A Comfortable Couch

Thursday, February 17, 2005

And since I'm on Lotus stuff

What is the deal with IBM/Lotus Workplace product? What is the point of it? What does it do better than Notes and Domino that justifies its existence?


Jake said...

Seems to me to be a complete reimagining of the Notes client with all the reusability and object orientation the VisualAge people could muster and basically turning the whole client into an extensible API. It's all very object oriented and slick, although it doesn't seem up to the ease of deployability of Notes just yet. From what I can gather it's an elegant solution to a problem noone asked -the perfect corporate boondogle.

5:14 AMlink  
Philip Storry said...

"What does it do better than Notes and Domino that justifies its existence?"

It sells copies of Workplace far better than Notes/Domino does. That alone justifies its existence to the Workplace team. ;-)

But seriously...

I've not used it yet. But my impression from all that everyone's saying about it is that it does two things better, both of which are handy:
1. It's more of a J2EE/web standards based platform, meaning that you have a lot more freedom in the development of apps than you do in Domino. It can probably also interface with 3rd party data sources and systems than Domino can - DECS does DBs, but what about message queue software like MQ Series? Workplace can probably do that better, which is very useful for big enterprises.
2. It's more centralised. Easier administration, easier rollouts, easier development. Domino has always been great at distributed stuff, but the trend overall is for centralisation. Domino does well there - it can handle more mail than an Exchange Server, for instance. But Workplace will probably be more cost effective in the company data center, which is what you'll want in ten year's time (if the current trends continue).

Workplace doesn't do some things so well, though. Remote users aren't Workplace's strength, for instance. So Workplace has been brought closer to Domino/Notes by making it able to use Notes apps, and Domino/Notes is being brought closer to Workplace by giving us DB2 as a storage system. Their goal seems to be to let us run the two side-by-side seamlessly, in as many scenarios as possible.

That might sound daft, or even impossible. But I think that DOLS has given us an example of how this can happen already. When you look at the DOLS offline stuff, it's basically the Domino HTTP server and the replication engine with a control interface slapped on top. (Seriously. Install the DOLS client on a PC and check out the files it uses. This thing is Notes technology through and through, just not in the package you expected...)
So your DWA/iNotes mail can be gotten from the server, but DOLS can then create a local replica which, when you tell DOLS you're "going offline", is accessed by firing up that local webserver. (DOLS does that for you automatically when you tell it you're offline, of course.)
DOLS is a nifty re-use of existing technology, which really opened my eyes to the possibility of mobile lightweight clients. It's not perfect, and I prefer the rich client (Notes) for many things - but it's good enough for 90% of users, and we all know of products which are used every day because they were the first in the marketplace to be good enough for 90% of users... ;-)

Both Workplace and Domino/Notes have their strengths and weaknesses. IBM's new message seems to be that they recongise this, and are not throwing away the strengths of Domino/Notes. On the other hand, though, they are putting those strengths into Workplace - but they'll do it so gradually that we won't notice the transition. And IBM's goal is that we'll just all have our own personal day on which we wake up and realise, "Hey - I'm not really working with Notes anymore. Most of my work is in Workplace now..."

(Even if Workplace is still using Domino/Notes technology, just like DOLS is today...)

5:33 AMlink  
lekkim said...

Thank you - finally some one said it!! :-)

I must admit though, that this may be the product to save Notes by seriously updating the UI. This said I think 90% of users are strictly mail and calendar users and probably would be better of with a slimmed down Notes client than going with a completely new client.

8:46 AMlink  
Anonymous said...

I also walked away from Lotusphere without knowing what to think about the workplace "Strategy". I've heard other people say things like "the roadmap put forth by IBM has never been more clear." but really what is it? Why would I want Workplace? I have not been convinced that I need it or even want it. I find the whole workplace hoopla very frustrating!!

11:29 AMlink  
Damien said...

I don't understand why would anyone buy Workplace because it sits on J2EE. More centralized, that's a benefit? What problems does it solve that weren't solved before? Or more importantly, why does IBM place all those resources into building this giant new product with a whole new architecture (which isn't designed from its core for communications and collaborations)? Why not spend those resources into addressing the flaws in Notes and Domino, which for the most part are UI related?

My sources tell me there are less than half the developers working on Notes and Domino during R6. Does that sound like a bright future?

2:49 PMlink  
Ben Poole said...

What is the point of it?I imagine Workplace / portal / J2EE developers earn more than Domino ones.

4:54 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

It is part of the Java Jihad, and is essential to IBM's future.

In Messaging and Collaboration terms, the biggest problem it solves is IBM's, it helps sell more hardware, software and services in a space that most people considered had matured.

11:39 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

Fair question Damien... actually I wondered the same thing about the latest Couch direction- if you have some loose object store that could be used for blogging purposes... isn't Notes already able to do that now? (maybe not as lite as Couch would be?)

David Boudreau

4:57 AMlink  
Michael said...

To me, the Workplace is a logical extension to portal. You'll portalize apps and collaboration stuff, portalize everything and access it from web, rich client, pda etc...One may see this as a middleware on top of OS to aggregate applications and components together so user get all he needs for the job, without launching this or that.

Inside this portal, this workplace, you'll find components. One of them is Domino. Others will be J2EE components, others .Net components.

IBM could have made such enhancements - or pat of them - to pure domino / notes clients technology...but they would have been perceived as "proprietary" by industry. Now, "analysts" says all is standard based, it's cool.

Anyway, I agree with you : at the end of the day, users don't need J2EE, Admins don't need XML, CTO don't need Web Services. They all need apps that works well, that are cost effective and that can evolve and scale.

Let's see how this Workplace stuff is accepted and bought by customers. This will be the only thing that IBM will watch. If everyones buy workplace from the start, sure Domino will little by little be migrated to new stuff. On the opposite, if workplace does not sale fast, Domino will evolve and be a 1st workplace citizen.

Time will tell us

1:05 PMlink  

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