Big News for Domino, Connections and OpenNTF

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There are signs you can tell summer is over. For us in the northern hemisphere, the weather starts feeling chillier (although it’s been very changeable in UK most of the “summer”). And things start ramping up as people get back from holidays and Q3 comes to an end.

We’ve already seen Domino FP9 or Zircon released last month and another Verse on Premises release. It’s also good that I only just realised I’ve been running FP9 for a few weeks now. With previous releases there were a number of issues identified in the first couple of weeks and IFs released. There have been very few issues I’ve seen raised about this release, which is welcome progress. Admittedly much less has changed in this release conpared to FP8 and what is expected in FP10, with an updated Eclipse version for the client supporting Java 8. But over the life of 9.0.1, even fix packs had more issues than this FP of features and fixes.

New Domino Server License

But this week we had another big announcement. At the last two IBM Connect conferences I raised the issue of Domino Designer local preview and the requirement for developers to develop against a local server, in the way other web developers do. I know there’s been work going on behind the scenes ever since I first raised it. And this week it came to fruition, with an announcement for more than just developers. This announced a new license option, IBM Domino Community Server for Non-Production (the link is the Europe announcement, other announcements were released for other areas of the world). The opening paragraph is interesting:

IBM® Domino® Community Server for Non-Production will be a nonwarranted license option that enables your organization to test applications in a non-production environment. This offering will provide students, developers, and vendors with the capability to test their custom IBM Domino applications.

There are a few points here:

  1. This is not a new server version or install. It’s a new license option. What you get is a fully functioning Domino server with the Utility server option selected. So for application development, you get the same application server you would have in production.
  2. It’s nonwarranted. That means you can’t raise PMRs. But if you have a problem that you need to raise a PMR for, stick the application on a production server or on Bluemix and reproduce the problem. You now have it in a supported environment. This is really for something like a server crash or an API that isn’t working as intended. If you have a question, that’s what StackOverflow or the Notes/Domino forum is for. That’s never needed a warranty, so you’re no worse off.
  3. It’s available for testing. Yes, customers on dual entitlement have had licensing to spin up as many servers as they wish. Those not using SoftLayer or SmartCloud for email haven’t. So now there’s no excuse for not having a test server. If hardware is an issue, this can be installed in a VM using something like VirtualBox, as I’ve previously used for working with different Domino versions. Do it!
  4. It allows developers to develop as they would in production. That means:
    • Debugging is so much easier.
    • There is less of a barrier to source control, at least for XPages. Whether you’re in a team or an individual, source control makes sense and will save you. Use it! Here’s the NotesIn9 I did a while back on using SourceTree and source control. Although I’ve also dipped into Git via command line, I still use SourceTree quite a lot.
    • You can develop with third-party plugins much easier. Use OpenNTF. Use open source. If you’re not, your competitors are. Everyone uses open source now, whether they know it or not. Just this week Oracle, IBM and RedHat moved Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation. More and more proprietary software is moving to open source.  To reject open source makes your life, your users lives, the lives of those who have to inherit the application all much harder. You will make mistakes. You will not learn as much. Just do it.
    • You can develop and test your own plugins much more easily. As someone who developed a plugin earlier this year for a customer, I could not have delivered it if I had not had a local Domino server and been able to quickly test and debug changes.
    • You can more easily test security.
    • Encryption in XPages needs ID Vault. You don’t have ID Vault in local preview.
    • And no doubt many more very good, very valid reasons.
  5. Students are explicitly referenced here. Yes, there is a big difference between entitlement and adoption. Adoption requires technical enablement as well. But it’s a chicken-and-egg situation: until there’s the entitlement, there’s little impetus to develop the technical enablement. We have the egg now (dinosaurs laid eggs too, so the egg came first!).
  6. That enablement is also required to get existing developers moving beyond Domino Designer. It will take time, and patience. But again, the license can no longer be used as an excuse for lack of willingness to change.

The download link was taken down earlier in the week, but is back now and includes FP9. Yes, you need an IBM ID or to sign up. But most software downloads require that anyway.

Yes, this is a journey not an endpoint. Yes, we could write blogs saying it should have been there sooner. But everyone knows and accepts that. I prefer to get on within the future, celebrate progress, encourage better practice and help developers step embrace a more modern development experience.


And on the topic of Domino, as well as OpenNTF, we’re gearing up for two new releases of OpenNTF Domino API. One will be an updated release for Feature Pack 8 and the other will be a new release for Feature Pack 9. There are quite a few new developments, but predominantly around the the design API. Picking up from my round table at Engage and an application we’ve been working on at Intec and will be launching shortly, there has been quite a bit of work around accessing and updating various design element properties and information. This includes getters and setters for all relevant database properties. As well as our own internal usage, it means that via Java you can set up Forms, Views, Folders and set all database properties – basically everything you would need for a data database accessed via a custom OSGi REST service or non-XPages Java framework (e.g. Vaadin).

IBM Connections Customizer / OpenCode4Connections / Contest

IBM and OpenNTF have made three announcements around Connections:

  • IBM Connections Customizer, a pilot program to allow small JavaScript / CSS files to “customise” IBM Connections. This has been on GitHub for a little while, along with samples and now videos. It is a resurrection of a previous tool, Muse, and has been covered at a number of user group meetings this year and will be highlighted further at Social Connections next month. The small files sit in between the Connections output and the browser and are injected into what is finally sent to the browser. So this could change colours, re-order content, or add content. Typically the files will be a small number of lines but, as one of the demos shows, it can be much more sophisticated. If you’re using Connections Cloud in the North America data centre, you can use IBM Connections Customizer against your company’s live Connections Cloud organisation today. Other data centres and on premises Connections will follow.
  • At OpenNTF we’ve been working hard during this year on a microsite for Connections projects under the name OpenCode4Workspace. This was announced on OpenNTF’s blog yesterday. Thanks also to IBM for helping out with a new logo. There are other things we’re working on at OpenNTF, so stay tuned for more announcements.
  • To help promote both these initiatives, IBM and OpenNTF have announced an IBM Connections Customizer contest. At OpenNTF we’ve put a lot of effort into learning from the IBM Connections contests we’ve run in the past to significantly lower the barrier to entry. If you’re not on Connections Cloud in the North America data centre or don’t want to use your live Connections Cloud organisation, a trial organisation can be provisioned. Just send an email and there will be a quick turnaround. There has been a lot of effort put into online documentation, videos and samples to get you up-to-speed. The expectation is that, once you have an idea, it’s not going to take days to create an entry. Plus, you can build your entry just with a browser, a browser extension (e.g. GreaseMonkey for Firefox or TamperMonkey for Chrome) and your trial organisation. Once you’ve developed the extension you can upload it and email it as an entry for the contest. But all your development can be done within a browser, with a little experience of CSS and JavaScript. And the contest has been advertised to the ICS community, but it’s not restricted to the ICS community and any web developer could potentially enter. There are three prizes of iPad Minis for the three top entries.

OpenNTF Elections

And there’s just a week left if you want to nominate yourself to become an OpenNTF board member. There are four member director posts and three contributor director posts up for election. It’s an exciting time for OpenNTF, with lots going on, so well worth getting involved.

AUTHOR - Paul Withers

Paul Withers has been an IBM Champion since 2011, has been an OpenNTF Board Member since 2013, has worked with XPages since 2009, co-authored XPages Extension Library and was technical editor for Mastering XPages 2nd Edition. He is one of the developers on OpenNTF Domino API as well as contributor to a variety of other OpenNTF projects.

  • Tinus Riyanto | Sep 17, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    Paul, regarding the new Domino license. Does utility really means that you cannot have any mail related databases on that server ? That would mean that this server is cannot be used to test application that uses mail-in databases ?
    On a side note I wonder if we can “convert” an existing development server installation to use this license.

    • Paul Withers | Sep 18, 2017 at 7:24 am

      Yes, mail-in databases are allowed, see I had to use Firebug to see the response to the FAQ, because the twistie wasn’t working, but it explicitly says they are allowed. For outcoing mail I tend to let it sit in, copy it into my own mail file, then view it there. Not having SMTP task running means no emails accidentally getting pushed out and causing confusion. In test servers in the past, applications have often had keywords to suppress email routing.
      To “convert” an existing dev server installation, install as utility, then copy across names.nsf, notes.ini etc. As far as I know there’s not anything in notes.ini to define it as utility server, but a quick comparison would tell you (I would expect it to be right at the top), and if so you could just copy everything else from your existing dev server.

      • Tinus Riyanto | Sep 18, 2017 at 11:54 pm

        Thanks for your confirmation Paul.
        So to clarify, Utility means that no user mail database. I am assuming that you would still have router task and you would recommend collecting notification in server’s and copy paste them to a mail database (locally / on a different server) to check for notification formatting etc.
        BTW the FAQ mentioned no access via Notes / iNotes (need a CAL for this) so I am assuming that this Community license is for Web application development. Unless you already have a production Notes CAL ?

  • Paul Withers | Sep 19, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Using is my preferred method for development, because it mitigates the risk and still allows checking of formatting. But routing to an SMTP server should be covered, as far as I’m aware.
    IBM are clarifying the CAL statement. That FAQ is for utility server, not specifically community server, it pre-dates this license. IDs can be cross-certified against a server in a different domain, if you want to use existing IDs for the organisation. That’s the way I develop. But testing Notes Client apps from local covers all except security based on groups (roles still work with “Enforce consistent ACL across all replicas” checked). The main reason for requiring this for me was the differences between Designer local preview and server for XPages and plugin development.

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