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IBM hopes Domino version 10 gives the platform new life

IBM looks to improve its position in the collaboration software market with a buffed-up version of its venerable Domino platform that supports mobile applications.

IBM is taking the low-code road to keep its 29-year-old Domino platform relevant to modern application developers...

and IT shops.

Domino version 10 is the first significant upgrade since 2013 for the platform, which includes the Verse collaboration tool that uses analytics to help users prioritize email messages, as well as the Sametime collaboration tool that competes with Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Domino version 10 offers improved mobile capabilities, broader cross-language compatibility and support for the Linux-based CentOS operating system to create Docker containers on premises or in the cloud, including the company's own hosted service, IBM Domino Applications on Cloud.

Domino version 10 pushes mobile apps, cloud ties

A client-based application currently in beta, called IBM Domino Mobile Apps, lets corporate developers create applications for both executives and remote users who work with Apple's iPad, with no additional programming effort. Added iPad support for mobile users has been high on users' wish lists for some time.

"Domino Apps on an iPad is huge news for us; I won't have to rewrite apps and can easily mobilize them," said Fabrice Langlois, an IT system architect with Teradyne, a maker of automatic testing equipment in North Reading, Mass.

Teradyne plans to use Domino version 10's collaboration capabilities to improve its customer-facing and internal support portals and help users access information themselves.

"This now gives us a new platform to better mobilize our workforce, with new apps that don't require a heavy laptop," Langlois said.

For instance, with the mobile support, corporate developers can enhance their applications with the ability to access the iPad's GPS and camera capabilities. Developers can also use existing Domino applications to work either offline or online, regardless of their location, and sidestep the aggravation of lost connectivity.

IBM's emphasis on the Domino platform's application development capabilities is a nod to a developer's increased need to create applications that work across both on-premises and cloud environments, said Andrew Manby, director of product management for IBM's Domino portfolio.

Domino version 10 works with JavaScript, so developers can integrate and build new applications using Domino data, as well as any available REST APIs that reside on a full web-based software stack.

[IBM] has pitched [Domino] as a mail platform, but it is a better app-dev platform. They will position it now as a low-code development environment, which it always was, way before MongoDB and Docker.
Fabrice LangloisIT system architect, Teradyne

Developers can also integrate applications with any Node.js environment using the DominoDB NPM package, Domino AppDev Pack and a high-speed gRPC protocol. Additionally, IBM has added the Domino Query Language to support a native Node.js programming model that's accessible from the Domino command line or any Domino API.

"In terms of our future vision, we recognize that people want to do full-stack development, but they also want to do all the other stuff they have been doing since 1989," Manby said. "This is to say they want to build and implement applications quickly. There is a huge space for us now around low code to do just that -- something we have been doing for decades."

Teradyne's Langlois is heartened by the broader compatibility with other languages and platforms, as well as IBM's commitment to promote that strength.

"They [IBM] have pitched it as a mail platform, but it is a better app-dev platform," Langlois said. "They will position it now as a low-code development environment, which it always was, way before MongoDB and Docker."

Domino's future plays in AI, machine learning

In October 2017, IBM and HCL Technologies entered into a long-term deal whereby HCL Technologies would largely set the technical direction of the Domino portfolio, and IBM would lead sales and marketing.

"The best thing to happen to the platform in 10 years is IBM handing over development of the platform and [moving it] to HCL developers," Langlois said.

In 1995, IBM bought Lotus Development Corp., the inventors of Notes, for at the time a whopping $3.5 billion. Joint sales efforts of IBM and Lotus made it the leading email and collaboration product on the market. Big Blue eventually renamed the server portion Domino and retained the Notes brand for the client only. Over time, however, Microsoft's Exchange server and Outlook took off, while Domino's fortunes flickered.

Domino version 10 doesn't focus much on AI and machine learning capabilities, but IBM's Manby said he sees a number of uses for those technologies in later versions, such as to help Domino developers build various information repositories for support scenarios.

"It would be very easy thing for us to add AI and cognitive for searching data, especially since we added JavaScript, and also how Domino works with [IBM] Connections and other parts of the Watson portfolio," he said.

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What features of Domino 10 most appeal to you?
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Node.js, iPad support, cloud-hosted apps, REST APIs. Isn't that so last decade? A bit like lipstick on a pig. Where's the innovation? I guess we'll have to wait for version 11 -- assuming tools migrating apps off Notes haven't won the battle by then.
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Put that lot on top of built in bullet proof security & built in redundancy on a rock solid platform on and off-premise that runs on most enterprise O/S's. Please do let me know what comparable platforms there are out there. 
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