Thundering silence on IBM Notes

by Volker Weber


The latest release of IBM Notes is version 9, which shipped almost three years ago in March 2013. It has since received five fix packs, the current version is 9.0.1 FP5. There will soon be another fix pack enabling "Hawthorn" which is the server side enablement of Outlook 2013 as a client. Outlook 2010 and 2016 will be enabled in yet another fix pack. This is work done on Domino, the server.

Then there is a big effort to make Verse run on your Domino server as an upgrade. All dependencies on Apache Solr are being abstracted out to spare you from running this extensive infrastructure. Verse is soon receiving offline support, which is completely transparent. If Verse "on prem" does ship in second half of 2016 as currently planned, you will have a big upgrade to Domino and you could rightfully call it Domino Next, or Domino 10.

However, there are no immediate plans on what to do with Notes. I have asked, and IBM has admitted they have not figured it out yet. Three years after Notes 9 came out -- which would have been 8.5.4 -- there is no new version in sight. And there isn't even a plan.

Personally, I think that IBM made two huge mistakes. The first was Workplace Messaging, which never worked and nobody wanted. And then they added this heavy boat anchor (Eclipse/Expeditor) to Notes 8, in 2007. Workplace and its dual lane highway strategy confused the customer base, and Notes 8 created a dual lane within Notes itself.

I would not know how to fix this.

Moving on, the future for IBM Collaboration is adding cognitive into their offerings. Verse, Connections, "Toscana". Notes is not part of that equation.


Volker, the two mistakes you describe are bad. The development of NSF2DB2 was a wasted effort too. Not to mention the uncertainty and rivalry in IBM's positioning of Domino.

The first and, to my opinion, the worst mistake was to pull Garnet, the JEE server from Domino 6 Beta 3 in January 2002. That ripped Domino from being a platform for rapid application development and from being a platform for serious applications. From Domino 5 (April 1999) to Domino 8.5 (December 2008) the only real innovation for application development was the new formula language developed by Damian Katz. With Garnet something like X-Pages would have been possible years earlier.

Notes as a mail client and without applications could not compete with Microsoft Outlook.

Felix Binsack, 2016-02-05

Nice storty and true.

Regard John

John Willemse, 2016-02-05

I want to provide my two cents...

The only way to save the client.. is "to kill the client".

Today the UI is the web and everybody appears to be praising the Slack's way of building a client.

My "client-saving-recipe" (already tested as doable) is:

1) Kill the Notes standard client/eclipse based thing (or keep it in maintenance)
2) Create a new light-weight client-side "client" that exploits ICAA (IBM Client Application Access) to have replica/offline service with a front-end built on a Chromium managed client (this is how Slack is built)

It can be done, dev tools woudl be HTML5 + Rest services (to be offered trough ICAA API)

I've been testing this approach for a few months. It just needs to pour some money on it. It would be a great solution over the future Verse offline thing.

Maybe it will happen...

Daniele Vistalli, 2016-02-06

Killing the client is critical for IBM making XPages appealing to developers. The quality of fix packs has been poor, breaking the use of the Update Site template regularly over the last year. JVM updates for client and server don't play well. We need to kill the client and get (at least XPages) development out of old versions of Eclipse. I remember a tweet from Lars Vogel (heavily involved in Eclipse development) ridiculing the old version we have, and rightly so. If IBM intend Verse and ICAA to be successful, there is no point in the Client.

Paul Withers, 2016-02-06

> Killing the client is critical for IBM making XPages appealing to developers.

Paul, never try your hand at product management, will you? :-)

Volker Weber, 2016-02-06

What ever happened to the much rumoured web version of the designer, giving xpages developers a boat-anchor free way of developing X-Pages?

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2016-02-06

Why not a native Verse client for Mac, Windows (and Linux for LVM Münster ;-) ) without Eclipse which also runs Notes applications?

Marco Foellmer, 2016-02-06

In my point of view ICAA/NBP is not a strategic product. In fact, if you talk about ICAA/NBP, you are talking about a limited Notes Basic Client with all the problems we want to get rid off + new Problems caused by web browser integration.
Sorry, but if someone is talking about killing Notes as Client and does recommend ICAA/NBP, he/she does not understand the architecture of ICAA/NBP.
As long as the new client does support offline data Access, I don't care about Notes client.

Christian Henseler, 2016-02-06

if Eclipse was a mistake then IBM nicely fixes it with the Verse (client).

don't look back

patrick kwinten, 2016-02-06

Christian, I'd like you to explain the ICAA/NBP architecture.

I think I can fix your understanding anytime.

ICAA includes and distributes the required components to perform notes replication (NRPC and NSF service) and can be run headless inside a Java (ora other supported language) client that can be the new browser based UI.

I don't care about ICAA as the UI to show but as the "vessel" to get NRPC/NSF services on the client (Win or Mac).

Btw given your comment I think you feel "well informed enough" (technically) to make that comment.

Let me understand if that's true... please

Daniele Vistalli, 2016-02-07

Well you may take a look at my DNUG/AdminCamp/BCCon presentations about ICAA/NBP.

Christian Henseler, 2016-02-07

Progress would cost money and resources and I don't see that IBM is willing to invest more in their classic software stack.
We will get some lipstick on our ugly pig and that's it.

But as Volker asked. I would convert all classic design elements to html, finally fix richtext (which probably means replacing it), and modernize the Notes Storage facility. I assume this would keep IBM busy for a few days ;-)

I am unsure about IBM XPages. I don't like it much although I currenly have a running project which keeps me quite busy.

I am also unsure about Verse. No matter how much IBM rethinks the E-Mail client I don't think the world is waiting for another one. If Notes and Domino already became irrelevant how can a mail client with even less market share make sense?

Maybe Connections is the killer app for Verse but I am yet to see a company that makes use of IBM Connections in a way that impresses me, which probably reveals that I don't work for Lufthansa.

Henning Heinz, 2016-02-07

@Paul: I would happily code in the most unstable, shitty environment with sticks and stones and duct tape, if I knew that this skill would still be in demand later on.

Before any esthetic considerations, it's the question 'Will I be well paid for this skill set?' or the question 'Does investing in this skill set ensure me employment later on' which is the prime driver for appeal.

But the proof is in the pudding - IBM is no longer investing in XPages, and the only notable improvements to the platform have been done by you, Nathan, jesse, and an innumerable number of community contributions (heartfelt thanks and kudos) - but not by IBM.

Right now I think the better approach is just to treat Domino as a back-end persistence database, switch on DAS, and do all your coding in some external framework that is being maintained and which has a future.

Andrew Magerman, 2016-02-08

An interesting data point might be that IBM has stopped funding at the beginning of the year. Or so I have been told.

Volker Weber, 2016-02-08

Workplace was a paradox - on the one hand it shifted development attention away from Notes for two years and resulted in a product set which didn't sell and was eventually canned. A certain IBM exec was obsessed by having everything based on WebSphere and DB2 - customers didn't want this, they just wanted better versions of Notes and Domino. Although this in isolation was damaging, some good technology came out of the Workplace effort - the new look for Notes 8 and its potential for new features were spawned by the Workplace Managed Client. Many of the elements of Connections also came out of Workplace.

Notes 8 really gave Notes a fighting chance - I don't think it swayed many Exchange shops but it certainly halted some decisions to move away from Notes as suddenly it was an interesting proposition again. Ultimately that battle seems lost, certainly on the e-mail front anyway. I don't know the economics of it, but you have to admit there's a time where the money invested in development no longer offers a return.

Darren Adams, 2016-02-08

IBM consistently announced big visions, big messages, but then didn't follow-up on the delivery. I found it a waste of resources, which would have been better spent actually listening to customers and business partners.

Perhaps not sexy, but the cash cow would have survived longer.

Andrew Magerman, 2016-02-08

IBM have already killed XPages. Kill the Notes client, and what do they have left??

Ben Poole, 2016-02-08

@Ben Poole - This would be consistent with the ongoing, long-term suicide of IBM.

Craig Wiseman, 2016-02-09

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