Notes/Domino: Less Platform Talk, More Programming Action
January 31, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The annual Lotusphere shindig kicked off in Orlando, Florida, yesterday and will run until Thursday this week. While IBM will no doubt talk about all the new widgets and gadgets it is cooking up as part of its “Project Vulcan” and “Project Concord” development efforts, which were first divulged in 2010, I don’t expect the people from Big Blue’s Lotus division to talk all that much about server platforms.
That’s a shame, given how Oracle, the Acadia Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) partnership from Cisco Systems, EMC, and VMware, and the Frontline partnership between Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are all talking about complete hardware-software stacks with hard-core performance tuning and simplifying the integration and management of the software stack.
This is exactly the time when IBM should be talking about “Bumblebee” Dedicated Servers for Domino. (Remember those?) Not moving beyond server agnosticism to what I am beginning to think of as server atheism. (Meaning, put it in the cloud and the system doesn’t matter.) Of course the system matters, and of course the Notes/Domino stack should run in its entirety on the Power Systems-IBM i combo and it should run best on this platform to give customers a reason to pay the premium IBM charges for the IBM i platform.
IBM used to make a lot more noise about the OS/400 and how it was tuned to run the company’s Lotus Domino groupware and application environment, you will remember. The Notesbench Consortium used to publish independently audited performance reports certifying lots of different machine and operating system combinations so customers could make intelligent choices about platforms. And wiseacres like me used to take those Notesbench numbers and add pricing information to it to show you the relative bang for the buck of the OS/400 and i platform compared to its competitors in the midrange.
As you can see from the most recent IBM Power Systems Performance Capabilities Reference for IBM i 7.1, which you can get here, IBM doesn’t even give out Lotus Mail and Calendar User (MCU) figures for each Power Systems machine any more, as it did with prior generations of boxes. IBM put out some performance figures on a couple of machines for Domino 8 in May 2008, pitting Windows Server 2003 against AIX 5.3 (which you can see here) and showing the benefit of shifting to a 64-bit version of Domino. This was updated with a two-part performance study on a few boxes running Domino 8.5 in the summer of 2009 when that release of the Lotus groupware server was available. This performance test was only run on three different machines: a Power 570 running AIX 6.1 and IBM i 6.1, a System x running SUSE Linux 10 and Windows Server 2003, and a Sun Enterprise 6800 running Solaris 10. These two reports, which compared Domino performance and iNotes performance on this iron, gave some details of how Domino 8.5 performed relative to Domino 8.0.
I think that IBM doesn’t want to encourage cross-platform comparisons with any workloads, except under conditions it can control, such as the TPC-C, TPC-H, SPEC, and SAP S&D tests it commonly uses. And if you want to make comparisons within IBM’s own products, then IBM wants you to use the same Systems Work Load Estimator (WLE) tool that its sales force and business partners employ.
IBM will be talking a lot about Project Vulcan, a revamping of the Notes/Domino stack to weave business analytics and social analytics into the code. Ed Brill, director of messaging for the Lotus division, said in a recent blog posting ahead of Lotusphere 2011 that the first bit of Project Vulcan, a set of APIs for hooking into the Notes/Domino stack, had been released to a select number of business partners and independent software developers through the Lotus Greenhouse beta testing program. This set of APIs is called the IBM Collaboration Toolkit, or ICT for short, and it is not clear when it will be available for the rest of the world to play with to add social media and mobile functionality to their Notes/Domino applications. It is not clear exactly where the Vulcan technologies will be used across the commercial Lotus/Domino products, and it is very likely that these will be highlighted at this week’s event in Orlando. Look for IBM to talk up the integration of all kinds of technologies–RESTful APIs used in cloud computing and Web services, XPages, and HTML5–with the Domino stack.
In the meantime, IBM has already been making the rounds with the local user groups to discuss future Notes/Domino plans. According to John David Head, a Lotus consultant who attended the TriState Lotus User Group meeting in October last year, IBM is already laying out its plans for Project Vulcan and a related development effort called Project Concord. In his blog, Head said that IBM was working on the Notes/Domino 8.5.3 update for delivering in the second quarter of 2011, and added that this was a maintenance release with some incremental features for XPages (which lets Notes data be displayed on mobile devices and Web browsers alike) and for Domino Designer for Eclipse. IBM is expected to kick out Notes/Domino 8.5.4 by the end of this year, and put out quarterly fix packs for the current 8.5.2 release and the impending 8.5.3 release.
What is not clear is how much any of this will mean to IBM i shops. It would be interesting to know if the OS/400 and i base is as enthusiastic about Notes/Domino as they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This is one of the questions I hope to get an answer to in the wake of Lotusphere. And hopefully, customers are still interested and it is helping to drive Power Systems-IBM i sales.