IBM took the wraps off its Notes/Domino 7 platform as it started shipping the latest version of its collaboration applications and development system.
The new edition includes interface tweaks intended to please users and server software changes aimed at lowering overhead costs by making more efficient use of hardware resources. It also marks a step toward IBM's goal of smoothly blending its legacy Notes/Domino architecture with its newer, Java-based Workplace platform.
Changes to the Notes 7 client application include support for Microsoft Office 2003's SmartTags and smoother integration of IBM's Sametime instant messaging software. Some of the smallest adjustments have garnered the biggest cheers from early users, according to Ken Bisconti, IBM's vice president of Workplace, portal and collaboration products: He cited new message markers indicating whether an e-mail message has been sent only to the user or to a larger mailing list as one particularly popular addition. Another new client feature, "save window state," lets users capture all the documents they have open for viewing or modification when they shut down Notes. The software then restarts with everything displayed as it was before the software closed.
IBM's back-end changes include new autonomic monitoring to alert administrators to performance issues and architectural optimization intended to let customers increase the number of users they can support per server. In IBM's own internal deployments, it saw cuts of as much as 25 per cent in CPU utilization for a set workload, executives said.
Messaging and collaboration software research company Ferris Research estimates Notes/Domino 7 will have ownership costs 8 per cent to 9 per cent lower than those of Notes/Domino 6, which debuted three years ago. In research funded by IBM, Ferris concluded that organizations won't see savings on their general per-user infrastructure costs from Notes/Domino 7 (as they would have from the last release, version 6, which included new network compression technology), but will save on direct hardware and software licensing costs, along with savings from improved user productivity, thanks to improvements in areas such as search and message prioritization.
IBM is locked in a battle with Microsoft for dominance in the collaboration market: IDC's research on 2004 market share puts Microsoft in the top spot, with 51.2 per cent of the market share, followed by IBM with 40.1 per cent.
IBM is doing its best to reassure Lotus loyalists about the coming transition to Workplace. IBM's next Notes/Domino version, codenamed Hannover, is intended to fully merge the two architectures. IBM hasn't set a release date for Hannover, but it plans to discuss it in more detail at its January Lotusphere conference.
"I know there's a lot of speculation, mostly fueled by our competitors, that there's a major migration in the future for our Notes/Domino customers. Nothing could be further from the truth," said Mike Rhodin on a Wednesday conference call with the media. Rhodin took over in July as general manager of IBM's Workplace, portal and collaboration software.
"What you'll see in Hannover is a blending of Workplace technology and Notes technology that will allow our Notes customers to maintain their templates," Rhodin said. There will be no "rip-and-replace" upgrades, he pledged.
One Notes customer IBM enlisted for the conference call, Holland LP IT Director Jim Tieri, said he's unconcerned about the transition. Crete, Illinois-based Holland, a railroad equipment manufacturer, is supporting about 300 users on Notes/Domino 6.5 and plans to soon upgrade to version 7. Holland is working with consultancy PSC Group LLC on its Notes deployment and application development, and Tieri said they'll be responsible for developing a Workplace strategy.
"I'm entrusting them to make sure the evolution of that code, as it's going to Workplace, is going to be handled," Tieri said. "I'm trusting them to do that. I really don't have any concerns."