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Keeping an Eye on the Future of Domino and WAS

For IBM, the future of both WAS and Domino is clearly all about how best to integrate the product families in terms of both function and developer communities. Clearly with recent product versions, this process has started. How may this integration affect application design decisions that need to be made today? We consider this question in the following section.

Toward Open Standards

A key issue in the Web application server and services marketplace is the choice between the use of open standards vs. proprietary programming interfaces. Or, to be blunt, J2EE versus .NET. As is well documented, an open standards foundation is a major part of IBM's strategy in the marketplace. WAS, being an implementation of J2EE and now Web services standards, will continue down the open standards road. Domino, having a longer product history, will continue to incorporate open standard interfaces.

Although proprietary technology is an important differentiator in the market, even Lotus has long supported key Internet standards. Domino delivers enterprise messaging while supporting an open standards-based application development architecture that includes Java, JavaScript, XML, HTML, LDAP, SMTP, POP3, IMAP, and SSL. Domino has embraced Java as both an external interface, providing Java classes for all its key interfaces, and as an internal language that can be used in place of Lotus' BASIC-like programming language, LotusScript. It is natural to expect that the integration of the WAS and Domino products will occur along these open standards lines.

Browser-Based Clients

Another sign of the impact that the Web application model is having on Domino are the iNotes and, more recently, the Lotus Workplace products. Traditionally, Lotus Notes was a client/server architecture based on the feature rich Notes client and the Domino server. With Domino R5 and iNotes, browsers became a prominent client. Lotus iNotes for Web Access, despite its browser dependencies, was an important step along the path to provide Notes client function via the Web browser. The Lotus Workplace product is the latest step along this path.

Browser-based client function is important for applications that integrate several, often disparate types of function on a single browser screen—the so-called Web portal. For example, using the WebSphere Portal Server product, you can integrate transaction processing under WebSphere with e-mail, calendar, and other Domino functions. Thus, you can now construct a Web application that looks and feels like an extension of the iNotes application, resulting in a single, browser-based desktop from which users can access all the applications that they use on a daily basis.

It is likely that IBM will continue to provide client function via the browser and enhance the WAS and Domino functions that can be presented in a portal context.

Convergence of Function

The integration between WAS and Domino also will occur with functions that span both products. Security is the prime example. IBM has implemented single sign-on (SSO) support between Domino and WebSphere. SSO lets users authenticate once when accessing both Domino data (databases, documents, fields) and WAS resources, such as HTML, servlets, JSPs, and EJBs. This is accomplished via sharing an encryption mechanism used for passing user credentials and sharing a common user registry using LDAP.

Another area of common function is data storage. We can see that Domino's data storage technology (the NSF database) has already benefitted from synergy with other IBM database products, especially DB2. Domino R5 provided faster recovery and improved reliability for its data store using transaction logging. We can expect this sort of synergy to continue, perhaps resulting in convergence of Domino's document data store with the relational model.

IBM and Lotus will continue to meld their product families into one. Lotus K-station (Domino's portal server) has already been merged into WebSphere's portal server as a single portal solution with the benefits of both products. IBM's recent move to allow WebSphere workloads on its iSeries Dedicated Servers for Domino (DSD) line of servers is a good indication that IBM understands how important this integration is.

Another notable item is the Domino Collaboration Objects for Java. IBM and Lotus say their intent is not to extend Domino but to provide a more intuitive interface to Domino objects with fewer Java methods and classes. The current array of objects includes the following:

  • CalendarEntry (to search calendars and create new entries)

  • Mail (to compose and send e-mail)

  • Login and workflow initiation services

As for Domino's traditional programming environment, don't assume IBM will abandon LotusScript. Lotus Notes and Domino have an enormous customer base of users and developers using LotusScript-based applications. Continued support for this language is unquestionable. As new classes and properties are developed for LotusScript, equivalents for Java will follow. Obviously, the intent is that J2EE (Java) programmers can be trained to work with Domino without having to learn a new language.

Evolution of WebSphere

So, if the future of Domino is WebSphere, what's the future of WebSphere? Since WAS is IBM's implementation of the J2EE standard, the evolution of J2EE will largely determine what WebSphere becomes.

IBM is committed to building the most complete and best-performing application server based on the J2EE standard. And because many areas aren't covered by the standard, IBM can be creative and add value by supplying add-on features that make WebSphere more enterprise ready. IBM is also adding application products and proprietary extensions to the base WebSphere product to meet needs expressed in the marketplace.

IBM updates WAS every six months or so with a major release. Each version of WebSphere gets a little easier to install and manage, but the real activity is in the extensions and applications. Consider the following:

  • With WebSphere MQ, IBM implements the Java Messaging Services (JMS) standards. Numerous connectors to CICS and other legacy systems and middleware are also planned or shipping.

  • IBM has rewritten Net.Commerce into Java to run under WebSphere as the WebSphere Commerce Suite—a high-powered storefront system.

  • IBM has grafted speech recognition technology (as well as its vaunted national language support) onto WebSphere.

  • IBM has implemented portals, wireless support, and B2B capabilities as Java applications that run in the WebSphere environment.

  • IBM is moving its legacy connectivity products to the WebSphere environment with offerings such as WebFacing on the iSeries and Host Publisher.

  • IBM has leveraged Lotus' expertise with its ERP Connectors and introduced several WebSphere adapters that are based on Lotus LEI connector technologies.

WebSphere is the logical place for IBM to create new applications because they can be leveraged over the entire eServer line. Expect a steady stream of WebSphere-based products from IBM over the next few years. Watch areas like content management, system management (Tivoli is already starting to play in these areas with its Policy Manager), collaboration, and application accelerators.

Tooling for developing WebSphere applications is also advancing rapidly with the new WebSphere Studio products. Based on the open-source Eclipse project, IBM has replaced VisualAge for Java and the old Studio product and added new support for XML and Web services. For some of the IBM hardware platforms, such as the iSeries, IBM is adding platform-specific extensions to aid in application development and integration.

A big question is the Lotus Domino Designer client. It's hard to see how IBM will merge this with the WebSphere tooling. You may see, however, improved Domino deployment options for objects developed in the WebSphere Studio tools.

IBM has already repositioned several product lines and placed them under the WebSphere umbrella. Is Domino next? Will we see a WebSphere Mail and Collaboration Server? Assuming that there will be a new integrated WebSphere/Domino Server in the future, it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on WebSphere and J2EE evolution.

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