Domino 2025: Get on Board or Get out of the Way!

The winds of change are blowing through the world of Lotus. The breeze first started in October 2017 with the announcement that HCL had acquired the IP rights for the Domino family of products (Notes, Sametime, and Verse). Many skeptics saw this as the beginning of the end for IBM Notes as HCL had acquired a reputation for being the equivalent of an assisted living center for aging software. At Red Pill Now we spoke to a lot of people, including many outside the yellow bubble, and most made those same observations. And yet there seemed to be a lot of excitement being generated by those involved with the move. Apparently the only reason Domino 2025 was settled on was because the Domino2030 domain name was already taken! So somebody clearly has a long term plan for the product.

The breeze grew a little stronger with a series of Domino Jam 2025 jam events held by IBM/HCL in December/January at events around the globe. As a participant it became clear there was a genuine and sincere effort to gather input from the community to reinvigorate the product. And yes, its true there had been no shortage of ideas for the product in the past that had largely gone unheeded. Before embarking on a bold strategy its always a good idea to canvas for ideas to ensure nothing gets missed.

We then saw a series of staff changes from IBM to HCL that were not part of the original deal. Moves that I suspect were not anticipated by IBM. Barry Rosen moved from a product management role at IBM for a product management role at HCL for the Domino family. Francois Nasser also chose to leave IBM to take up a role as Director of Sales and Services. And the real game changer for me was the move of Jason Gary to HCL. I had nothing but the highest regard for the way Jason had been transforming Connections with his vision of Connections Pink and long lamented that there was no sign of a Domino Pink — until now. The fact that he saw something in what HCL were doing with Domino that he would abandon his bold vision for Connections says a lot.

And then earlier today IBM/HCL gave a sneak preview to some of the announcements that will be made for Domino 10 and beyond. It has been over ten years since the last (true) major release of Notes/Domino. I had forgotten how big a change we could hope to see in a new major release. It wasn’t clear during the Domino Jam 2025 if the strategic shift needed for the product was being separated out from the long laundry list of features being sought by developers and administrators, but today’s presentation showed there was a good sense of the opportunity that exists for what HCL is referring to as a Collaborative Workflow Platform.

Domino is finally being seen as an application development platform that happens to do mail rather than an e-mail platform that happens to do applications. It is not yet clear which of the following features will be included in Domino 10 and which will follow later. That should become clearer in a couple of weeks at IBM Think, with a commitment from HCL that Domino 10 will be released in 2018.

Domino Rocks JavaScript

While there was no mention of phasing out either LotusScript or XPages it seems like the emphasis moving forward will be on JavaScript as a modern programming language implemented using React (client-side) and Node.js (Server-side). This will cause some concern for seasoned LotusScript developers already struggling with the switch to SSJS, but will open up the platform to a large base of JavaScript developers.

Web Client

There was mention of a faster, slimmer Notes client, possibly based on Electron. There will also be a focus on making Domino applications readily available on mobile devices. Almost certainly this means HCL will be looking for a way to get Domino applications to run as standard Web (HTML 5) applications.

LoopBack

For those that have struggled with DAS it was encouraging to hear that HCL are taking some pages out of the Connection Pink architecture and integrating LoopBack into Domino. This will most likely mean REST APIs will be generated automatically in much the same way as they are in Connections LiveGrid — allowing tools like Swagger/OpenAPI and Postman to be used to develop, test, and document REST APIs for Domino data.

NSF-2

This sounds like a post Domino 10 feature, but part of HCL’s plans include a new generation of document data store that extends the capabilities of the Domino container beyond what we have today. Domino 10 will see the size limit of an NSF increase to 256GB. This is pure speculation on my part, but I would not be surprised if NSF-2 includes support for sharding as well as opening up the possibilities to store data as json objects, or even as a graph database.

Search

The absence of a true domain search capability in the product has made it harder for users to locate data held across Notes databases. Elastic Search is likely to be integrated into Domino to significantly improve search capabilities.

Integration

Not only will Domino support open standards for development such as JavaScript, Node.js and Swagger, we are also going to see the product integrate with a wide range of products and standards. This includes open standards for contacts and calendar; Sametime working with other chat clients, better integration with Active Directory, and the ability to use Word as an alternate editor for rich text. Co-existence is an important position to take given the large number of companies that have slowly moved away from the platform and the large number of companies that have invested in other platforms that may be attracted to some of the unique capabilities and power of the Domino platform.

Deployment

Moving forward we are going to see greater support for Docker as a way to quickly and easily deploy new versions of the Domino software. It also opens up the possibility of cloud hosting for Domino applications, something IBM have long promised but struggled to deliver.

Conclusions

For those of you that have stuck with the Notes/Domino product as a customer, business partner, or independent contractor there are some encouraging signs of new life for the Domino product that will slow down the movement away from the platform and has the potential to attract a whole new base of modern application developers for all the same reasons so many were attracted to Lotus Notes in the first place. I am told 80% of the Domino development team at HCL still have Iris jackets, so the band is still largely together. If you aren’t prepared to believe Domino is still alive you would be well advised to get out of the way. That breeze I mentioned is likely to be the Domino train being driven down the tracks by a man in pink who only knows one speed — full speed ahead. Like many I look forward to hearing what is announced at IBM Think, what gets delivered later this year, and especially what get delivered in the years that follow.

Peter Presnell
Peter Presnell
CEO at Red Pill NOW. Strategist, technologist, blogger, presenter, and IBM Champion 2011/12. For years many companies have invested heavily in the Notes/Domino platform and I see my role as helping to find paths forward for that investment.

4 Comments

  1. I am wondering if this “next generation” of CSJS developers is going to maintain the Java code base of our applications. Like Java developers where responsible for maintaining the LotusScript code base? Or are they even going to maintain the LotusScript code base too because Java developers will find their ways to other platforms to continue to develop in Java? How naive can you be?

  2. Patrick, it has not been my experience that developers get too tied to one programming language. Rather they take a liking to a particular style of development. In the past Domino has made the mistake of treating all developers as if they were the same. Java was introduced around the same time as LotusScript but LotusScript exploded because it was too hard to build applications in Java with the original Domino Designer. I don’t see either LotusScript or Java going anywhere in that they will both continue to be supported. DDE is NOT a good platform for JavaScript development and there is no native support for Node.js, (a very popular programming choice at the moment). That is about to change. We are likely to see Eclipse, Visual Studio, and LoopBack, Sublime Text etc. available for Enterprise developers to access Domino applications. That is the importance difference that was outlined yesterday. Support for the bring you own (development) platform. I would suggest 80% of LotusScript developers don’t do Java even today. That fact has contributed to the decline of Domino as an application platform. I see HCL making some important changes to make sure that sort of thing doesn’t happen again. Let’s review this in 2-3 years and see how it turned out. I am very confident in my position.

  3. Csaba Kiss says:

    I am also excited about the nodejs integration. Loopback is a great little framework for building APIs and authentication very quickly. They company that makes Loopback also “owns” express.js. Does that mean we can replace the old Apache http server from Domino with a nodejs http server? Can I use Loopback to define user roles and access instead of the IBM Domino admin app? There are lots of other questions, but they are all forward looking and hopeful. I admit, I was very skeptical about yesterday’s presentation, however I was very pleasantly surprised that there was some meat left on this Domino bone. I was a bit miffed when they said, that Domino rocks JavaScript, that was maybe wishful thinking. But I am all for it. It’s time to replace the old DDE and give us tools that understands ES6 and ES7.

  4. Richard Moy says:

    Csaba,

    If you are using Node it is better to proxy a Nginx server in front of the node application server. By creating the Node binary into the Domino server the Domino server becomes a database server. I believe IBM will have to add additional security components to fields and documents to match how Domino NSF works. The Node C++ addon binary they create should handle that. However, if you do what we do where the Notes document is a JSON store, you will need to create you own which we have done for years. I have told IBM not to package everything into one single server. I hope they are listening. They need to leave them as components that you can couple together. This also allows you to Docker container each of the components the way you need. It gives greater flexibility. Let the architect design the solution that they need and choose the components.

    Patrick,

    I do not see LotusScript or Java being replaced at all. An analogy is comparing MongoDB with NSF datastore. For MongoDB, you can use C++, JavaScript/Node, Java, Python and etc to create your applications and for Domino now you will have JavaScript/Node, C++, Java, LotusScript, and formula language. With Node we will be replacing our REST API generator from LotusScript to JavaScript/Node higher performance. However, many of LotusScript and Java code will continue because it is better. The Node integration allows connectivity to critical components that Domino need including 2-factor authentication, web sockets, and other services that are already available. Will IBM/HCL given what we (Phora Group) completely wanted, no. We are already planning to write our own custom C++ addons to do things that we need to do. But the integration means that we don’t have to create our own Node/Domino connector which we were planning. One of the critical thing that I have push to IBM is to make sure that they decouple the Java from the Domino server, so that developers can install the latest version of Java. This is important for us since some of the libraries do not support the older version of Java.

    JavaScript has come a long way since Netscape created and it is extremely powerful, the V8 compiler brings it to the level of performance equal to compiled language. Of course it depends on the code.

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