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IBM Domino App Dev Hits the Headlines

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IBM Domino has always been very active within Germany. So it’s no surprise that online IT journal Heise Online published an article summarising recent blog posts about the current state of application development for the IBM Domino platform. IBM have shown a commitment to the platform for mail, always quick to say that Verse is still IBM Domino at the backend and already providing a closed beta for the on premises version of Verse. But the position of the platform for application development, a mainstay of many customers and a strong revenue stream for ICS, has been less certain. According to a recent blog post, something on application modernization will be announced Q4, although the slide in this tweet suggest Q3 (a typo?)

My own speculation on the future are purely that – speculation. “Application modernization” is such a woolly term, it’s hard to tell what the reality of the plan will be, if a plan exists. I wrote a whitepaper last year on the challenges and pitfalls of migrating platforms and I’ve not really seen anything to change my opinions. That’s why I fully expect many existing Domino applications still to be used for many years.

But the concerns from  the community are very valid. They have careers as application developers to preserve, and changing to be a sales-person for a mail or persistent chat product isn’t a viable future for them. Nor is building little add-ons to them. And a look at agendas of user groups and IBM Connect/ConnectED/Lotusphere over recent years shows they are not a tiny minority of the ICS community. They have to look after themselves and their families. They are rightly concerned by silence after taking off the table the enhancements that were on the table virtually unchanged for three years. They are rightly concerned that the only IBM-led technical session at MWLUG was on XPages on Bluemix, not led by developers, and there is nothing at ICON UK. They are rightly concerned by a two-word phrase that could be taken to mean anything from just using IBM Client Application Access for supporting legacy applications to migration using Domino Access Services.

One thing is certain, that when an announcement comes in Q3 or Q4, there will still be a plethora of XPages / Domino applications and developers. But whether it will appease the doubters remains to be seen. Whether the previously-valued advocates, IBM Champions or not, will be interested in echoing the message in any light, positive or otherwise remains to be seen. Whether it will motivate application developers or customers using Domino for app dev (primarily or solely) to attend IBM Connect 2017 remains to be seen.

But even in a worst case scenario, I fully expect many existing Domino applications will be around for some years before they are migrated or sunset. When they move, it may prompt some to reconsider the whole IBM portfolio within their organisation. In the meantime, retaining the knowledge to support them may be a greater challenge, particularly where advanced aspects of XPages have been used. For many companies on the migration path the approach has been to outsource support, admittedly for a lot longer than planned.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this tweet last night from IBM developerWorks, notably the first sentence.

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.

5 Comments
  • Patrick Kwinten | Aug 25, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I am more interesting in analysis between the major vendor offerings, which areas are covered by which products. how well the complete collaboration spectrum is covered (mail, chat, presentation, meeting, documents, application development, directory, on-premise vs cloud, integration with other services from other vendors etc), pres and cons of the vendor offerings listed and compared. a pricing would also be interesting to know.

    Nevertheless a road-map must give answers on a question like: Will Domino remain a full stack server or will it continue some time as data-storage facility with some core services like authentication, mail-routing. Then the business could decide if it is wise to keep the data on Notes and access it via other means e.g. the popular JavaScript framework instead of focusing on IBM’s own XPages?

    At the end, the user is not interested in the technology, more the accessibility and functionality. IT managers need to know what they are buying the next 5 years and if it covers enough of the desired collaboration perspective against which price.

    • Paul Withers | Aug 26, 2016 at 8:29 am

      Major vendor offerings are huge. I defy anyone to be able to have in-depth current expertise and still be objective. But IBM is not the only app dev vendor in whom people have invested and are left with big questions about the roadmap.

  • Ben Poole | Aug 26, 2016 at 7:18 am

    “But the concerns from the community are very valid. They have careers as application developers to preserve…”

    I don’t understand: how is that IBM’s concern though? Yes they’ve been too quiet about their product and where it’s going, but that’s not new, the writing has been on the wall for years. If individuals are tied to IBM’s product roadmap for their living, that’s a problem. But it’s not IBM’s problem.

    • Paul Withers | Aug 26, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Sorry, I wasn’t concerned about the developers being tied to the product roadmap. That’s not IBM’s problem and despite prodicts like LDCVia’s portfolio, I don’t doubt they’ll be able to find work supporting Notes Client and Domino applications that are in maintenance mode.

      What is IBM’s concern is that XPages has lowered the curve between developers like myself and others in the community from developing on non-IBM stacks. It’s what’s made the LDCVia portfolio more attractive, because the data can be migrated and the developers have the skill-set to build just web applications.

      Where that becomes a concern in the short term for IBM is filling that gap of attendees for IBM Connect 2017. Where it becomes a concern in the longer term is that if (more) customers are re-thinking their app dev platform, they might reduce the footprint of other IBM and ICS products. They may also be less likely to invest in IBM tech in the future.

      I may be wrong and either way, it’s not my bun-fight because I’m never going to be just a salesperson and thanks to XPages I’m a developer capable of developing on non-ICS tech.

  • 115: Doing a three-way – This Week in Lotus | Sep 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm

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