Niklas Heidloff’s session with Henning Schmen at IBM Connect – AD206: Build Apps Rapidly by Leveraging Services from IBM Collaboration Solutions on Wednesday 5:30 – was very interesting from a number of aspects. I’ve long believed that part of the barrier to Connections development is that many developers not to mention end users can’t envisage where application development can add value to IBM Connections. Niklas’s Partner Community project, which he covered in the session, really brought it home to me how benefits could be added by interacting with a Connections community to manage internal discussions on a forum post and publish answers when ready. Henning’s example showed another way an XPages application could interact with Connections. I think developers should really embrace these examples to trigger ideas both for themselves and their end users.

But at the end of the session, Niklas mentioned something that piqued my curiosity even more and seemed to answer a question I had already planned on asking later in the week.

For some time now a Connections instance has been available on Greenhouse that developers can use for application development. Niklas announced that a bundled image of Domino, Connections and Sametime will be coming soon to SoftLayer. Shortly thereafter, it will be available as a download for on premises deployment.

Although intended for development of XPages applications with Connections, a free development image of Connections + Domino + Sametime would be a huge benefit for developers looking to use source control. For source control, where developers are working on different branches, a team cannot work on the same NSF or even on replicas. That really means each developer working on a local server – local preview is useless for any actual development, where security needs to be tested using different roles, extension libraries deployed to the server, maybe also databases modified to work as extended address books.

I’m not certain of all the details, but I’m hopeful this offering will be free.

If there is a cost associated for anyone to use it, it’s likely to be an epic failure.

If it’s free to companies that have a Domino/Sametime/Connections license already, it may increase the chances of Connections being used for application development within existing customers, but will do nothing to bring in new customers for IBM.

If it’s free to any developer, it’s likely to be a huge success and will answer the desire for an XWork Community Edition for developers to code against. It could “energise” a new generation of developers to make their “life’s work” based on the IBM portfolio.

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