Lotus Development has announced scalability enhancements, a Web browser replication function and a gutsy name change for its Domino Server. "Domino 4.5 Powered by Notes" marks a strategic shift away from the brand equity in the Notes name, reflecting the company's long-term focus on the Web, according to Lotus's product marketing manager for communications products, David Harrison.
Harrison says calling Domino 4.5 the next generation of Notes would have done it an injustice. "The technology that's gone into this product is all based around Web technology, open protocols and working with browsers. The point of Lotus Domino Server is about taking the greatness that we've had in Notes with its workflow and security models and database replication, and coupling that with the protocols of the Web and making it an interactive Web server product," he said.
Domino 4.5 allows server clustering and partitioning via Domino Advanced Services, which adds scalability. The service will let administrators configure several Domino servers to replicate in real time and appear as a single server to the user, providing fault tolerance if one server stops functioning.
In a related bid to tackle the Web market, Lotus is introducing Lotus Weblicator for Browsers. The product will let a browser pre-fetch Web pages so that users can categorise and annotate them and search Web sites off-line, then replicate to an HTTP server. Full replication will require Domino; other HTTP servers will allow limited replication. Harrison says until now browsers have been relatively unintelligent. "They're great bringing pages down off the Web, but they don't offer you a tremendous amount of integration to the desktop. What Weblicator is, is a Netscape compatible plug-in, and it turns this vanilla browser into a Web information manager."
Also, Lotus has extended its Domino.Apps technology to include new collaborative Web applications called Domino Service Provider Applications (SPAs). These allow organisations to set up their own Web site using a series of application templates. The first of these, Domino.Action SPA, takes users through the creation of a Web site featuring both interactive applications and static content.
According to the business development manager of Lotus' telecommunications and ISP division, Jon Baxter, the Domino.Action SPA is designed to provide a powerful but straightforward approach to Web publishing for medium enterprises and the SOHO market. "It will allow anyone to come in and quickly set up a Web site from a browser, and then to edit those pages from the browser and maintain the Web site through the browser," Baxter said.
Lotus has also developed a pre-packaged Web environment called Domino.Collaboration, designed for short-term usage. "This is an environment where you might want to set up a project with some international consultants and other firms," said Baxter. "You can go to a site and rent a forum and a number of applications, such as a discussion database, a document library, a project management calendar and scheduling application, or a project/task management application."
Baxter said the application will automate many of the functions of running such a group, such as e-mailing all the people invited to participate. The application will then generate the site, the URL, the mail etc without the Internet service provider being involved. At the end of the project the site closes down.
The key is Domino.Host, Lotus' environment for hosting Domino.Apps with an ISP. Baxter said once the environment is fully developed Lotus will publish specifications, which third parties can write to. "And that will then allow our business partners to write their own applications, have them hosted by an ISP, and then essentially have a worldwide market for that application. A lot of the interest has come from the business partners, in approaching us to get their applications on it. But one of the markets we're looking at is certainly the other developers out there, who are not necessarily Notes business partners who find this an interesting business model," he said.
Further releases will include products such as Domino.Marketing for creating store fronts, Domino.Service for taking service requests and dealing with customers, and Domino.Merchant for payment.