Richard Moy and team put together another great User Group event in Alexandria, VA last week. Its an event that falls half-way between the annual event once known as LotusSphere. This year’s event set a new attendance record, including a large contingent of IBMers allowing all to get the latest information and news for all things Collaboration (ICS). The following are the key take aways that I noticed as a former Notes developer still passionate about finding future paths for Notes data.
The product many of us know and love continued to be a part of many conversations. While many people were looking for “what’s next” there still is strong support for the platform, with many people continuing to build new “Notes” applications. support. A survey taken by IBM at Engage earlier this year showed 64% of (customer) respondents were building or planning to build new applications on Domino. The crowd gathered at this event seemed to reflect those numbers. Notes/Domino 9.0.1 FP9 is scheduled to be released later this month and Notes/Domino 9.0.1 FP10 is planned towards the end of this year. For me the most important improvement in FP9 will be enhancements to the support for high resolution monitors. As somebody who uses high-res monitors almost exclusively, the Notes client (and Domino Designer) has started to become a distinctly bad experience. FP10 promises the much anticipated support for Java 8, further REST enhancements, and support for Docker. These are all things that will help business partners like us extend the usefulness of the Notes/Domino platform.
At the OGS Ed Brill announced that IBM were exploring the viability of a new “release” for IBM. Its not clear to me if this would be 9.0.2, 9.1, 9.5, or even Notes 10. I had started to get used to the concept of Feature Packs and it is not clear if there is any significance to this announcement. A Notes 9.5 or Notes 10 would indicate a surge in making (hopefully) a larger number of new features available. There was also some discussions about the option of developing an Electron client for Notes, which I found interesting.
There has long been a debate within the community about where the future lies for Notes. For some, including me, there have been questions as to whether or not IBM truly understood what Notes provides to its customers and hence what is involved in providing a path forward. There were signs at MWLUG that IBM is evolving its thinking in this area and developing a much more expansive set of solutions to replace Notes. I expect much more will be revealed at IBM Think 2018.It appears that the Notes space is being broken into a number of discrete segments that seem to include mail (Verse) and low-code (LiveGrid), IT development (XPages), and Database/Application server (Domino, REST APIs).
Not a major area of focus for me, but IBM did seem to be genuinely pleased with the growth in adoption of Verse this year. Much of the “New Way to Work” hype seems to have abated allowing for a more realistic view of Verse to be taken by customers.
LiveGrid was being talked about as a new stand-alone solution for building new applications with little or no code in much the same way as many new applications were created with the Notes client in its early days. There is an ability to define a new grid (application) from scratch, import data from an existing spreadsheet, or take the data held in a view/folder within an existing Notes database. Programming options are likely to include support the @formula language used by Notes client applications (and later adopted as part of XPages). Once created, the grids can be accessed from other sources via REST APIs generated automatically. The architecture for this product seems almost identical to Connections Pink with code being developed in Node.js, LoopBack providing the REST framework, and data being stored in MongoDB. IBM are still in the early stages of defining its capabilities and there was a number of people at MWLUG pushing strongly to have the option for storing data back into a NSF.
Outside of LiveGrid, I got the sense that IBM were looking more broadly at the low-code environment and exploring other options to take on the emerging challenges that are coming from Salesforce, Microsoft (PowerApps, Flow), K2, and Appian. Ed Brill has quietly rearranged his Offering Management team to include roles specifically dedicated to the low-code space.
Future releases of Domino are expected to include extended REST APIs that will cover areas such as mail, calendar and contacts. Outside of this, IBM seemed to be promoting the OpenNTF project, SmartNSF, to meet the more advanced REST needs for Domino data. The move to support Docker as a platform for Domino should help business partners in particular to develop new ways of deploying Domino
I had the chance to sit with a couple of my colleagues in Panagenda’s Applications Insight workshop. We have recently started working with customers on using Applications Insights and it was a great opportunity for us, and about 40 other people, to learn more about the process of installing and running Applications Insights. IBM provides an entitlement for all Notes customers active on maintenance to get a free analysis of their Notes databases which includes some useful information about all Notes databases as well as detailed code analysis on up to 50 databases selected from a list of the most used and most complex applications.
Red Pill Now also had a chance to talk with TeamTechnology, a German company that has recently been added to the list of partner solutions IBM is promoting to analyze/modernize/extend Notes alongside Panagenda, Sapho, Aveedo, and Darwino. They have developed an alternate solution for undertaking forensics as well as a tool for building a mobile portal for Notes applications.
Most of the important news on Connections Pink has been covered as part of Engage.ug and Social Connections. I remain quite excited with what IBM are doing with its Pink philosophy (and architecture) but still waiting to see how IBM can drive active use of Connections anywhere near that of its last Groupware product, Lotus Notes. IBM doesn’t disclose numbers about Connections, but Red Pill Now assumes, for its own purposes, the penetration of Connections is about 10% of the current Notes/Domino customer base. Many of the Connections partners such as Kudos and APpFusions were not present at MWLUG reducing the opportunities for many to to get important updates on the Connections market.
I missed the Watson Workspace session as it was on at the same time as our own Corporate Session. Watson Workspace wasn’t the center of any significant conversation in which I was involved over the three days. I sensed that most people were adopting a wait and see approach after all the hype about Verse and a “New Way to Work”. I personally struggle to see how IBM can establish a significant market share for a product like this. It would be like IBM suddenly deciding to release Watson Cola in the expectation that its presence in the Enterprise market would allow it to overcome the consumer marketing that has put Coca-Cola and Pepsi on the map.
The Bottom Line
Over the past few years the sentiment at events such as MWLUG had been getting increasingly negative. This year’s event was much more positive and realistic. We are seeing companies that continue to build new applications on Notes/Domino. This year’s event saw a diverse range of topics being covered that covered IBM’s offerings, technologies that can be used to modernize Notes data, as well as coverage of a number of options for migrating away from Notes/Domino. There seemed to be a greater level of acceptance that all these things were happening and that no one path was better than others. In fact the “Fake news” that we sometimes come to expect from IBM was in this case deliberately and openly planted by Ed Brill in the OGS.
l would like to close with a special shout out to Amanda Bauman. Amanda has been the unofficial social secretary for events such as MWLUG over the past few years, including being the host for MWLUG 2016 in her home town of Austin, TX. She has worked tirelessly to attract as many IBM Champions as possible to support events like MWLUG and make them as much fun as they have been. After the event completed we have learned that Amanda is moving on from her role at IBM to another exciting opportunity at SalesForce. I would like to wish her the very best in that new role and hope she can find a suitable excuse to travel to Ann Arbor, MI for next year’s event so we can all get one more hug from a Champion IBMer.