At last week’s Build conference in San Francisco we saw Microsoft create a vision of how it sees Modern Application Development . And I have to say it was a pretty compelling story. I have been critical of Microsoft in the past. I have long felt Microsoft trapped organizations into using a closed proprietary stack with little regard for the potential of open source or industry standards. Satya Nadella is proving to be a transformational figure in changing those views. The Microsoft that Satya presented at Build 2015 was not the same Microsoft I recognize from 10 years ago. Microsoft is now emerging as a thought leader for application development. The following are some of the things that caught my attention.
Traditional data warehouses are expensive to set up and maintain. A number of announcements for Azure SQL Server seemed to be geared towards allowing organizations to federate databases across server farms and the cloud breaking down data silos by allowing data warehouses to be established in-place without the need to duplicate and synchronize data. If you have seen Nathan Freeman’s presentation on The Graph Revolution you would know Red Pill shares a very similar vision for Notes databases.
At Build, Microsoft announced .Net Core, an Open Source initiative that will allow .Net applications to run on Mac OS and Linux. A new product, Visual Studio Code, will provide an IDE for developers wanting to work on Mac OS or Linux. Microsoft also announced enhancements to Visual Studio that will allow applications developed for Android using Java or iOS using Ojective C to be compiled to run on Windows 10. Web applications can also be compiled to run on Windows 10 as a native (hybrid) application. Microsoft are promising to deliver 1 billion devices to the Windows 10 platform potentially establishing itself as the ubiquitous thick client for desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
In the Notes world we are struggling with this same issue. How do we take the code developed for 10 million Notes client applications and get this to run inside a browser or on a mobile device? At Engage I did a presentation called Beyond XPages in which I question the wisdom of spending a lot of money migrating Notes applications to XPages unless we believe XPages itself has a long-term future. In the Notes world we have a large technical deficit of $15 billion deficit in code trapped on what is now a legacy platform using proprietary programming languages. Hopefully the work being done by Microsoft may inspire IBM to invest in solving this same issue for its own customer base. At the very least we should be ensuring the code developed for XPages applications does not create a similar technical debt for the next generation of developers.
For the past few years Microsoft has been playing catch up in the mobile space. They were slow to see the threat that iOS and Android posed to Windows. At Build we were given an insight into the strategy for making Windows relevant to these platforms. Windows 10 Continuum brings responsive design to the thick (Windows) client. With Continuum thick client applications will have the capability of running on a wide range of devices that reflect not only the device itself, but the peripherals to which it is connected. As the performance characteristics of mobile devices improve we could soon see applications running on a phone with an external mouse, keyboard and monitor in much the same way as existing desktop applications.
Continuum has the potential to swing the pendulum for application development away from web applications back to the thick client. I am trying to imagine what it might take for IBM to enhance the Notes client in a way that would make it a true Windows 10 application capable of taking advantage of Continuum. If it could then suddenly we might have a new path for bringing 10 million Notes applications to 1 billion devices that doesn’t require an expensive rewrite of code.
The really exciting news for me was the announcements for how developers would be allowed to integrate applications into Office 365. The architecture makes use of REST APIs to access the content of Office 365 data that is based around the establishment of an Office Graph to model the data. Like many other companies Microsoft has also recognized that adding social data to existing applications will require the power of Graph Databases. The good news here is that this same architecture can also be implemented for Notes databases. IBM already deliver a wide range of options for adding REST services to Notes databases and a new REST service for Domino will soon be added to BlueMix. The OpenNTF Domino API also includes an implementation of Graph Databases that allows the power of Graph to be stored in an NSF container as Notes documents.
Given the architectures of Office 365 and Notes are pretty closely aligned it opens up some amazing possibilities for integration. Any organization that is investing in Office 365 and already has an established base of Notes databases should be thinking about the possibilities of integrating data from Notes databases into Office 365. This is certainly going to be one of the areas we focus on at Red Pill given that Graph has been an integral part of our solutions from day one and we are in the process of moving almost everything to REST services. In my view the future of the Notes database is for it to be repositioned as a true no-SQL database supporting documents, JSON objects, Java objects, and Graph.