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http://www.dominopro.com/features/june2000/buzz

Published June 2000

Domino and WebSphere Integration: Do You "Get It?"

By Henry Bestritsky


By now, you've probably heard the welcome news that Domino will be tightly integrated with WebSphere. And I am sure that with this revelation in hand, you plan to sit back and bellow a collective sigh of relief — as well as thank the powers that be for their munificence and foresight. True, I am being sarcastic here, but not because I don't approve — on the contrary I do — but rather because like many of you, I am still trying to figure out just what this integration really means. One of my biggest frustrations with Domino is that many people don't "get it" unless they actually have worked with the product; it's hard to explain exactly what Domino does. Now that Domino and WebSphere are working together, it's important for Domino users and potential Domino users to "get it" — to grasp what WebSphere and Domino integration means for Domino developers and entrepreneurs and how the two products will work together.


Technicalities

Let's first examine WebSphere integration from a technical perspective. Lotus plans to integrate WebSphere in two phases, the first of which is shipping today. At present, the latest version of Domino includes WebSphere Standard Edition at no additional cost. Figure 1 shows the current level of integration.

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Figure 1 - Domino-WebSphere integration, Phase 1

The following four points can best describe WebSphere.
  • IBM's Java server for servlets, Java Server Pages (JSPs), and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs)
  • a Java server that runs on top of Internet Information Server (IIS), Netscape, Apache, or Domino
  • a Java server that runs on Windows NT, AIX/6000, Solaris, OS/390, OS/400, OS/2, Linux, or Novell NetWare
  • a Java server that provides massive scalability in Web-based transactions

    Taking into account the above points, the obvious question is how can Domino and WebSphere work together? To many in the industry, the answer is "not at all." These doomsayers believe WebSphere is a Domino-killer and that the integration of the two applications spells the end of Domino as we know it. While this sentiment has been widely echoed, it is simplistic at best and could not be further from the truth. The truth is that Domino and WebSphere are complementary products. For example, two issues Domino developers have always complained about are Domino's problems with scalability and back-end integration. The difficulties that Domino presents in these arenas are well documented, but with the WebSphere integration these problems have finally been laid to rest. Now, developers are free to create massive, enterprise-wide applications in Domino that run on almost any operating system.


    This brings me to phase 2 of Domino-WebSphere integration (Figure 2):

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    Figure 2 - Domino-WebSphere integration, Phase 2

    The green modules represent components the two products share. It's precisely this arrangement that creates a single, efficient product that will let developers build all types of applications, from simple workflow processes to complex transactions. In short, the integration of these two products means that
  • Domino brings collaboration and template-based, rapid application development (RAD) to WebSphere's J2EE transactional programming model.
  • WebSphere brings transactional and massive scalability to Domino applications.

    Time to Rant
    Putting technology aside, I am still incredulous that to this day, nobody can explain to me what Domino does. I have often heard it said that the only way to understand Domino is to simply "get it". "Get it"? What exactly does that mean? I have seen the look on peoples' faces when they do "get it", and I half-expect Mulder and Scully to show up and take them away for de-programming.
    To be fair, one reason Notes has such a loyal developer base is because once you get it you "get in" and don't get out. Traditionally, Notes developers have enjoyed larger salaries than other developers and have always prided themselves by being on the cutting-edge of development. Unfortunately, those days are rapidly ending as traditional Notes developers are beginning to experience Domino burnout. I've spoken to quite a few Notes/Domino developers who complain about doing the same thing over and over again and are looking toward other technologies. With that in mind, I think WebSphere is a godsend that will help Domino technology thrive, prosper, and retain its developer base. WebSphere will pull Domino away from its proprietary reputation and establish it in the mainstream of technology and development.

    Why would I say something like this? Because I am great Lotus proponent? Or is it because I love WebSphere? Hardly. Lotus has always had great technology and yes, you guessed it horrendous marketing. I am sick and tired of trying to explain what it is and what it does, because if the people I talk to don't have that "I get it" look on their face, I might as well be speaking to a brick wall. I believe the Domino-WebSphere integration will make it much easier to explain what Domino does! Next time someone asks me what Domino is, I can tell them that Domino uses Java to build high-end applications that can integrate with your legacy apps, e-mail, security, workflow, and the Web. Notice I did not say Knowledge Management! I can tell my developers that their talents won't become vestigial and they'll be able to leverage the technology that will help their careers in the future. The integration will also make it much easier to market Domino; we can actually point to IBM WebSphere successes and say that Domino did it. It all revolves around that one simple word, Java. If my gas station attendant knows what that means, I think the decision makers will get it, too (though probably not as well as the attendant).


    So, what's the problem with this utopian picture? First, who the heck has the technological expertise to develop in the new Domino/WebSphere environment? (Remember, there aren't that many H1 visas around anymore.) To be able to fully use the product, not only must developers understand Notes, they must also know how to code in Java and SQL, not to mention HTML, DHTML, Javascript, and XML. Traditional Notes developers write simple agents using straight procedural language. To develop for Domino/WebSphere, they'll have to learn object-oriented programming just to write Java (and let's not even mention EJBs). It seems an insurmountable challenge, but in reality it all boils down to marketing. Microsoft has always had separate modules to create its complete solutions ranging from Exchange, IIS, Visual Interdev, SQL Server, MTS, VB, VC++, and VJ++. Yet, nobody complains about it. Why? The answer is marketing.


    Here's a recent joke that speaks to IBM's woeful marketing history: Q: How do you get rid of the drug problem? A: You legalize it and let IBM market it. Marketing shouldn't be that hard. The facts speak for themselves, Domino has more 60 million seats and growing. It's successfully adopted itself to open technology standards and is not showing any signs of dying anytime soon. I've met with quite a few IBMers and Loti (yes, it is Loti) and have gotten a very comfortable feeling that they've learned their marketing lessons and that Domino won't be another OS/2. The recent shakeup in the upper echelons of Lotus is a clue that the company isn't standing still and is forging ahead on all cylinders. I guess the big question isn't about the technology or integration, it's really about "getting it." Notes/Domino developers and users "get it," so let's hope IBM can also "get" that Domino could go the way of OS/2 and the Dodo bird unless it produces some successful marketing. Get it? Got it? Good.


    Henry Bestritsky is a principal and founding member of BinaryTree.com, a leading Lotus Notes/Domino development and e-business technology firm. Known for his fiery disposition and outspoken advocacy of Domino platforms, he writes Industry Buzz for DominoPro on a bimonthly schedule. If you have comments about this column, drop Henry a line at henry.bestritsky@binarytree.com.


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