Late yesterday Ed Brill announced the new IBM offering, the IBM XWork Server. It’s been in the planning for a long time now and has been, on the whole, well received by the community. There’s a lot of discussion about what it is and what it is not. But the one thing people agree is that it’s good news.
The IBM branding is not intended to presage an end to Lotus. Yes, the splash screens are rebranded. Yes, it has a blue logo, not yellow. But anyone who knows Domino will know it’s Domino. You still administer the server using Domino Administrator. The intention, very valid, is to take the Lotus argument off the table and leverage the IBM brand.
That’s because the target market is ISVs selling into non-Domino houses. That’s the demographic who have been asking for this, to support their investment in XPages application development. But that’s not the only use I see for the new server. Many ISVs, I’m sure, still have applications that have not yet been migrated to XPages either because of complexity or lack of time. Some may be hybrid applications. The IBM XWork Server may be a means to market these applications as business solutions agnostic of the technology.
In addition to selling one or two applications into a customer, I see the IBM XWork Server providing a ‘foot in the door’ to non-Domino customers. I see it being a way for ISVs to showcase the benefits of the IBM XWork Server as an applications development platform and eventually expand onto full-blown Lotus Domino servers because they have moved to a point where the strengths of the applications mean more to them than any stigma from the Lotus Domino name. Equally it may be a cheaper option for existing Lotus Domino customers to experiment with XPages for a handful of applications if they are unwilling or unable to easily upgrade existing servers.
With the Extension Library the IBM XWork Server provides an easy way to collaborate on data from a variety of data sources – RDBMS, social, REST, Web Services as well as Lotus Domino. It’s fitting that you can access as many Lotus Domino databases within the trusted domain because you can access as many relational or other non-Domino databases too. It may seem a loophole, but it would have been a shame if it had not been the case. And with the powerful security of Lotus Domino developers have ease and security.
I deliberately say developers, not ISVs. It’s now also more than a year since Lotus Domino Designer was provided as a free of charge download. Hopefully a number of developers with no Lotus Domino background have tried it, but one of the arguments at the time was moving from a hobby to a production environment. Perhaps the IBM XWork Server may prove a starting point for smaller companies. Yes, it may prove cost-prohibitive in the long term, but it does provide a cheaper and less confusing option (in terms of licensing) to test the waters. Yes, it’s still not as cheap as open source technologies like PHP. But if the install procedure is as easy as Lotus Domino, the IBM XWork Server can be set up and secured with very little knowledge in no more than an hour. The ease of install is one of the underrated strengths of the Lotus Domino technology. Lotus Domino just works.
My choice of terminology has been deliberate for this blog post because it is aimed at those who already use Lotus Domino. IBM XWork Server may be branded IBM, but under the hood it’s Lotus Domino, building on over 20 years of expertise. It is another opportunity to increase the pervasiveness of the NSF (not XSF!) and showcase Lotus Domino as a vibrant application development platform. All-in-all I think it’s excellent news for the community.