HCL Factory Tour Episode 2

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This week I’ve spent a hugely beneficial amount of time at the HCL Factory Tour Episode 2. As with the previous factory tour, the ability to get quality time with key individuals from HCL and IBM, as well as not only hear but feed back on progress is invaluable. Before going I’d also intended to use the conference to crystalise my focuses for Engage. And obviously it was a great opportunity to have influential discussions regarding OpenNTF and open source, discussions that would normally have happened at IBM Think. But thanks to significant open source experience from an unexpected direction, it has been even more useful. It’s a key time for OpenNTF, and more of that will come out in time on the OpenNTF blog.

First I want to discuss the Factory Tour in a wider context. It’s been a positive few months since the last factory tour with significant deliveries. Yes, progress in some areas has not been what some in the community expected, but in many ways it’s not been unsurprising to me. And there have been some issues encountered and admitted (beta programme shorter than desirable, language packs), but lessons learned and some improvements on processes that will bear fruit going forward. There is a continued openness and transparency around the products and the message that this community is key has been reiterated. And the close working relationship of HCL and IBM shows the “business as usual” that we’ve expected from the last year.

The other continuance was a theme and fun, this time Star Wars. Whether that was Richard Jefts as a jedi, the mysterious Darth Vader, Jason Gary as R2D2 (thankfully with wise wardrobe decisions!), and following the light-saber through the middle of Milan, it helped keep the enjoyment that being part of this community brings.

Domino V11

The first main session was Domino V11. Lowering TCO is again a focus, which is a great benefit for long-term customers. And it’s good to see that since HCL got involved there is a desire to value the commitment of those customers to the platform. One area I’m particularly looking forward to is PubSub. This was mentioned last year as a goal for V10, but other priorities pushed it out. I first played with something along these lines a few years ago at IBM Connect, using ODA to hook into the DOTS message queues to send notifications to Watson Workspace and catch unauthorised edits of a document. Fully implemented with reference implementations to integrate with ActiveMQ and maybe RabbitMQ, this will bring a huge amount of power for modernising the notification process and managing applications. It will also be integral to using ElasticSearch.

The Active Directory integration and Cloud Object Storage will certainly be of interest to administrators, rightly so.

AppDev Pack

The AppDev Pack is being released on an aggressive quarterly schedule. AppDev Pack 1.0.1 (Q1 2019) will be out this month, with Windows support. ComputeWithForm on update and read is available. ComputeWithForm on update is something I’ve avoided in XPages, but will allow RAD low-code input validation / translation. We’ll have to see how the validation side will work and what will be returned to allow data improvement. But the read starts to give a lot of power for computing values server-side to include in the JSON returned. There will also be $REF support, though not yet in DQL. IAM support will now be official release, with improvements gained from feedback. There was some confusion over how this works. I see it like an agent that’s set to run as web user – there are two parts, the authority to run the code on the server and the user the code runs as. With IAM, there’s the app “user” (a “user” just because what we have to store certificates etc is the Domino Directory) and the actual user who grants permission for the code to run as her/him. And there will be more too – time to RTFM!

Beyond the Q1 release there is a roadmap of functionality, like sorted results, streaming results, closing the gap between the LS/Java APIs and domino-db, improvements to OAuth like apps as OAuth providers, support for Domino APIs (XPages OSGi layer), custom APIs for OAuth scopes and fault tolerance. Beyond those are attachments, rich-text / MIME, signing, design and admin operations, open sourcing and extensibility, Structured Data Objects (full JSON), document encryption, and a domino-db Java API. Hopefully the last will be available externally as a Maven/Gradle artifact to open Domino properly as a datastore for modern Java developers and avoid having to physically copy JAR files around. Hopefully it will also be used as the backing for the XPages datasources too, or at least have the API available for developers to add this to open source Extension Library.

Verse

There are some good calendaring and offline additions coming to VoP in Q1/Q2 as well as additional / enhanced extension points. The good news is that the enhancements to VoP will come also to VoC (Verse on Cloud). The timescales of how soon after VoP releases enhancements are added is subject to support windows, but it’s good to see there will be as small a lag as possible.

The React-based calendar UI is looking good, with TinyMCE as the editor. With this and the other preferred backlog items for 2019, the goal is parity with iNotes by 2019 EOY and integration into the next gen lightweight client. On mobile, a browser-based Verse client will also be previewed. This all allows a move towards thinning the number of mail clients, opening up resources for other areas.

I hope the common library of React components, as they become agreed, become available also for Domino developers, to ensure that, where required, we have a common approach across all.

Clients

We were shown concepts of a new client UI / UX. The feedback provided was that there’s more work to do. But it also seems it’s hard to quantify what qualifies as a “modern workspace” user experience, even before identifying consensus. Part of the issue here are the limitations of what’s possible in current desktop technology. The ideas around the lightweight client were interesting, with a timescale of alphas and betas through the V11 timeframe into V12, with continuous delivery through platform app stores. The common theme is around simplification and low / zero footprint, with either Nomad + Verse in a Chromium wrapper or (better) Verse and Nomad Web Assembly in a browser.

Sametime

Sametime 10 Limited Use is due out Q2 with a much improved React-based web client, closer to parity with the desktop client. Initial feature goals were also shared for Sametime 11 and Sametime 12+, like Docker support, improved metrics, integration with third-party conferencing services like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Zoom, ability to invite external guests, removal of WAS (using Domino / Nodejs where possible), removal of DB2 (using Domino where possible). With chat the directions cover enhancement of multi-device functionality and modernisation of the user experience.

Client Advocacy and Support

HCL have continued to focus on working closely with clients / business partners and improving the support process. More will happen in the future, but it’s great to see the desire to engage and take on board feedback and reinforces the importance of service, community and ensuring satisfied customers.

Low Code / HCL Places

The sessions around HCL Places focused solely on low code, for which there may be particular reasons. There were a number of sessions led by Michael Alexander and Andy Smith. There was good discussion in the workshop about what low code meant, as well as challenges involved. The main focuses seem to be around forms, flow, data and integration. “Places” in this context seems to be designer and client. Node-RED was discussed and it’s important to have an understanding what Node-RED is and might mean in this context. I expect it to be the engine for the flows, probably a basis for a designer. As such it brings a lot to the table. How this fits with Nomad remains to be seen, although I suspect many of the use cases for low code will not require offline usage. The most important thing is it’s new. The most significant thing is it’s not Notes Client. The key thing is it’s Domino as a data repository, with PubSub a key driver for flow.

Portal DX

I didn’t attend much other than the Portal Digital Experience keynote. But there were some key thematic synergies with the other products – user experience, simplification, modernisation. Technology wise there were synergies too – removal of WAS and DB2, move to Docker for deployment and Domino as a data store.

Summary

And these are the key takeaways for me: Domino at the heart of HCL Digital Solutions products, React and Node.js on the front-end. This brings a lot to the table. It means Domino will be used in new ways with new requirements, and I’m sure that will bring benefits for us all, no matter which product(s) we use. And the openness on front-end framework is useful to know, though not a surprise. The power of offline remains important. The role of the browser and browser-based applications is going to be central, on desktop and mobile, JavaScript and Java-based. Modernisation in all senses is critical to growing the platform, as is embracing new opportunities and new developers, low-code and pro-code. And if Domino can fly again, the investment of HCL and the way they are embracing Domino gives it the best chance to remain current well beyond its 30th birthday later this year.

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