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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.