IBM Explains Its Domino 8 on DB2/400 Spike
September 4, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last week, this newsletter told you about how IBM had decided to not support DB2/400, the relational database at the heart of the i5/OS and OS/400 operating systems, as a data store for the new Notes/Domino 8 groupware that was launched weeks ago. This snub of the System i platform has annoyed many and will probably affect the Notes and Domino plans of some System i shops. Since this decision was made by IBM’s Software Group, not the Power Systems division that controls the System i platform now, it has been tough to get an explanation.
The Systems and Technology Group, which controls IBM’s servers, storage, and chip businesses, is remarkably good at explaining its plans. STG provides technology previews and statements of direction. Announcement letters are detailed, and executives are made available to analysts and trade press to explain any new technology or change in plan. By the very nature of the hardware and software platforms we cover in depth at IT Jungle, we do not have the same sort of hooks into Software Group as we do with STG, so it is hard to judge Software Group as a whole based on this DB2/400 and Domino 8 issue. But it is safe to say that Software Group could have done a better job explaining itself–and not wait until after Notes/Domino 8 was announced, too.
The issue, as I explained last week, is that the i5/OS platform is being treated as a second-class citizen compared to Windows, Unix, and Linux, even as i5/OS is supposedly a key platform for Domino. The capability of storing Notes and Domino data in DB2 databases was first delivered with Domino 7 back in September 2005. But only DB2 Universal Data Base, the variant of IBM’s DB2 relational database management system for Windows, Unix, and Linux servers, was enabled to support Domino data. Two years ago, as this capability was being announced, IBM hinted that such capability might be available on the i5/OS and OS/400 platform within a year or so–but it never made any promises as far as I know. Prior to Domino 7 and still on the i5/OS and OS/400 platforms, Notes and Domino data are stored in a flatfile format called NSF; these NSF files are stored in ASCII format, and on the AS/400, iSeries, and System i family, that means the Integrated File System. In some cases, using DB2 to store Notes and Domino data speeds up performance, but equally importantly, this capability allows Notes and Domino data to be stored in the same format as other corporate information and to be accessed, controlled, and archived in the same manner. Moreover, Domino 8 includes a free copy of IBM’s DB2 9.1 database, which can only be used to store Notes and Domino information. So not only are the other guys getting relational database support, but they ain’t paying for it, either.
I attempted to get an IBMer in some position of authority on the phone to explain Software Group’s decision to spike DB2/400 support for Notes/Domino 8, but that didn’t get me very far. After we were on press with The Four Hundred last Friday evening, a helpful person in the STG organization pointed me to a blog maintained by Rob Ingram, the Domino product manager at IBM’s Lotus division, one of the five pillars of Software Group. Ingram is out of the office on vacation as we go to press, so he can’t answer questions. But here is what Ingram had to say about the DB2/400 issue. (I fixed some typos.)
“Lotus is very committed to the System i platform for Domino and other Lotus products. We also continue to add new capabilities to other Lotus products on System i and have recently released not only Domino 8, but Quickr 8 and Sametime 7.5.1 on System i. Lotus does not plan to deliver DB2 integration on Domino for System i or other platforms beyond the Microsoft Windows, AIX, and Linux platforms, which were delivered in 8.0. The additional resources and time required for a complete implementation of NSFDB2 on System i are very significant. You should also be aware that Domino NSF stores remain the most efficient high performance storage option for most Notes and Domino applications and we will further tune NSF in future releases of the product. LEI and DECS are also viable solutions for integrating Domino and other data sources on the System i platform.”
“Our Domino development resources are very busy working on many new features driven by customer feedback and benefiting all users, including System i customers. We are focused on several key areas such as simplifying security and D management, directory openness and NSF storage reductions. More details of these plans will be unveiled at Lotusphere 2008.”
“This plan is based on the priorities and feedback of the broad market and our customer needs. IBM remains very committed to Lotus Domino and the System i platform.”
It would be interesting to know exactly how much money is involved here. For a mere fraction of the 10,000 wheelbarrows full of money that Big Blue trundles down to Wall Street each quarter to buy back its own shares, it could no doubt have already offered native DB2/400 support for Notes and Domino data. Moreover, it should have offered such support back in 2005, right alongside the support for the DB2 UDB variant for Windows, Unix, and Linux. What’s good for these platforms is good for the System i, particularly given the integrated nature of the System i platform, the legendary security of the operating system and its database, and the desire by i5/OS and OS/400 shops to simplify their operations.
What seems clear today is that IBM had plenty of time between September 2002, when Domino 6 was launched and when IBM did not yet support DB2 as a data store for Notes databases, and Domino 8 two weeks ago, when it had already supported this capability on Windows, Unix, and Linux platforms for nearly two years, to get the DB2/400 integration done. If IBM has been working on DB2/400 integration for a year or more, it should have simply finished the job, and if it never really started it at all, it should be embarrassed. The i5/OS and OS/400 customer base represents half of IBM’s customers worldwide. Moves like this one undercut confidence in the platform.
As I said last week, i5/OS and OS/400 shops have been integrating their Domino and RPG applications for a decade without such capability, so no one is going to die here. System i shops will find ways to continue to integrate Domino and their other applications. (They could move Notes and Domino to Linux or AIX partitions on a System i box and then do integration between DB2/400 and DB2 UDB, for instance.) But this is just another disappointment that the System i customer base is being asked to bear. Perhaps if enough of you make some noise, Software Group will hear.