Dooooom … not again!

Notes is doomed … again. Or for good this time? What happened lately is interesting.

Well, first something on a personal note. I am not affiliated with a IBM Partner anymore or with IBM in general. I don’t have to be considerate to anybody anymore. Not that I ever really was.

There are more and more of us who talk about the end of Notes/Domino lately. We see signs on the wall. Where is the road map? Slow (well, glacial) update cycle and so on …
Notes/Domino is in decline. It has been a long time. Since IBM bought Lotus I would say. It was always the foster child. Something for the end user, IBM never really wanted to do. Gerstner bought Lotus not for of its products, but for its people (he said so).
In the beginning it worked, but after Notes 6 it turned around.
Let’s face it. Notes the fat client is old. Very old. Eclipse as the RCP did not make it to the future.

For years IBM had one resource action after another and it isn’t over. Expensive employees are replaced by younger ones, lacking experience and knowledge about anything IBM does. While IBM says, this is part of a strategy to turn the ship around, one gets the impression of the Titanic building its own icebergs.
It buys back shares just to keep the share holder value afloat. If loans would not as cheap, as they are right now, IBM would be in a much worse state. Or rather the stock price. The outrageous thought that investing in new products with less money could have made a better and more sustainable impact, I wouldn’t dare to mention.
Where is Notes here? Nowhere. It isn’t important anymore for IBM, if it ever was. While financially it might still bring in a few bucks, it isn’t a strategic product. You may argue that you are convinced, that IBM is dedicated to IBM/Domino, I would argue IBM is very good at pulling the wool over our eyes. Whatever you might hope, Notes/Domino is not part of the long term turn around strategy (if this even exists) of IBM and I think not even Verse.
OK, all this is lame and not really news. What I never understood is, why nobody came up with a real competing product? Not some apple/oranges competition like SharePoint/Exchange.
Domino/Notes is basically a database. An object based/oriented NoSQL document database (that’s my definition in easy to understand, modern terms. Apply your own if you wish). What I thought was rather cool, is the combination of design and data. Something many experts sneer on, for whatever reason. There are lots of reasons not to do this, especially if things get bigger, but it works rather well in ND. The replication is another point, but many can do this today. The rapid development thing is a rather fine tool, too and one of the main reasons of ND’s early success.
I always thought about ND like the Volkswagen Golf. It never really excels in anything, but it does a lot things very good. It is most of the time just the best package. There are a lot of good cars around but they can’t beat the Golf in units sold. Unfortunately Volkswagen knows that, IBM does not. Pitty, but such is life.
So why isn’t there an Astra or Punto in regard of ND? Frankly I don’t know. I wish there was something out there that could replace ND one to one. The ease of development and installation, the ingenious data/design storage system, the stability and so on. Many other solutions are better in in some respect, non comes even close as a whole package.
Something has amazed me lately: not even the mail server war ended as expected. It is a pretty vibrant market. I frankly thought that Exchange is everywhere, but that isn’t the case. Linux has won the server war and with that came new possibilities. For a long time different Linux distros had a bunch of different – sometimes more than one – mail server options. Today it looks like Dovecot/Openexchange dominates the IMAP server market. Sure, Exchange probably does all the internal stuff, but IMAP still serves the needs of billions of users. And here comes the thing, IMAP works for most of us just fine. We don’t need Verse. Though, the next new thing must be something really special, mindblowing, galactic (not a quantum leap, which is the smallest possible leap).
If anybody had told me 10 years ago Linux is going to be the server of choice and some small finish company would dominate the IMAP market, I would have discretely ordered one of those nice jackets that help you keep your arms crossed. But ND is still the closest of a multipurpose communication system out there. Everybody else is just mail.
The conclusion is, IBM has given up on the mail war way to early.

I can think one of the reasons IBM fails is, that while ND scales up extremely well, it scales down even better. It was the perfect tool for small companies that grow fast. Connections based on Domino would be a game changer for many companies. IBM does not want small companies. They are just a pain in the a.. and not worth the effort. Unfortunately, the big companies of the future are small today.

Migrating from ND today will always end with more stuff than what you had and a lot more administrative headache. Or you go cloud. But that does not change the problem of getting more different applications with in many times not the same functionality and a lot of things you don’t need, but you still pay for. To get to the point of where you were with ND before the migration, you have to do a lot of customisation and that makes updating again a nightmare. Provided you did use ND as more as a mail server. Otherwise I don’t understand you anyway.

Well, wonders happen once in a while, but most of the time they happen to others. There isn’t just an accident chain (or the more modern swiss cheese mechanism), there is also the wonders chain. We might see wonders coming, if we look close enough or in the right direction.

Let’s just fantasise for a moment.
Wonder No. One.
IBM comes up with the message of an all new Notes/Domino set. A lighter client and full web and mobile capabilities with a new development client that brings back the best of all that we had and kills everything we don’t really need. Fit for the future.
What is the probability of that?

Wonder No. Two
Partners and Customers are fed up with IBM and decide to stick together. „If you want to have it done correctly, do it yourself!“
An initial group builds the core of a modern replacement for ND, using a graph database and just one modern programming language with a stripped Linux server as part of the whole thing. More Customers and Partners join over time and build the most modern communication/social/RAD/whatever tool available. (I stop here, because I could go on about what would for me be the best possible solution. I have a pretty concrete idea about it and it would take a lot more time and space. And you probably would be bored to death or get a sore neck from all the shaking.)
Anyone care for an estimation of probability?

With all those estimations flying around, partners and customers now have between 5 and 7 years to find a solution. Locking back 5 to seven years, apart from the mobile hype, not a lot changed (still Exchange, still RDB, almost anything from then is still around). I suspect not a lot will change in the next 5 to 7 years either. Partners and customers now have the choice to
a) move to a new platform with all the pain that is known today will inevitably come (except you had only mail on Notes – see above)
b) take the bull by its horns and make the future happen yourself (make wonder No two). Not entirely painless but what a blast.
c) hope for wonder No one.

a) is the conventional and sensible solution for everyone who does not seek to stand out. b) is for the pioneers among us. c) is just – sorry about that – stupid.
It’s up to you.