How Domino Became Engaged

Engage 2018 was an awesome event for a great many reasons. Seeing this event grow from humble beginning to an event that is now attracting 400 attendees from a wide range of countries is a huge testimony to the dedication of lifetime IBM Champion Theo Heselmans. The most telling statistic for me was that 40% of attendees were attending Engage for the very first time.

Sessions, Workshops, and Fun!

From a personal perspective I was very proud that seven members of the Red Pill Now team had been invited to Engage to be part of ten separate sessions and one workshop. The highlight for me was our Take-5 Modernization workshop in which Jason Roy Gary (the man in the Pink suit) from HCL was joined by Viktor Krantz (The man in the Red suit), and Devin S. Olson (the Riddler) from Red Pill Now. The fourth facilitator for the design-thinking session was Nathan T. Freeman (the man in the white suit) who was assisted (somewhat) by a pumped up Mat Newman (the man in the Yellow suit) siting quietly in the corner of the room.

The fun didn’t end there. The OGS featured Doc Brown (Andrew Manby) and Marty McFly (Richard Jefts) from Back to the Future. HCL gave us Willy Wonka (Richard Jefts) and an oompa loompa (Jason Roy Gary), and Red Pill Now delivered its corporate session “M” is for Modernization dressed from Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat. It was great to not only see the level of enthusiasm returning to the community but also putting back more of the fun at events like Engage.

Another highlight for Red Pill Now was the chance for Nathan T. Freeman to interview Jason Roy Gary and artfully extract some key insights from Jason about his plans and visions for the ICS products acquired by HCL, including Domino. Amongst the little snippets of information revealed by Jason during the sessions was the likelihood of their finally being an application catalog for Domino/Places applications, and the possibility that a new NSF for Domino known as “NSF2” would include support for Graph databases and its own query language –perhaps based on Lucene’s ElasticSearch. Jason also hinted at a major announcement soon (possibly at DNUG) of major contributions to OpenNTF of components of the Domino code stream, and he issued a challenge to the community to get involved and contribute code. We also heard that while there are going to be a bunch of new capabilities added to LotusScript in the next few releases, the long term plan was to focus on JavaScript (and no mention of XPages)

Note: A recording of the session is available as a Red Pill Now podcast via iTunes,

Domino 10

IBM and HCL used Engage as the venue for some very important updates on the Domino Roadmap (yes we definitely have one again!)… Some of these were formally announced, while others were mentioned (or hinted at) in sessions from IBM, HCL, and Red Pill Now. Plus there was also the chance to to glean information at the bar and other social events over the three days. In fact my team kindly offered to pull double duty at the bar for four night running to try and learn as much as they could about what may be coming!

The journey for Domino (and Notes) took a dramatic turn in October last year when IBM announced a partnership with HCL in which HCL has acquired the code and rights to develop the Domino family of products moving forward. Summaries of key outcomes from the Domino 2025 jams were announced around the time of IBM Think in which a range of features for a new release of Domino (Domino 10) were announced, including a new client for the iPad. At Engage the timetable for Domino 10 became a lot clearer. This includes an initial (closed) beta in June, followed by a two-day factory tour for 100 lucky winners of golden tickets, and a second (open) beta in July and a fourth quarter release.

Domino 11

At the OGS Jason indicated that work on Domino 11 has already been started at HCL.  Domino 10 will focus on making the platform more powerful (and relevant) for today’s professional developers with the addition of Node.js. Domino 11 will focus on returning the platform to its origins as a powerful tool for low-code (citizen) developers. There were not a lot of specifics given as to how that might look but we do know the goal is to have Domino emerge in the top-right corner of Forrester Wave Low Code Development Platform’s, a segment that Notes/Domino created back in 1989. This is something I really, really, really hope IBM/HCL are successful in achieving as it would be nice to put products like SalesForce, K2, Flow etc on the back-foot. A hole was left in the agenda after IBM’s session about its other low-code platform (under development)  LiveGrid was cancelled at the last minute. I’m not sure what to think of that!

Domino Cloud Hosting

After the community had waited many years for a cloud offering for Domino applications not one, but two separate offerings from IBM and HCL were announced at Engage. IBM’s Domino Applications on Cloud provides a fixed cost (per NSF) service based upon a Bring Your Own license for Domino. IBM also announced they were looking to offer a pricing model that included a free tier to entice developers and small organizations to the service.

HCL’s new service, known as HCL Cloud Apps is part of a new partnership between HCL and Red Pill Now that will see Red Pill Now and HCL collaborating on the development of a new product to be known as Advisor to assist Domino customers to understand their existing portfolio of Domino applications and provide advice for options to address important needs such as migration to the cloud or modernization.

HCL Places

 Without doubt the most intriguing session (for me) given at Engage was one by Richard Jefts and Jason Roy Gary of HCL in which they shared with the public (and even some member of the HCL team) for the first time a new prototype known as HCL Places. Based upon Domino, Places brings together a social platform with an integrated chat client, video chat, and Domino applications. And the good news is that there is no requirement to run this from the cloud. HCL’s strategy with Places is a little different to IBM’s in that they want to walk you to the cloud in your own time.

In many ways Places reminds me of how Domino itself might have evolved if IBM had not made decisions to develop products such as QuickPlace, Connections, and Watson Workspace outside of the Domino platform. For IBM it made sense to them to drive revenue by focusing its energies on new products leaving Domino to languish. For example Domino had to fit within a larger product portfolio in which the addition of new features to Verse On-Premise (alone) would be in conflict with an announced strategy of Cloud First. The development of a mobile client for Domino applications would confuse the market about IBM’s newer offerings for Mobile. In fact, at IBM Think 2018 one couldn’t help but notice that IBM’s strategy of Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, and Social had been reduced down to Cloud and Analytics.

Jason also made mention of a capability to invoke AI/Watson services from within Places. I think he might have even mentioned this would be possible using LotusScript. This could potentially be a big win for Watson as there is a large pool of Domino developers whose ability to tap into AI services using the Rapid Application Development capabilities of Domino.


I believe what we saw emerge at Engage was the start of a new beginning for Domino. This is the direct result of the foresight shown by IBM building a new partnership with HCL. For HCL Domino is important. If you look closely at HCL’s Mode 1-2-3 strategy you get a sense of how HCL are essentially looking to recycle a tired and aging product and turn it into something new and useful again. One wonders what might have happened if the ideas that went into Project Vulcan had been handed to HCL!

The amazing part about Places was that it was developed by Jason Roy Gary in the space of six weeks, at the same time as he was being asked to hold down a pretty demanding day-job. That’s just scary. If HCL are successful in building a team around that type of creativity, I anticipate some very interesting years lie ahead for the Domino platform. That of course is easier said than done. Being a very similar company ourselves, I know first hand how challenging it can be to take a an initial concept and build it out it fully functioning products that can scale and meet the quality and support demands of a modern world. HCL are biting off a lot but I admire them for (stealing a line from Nath’s interview with Jason), “having the stones to do it”. The sense I got from the customers and business partner who attended Engage this year was mixed between those who were really excited about the positive energy HCL (in particular) brought to the event — and those that seemed to be wanting to be excited, but were a little skeptical this is maybe a little too late to be effective. We certainly seem to have a lot of focus on Domino at both IBM and HCL, and those business partners that have remained focused on the Domino space and the customers who have remained loyal to the platform can only benefit from that. There is one thing we know HCL has in its favor, an awesome community built over many years! A community that was seen in force at Engage 2018. Domino was definitely being Engaged last week.

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.

1 Comment

  1. Jason Roy Gary says:

    Ironically, I was the Lead Architect for Project Vulcan!

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