google Material Design), Graph databases, REST Services, and Polymer as a way forward for Notes databases. We like the distinct advantages that come from leaving the data in Notes. It allows our customers to continue to run their existing (Notes client) applications in parallel avoiding the costs/risks associated with data migrations. Our customers love that we can deliver modern looking Web applications that surface their existing Notes data via a Web browser from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Something we could never do had we continued to do our development with XPages. Not now in 2016, and certainly not in 2020.