After the DB2 10 Bootcamp I am a Version 3 now – bugger

I am a „IBM Information Management DB2 10 Technical Professional v3“ now. That sounds a bit like the Austrian title race. What the heck is v3?

To make my life a bit more interesting I attended the DB2 10 bootcamp last week.
I have not used relational databases a lot before and I thought, that this camp could just be the thing and since I am (and a lot of you are too, I suppose) moving towards Connections, this would be a good start. Frankly, for somebody who has never seen a DB2 up close, it wasn’t easy at all. I was pretty much worn out in the end, because I had to learn a lot after and before every class. I had to go through the whole db2 certification pdf, Up and Running with DB2 on Linux, Unleashing DB2 10 for Linux, Unix and Windows, tried to inhale the DB2 SQL Reference and gave up when I saw the 2569 pages on the iPad and I tried to read every chapter of the course book in advance. Having five hours of train ride every day helped, but when 2 guys in your compartment have a heated discussion about the next popular votes, it isn’t easy to concentrate (they offered me head phones, but that does not help if you don’t have any music on the iPad). In the end I got only one of the two certifications and that one I passed with only 80%. By far the worst passing result I had in a long time.
Was in worth it? You bet. It gave me a lot of insight and from now on, I have at least a basic understanding what is going on … enough for sales 😉

The bootcamp itself was meant to be for anybody who wants to know more about DB2 10 and the only requirement was a basic understanding of relational database management systems and some Linux knowledge would be nice, too. It turned out, that a lot of knowledge about DB2 would have helped and the Linux stuff wasn’t needed. The Labs are great for beginners, but the course slides where – typical IBM – overloaded and did not give me the information I needed. No way I can read and understand them while the teacher is talking.

I am wondering what the purpose of that boot camp is. If IBM wants more DB2 certificates in the wild, the DB2 bootcamp could be improved by cutting the number of slides in half, focusing them on the information’s that help you pass the fundamentals test and distributing some 20 to 30 pages about basic technical aspects and structure of DB2 before the course, to get everybody on the same level (DB2 for Dummies?).

I am feeling quite DB2 geeky right now and hopefully I will pass the DB2 fundamentals exam next time.

Did I mention that the boot camp and the tests are free of charge? Pretty good value if you ask me.

For all of you who did not like my captcha (and some marketing thoughts)

… would you please test the new one? Actually it isn’t a captcha and let’s see if that works.
I do wonder though, after how many installed and deinstalled plugins wordpress will finally be broken.

To make you life easier, I give you something to comment on. Last week, the power supply of my MBP started to make funny noises as if a firework display was imminent. It still loaded, but not very good. This morning I went shopping for a new one and realized, how – and don’t tell me you knew that already – silly I am. I was standing in this stupid Media Markt and was all exited to buy a new Apple Power Supply for my Mac Book Pro. I need professional help. I am exited because I bought a new POWER SUPPLY.
Listen up IBM.
Watch and learn from Apple.

The thing is, Apple cares about every single detail.

We can compare the technical features of Apple products endlessly, but one has to admit, they have an extremely good marketing. Every single product comes in a nice box, not some cheap carton. The corporate identity goes from A to Z. The shop displays are easy to recognise in every shop with Apple products. If I had bought a power supply for any other notebook, I would have searched all over the place and some sales person would probably have to go through drawers to find one. Not with Apple, you go there, you find the stuff and you have time watch other products (I looked at the new MBP … boy it’s fast and the display is amazing). Got it? The shopping experience is great, you want to come back. Compare that with IBMs software catalogue … if you ever find it again after the x-ieme change of the link.
It’s the attention to details, that makes Apple successful. Its software may not have all the bells and whistles of other products, but it works for 99% of the tasks, it is user friendly and it looks good.
I never had a lot of problems with Notes, but there are some annoying bugs (or features) that make the user experience on a Mac not always a pleasure. I would say, it is a lack of attention to details from IBM, to make Notes on Mac an even better experience, than on Windows and we don’t have to talk about the marketing part.
Dear IBM, if you want to be as successful with Notes as Apple, copy them. Apple just knows the human mind better. Think less about the features, think about ease of use, think less about technology, think about what the normal user actually needs. The social client could be a step in the right direction (don’t know exactly, I am still ignored by Jan Kennedy), but can IBM pull it off, that in the end we have an extremely stable and easy to use product, with more performance and less bugs, with the buttons in the right place?
Again, attention to details!
Call me a dreamer, but at least I do realise, that I am as susceptible to good marketing as anybody else out there and something silly as buying a new power supply makes my life better. Anybody knows a good AA (Apple Addicted) self help community?

After LotuSphere – what is does the future hold?

After quite a while I finally found the OGS video and I was a bit disappointed. I had hopes, that IBM comes out with an exciting new Notes client, what we got is a new homepage in the old client and a few enhancements for 8.5.4. No Notes Next, just the remark, that jumping to a all new client, would be too much for partners and clients alike (preserving the investment and all that stuff). That settles it for 2012. More customers and partners will turn their back on Notes/Domino.

… on the other hand …

Let’s face it. After over 20 years of continuous development, the code in Notes/Domino has probably been rewritten twice by now. NSF isn’t the most modern way of storing data. A few years ago we all hoped DB2 would be the solution, but that did not work out. Compared to Exchange, Domino is still way better in architecture and performance. Unfortunately Microsoft does a good job in selling their stuff and companies are jumping wagon almost at any price. I is amazing how much money goes down the tube by replacing a working system by another one. ROI just isn’t a factor in most decisions to migrate. I think, that IBM knows all that and the future is called Connections.
I want it, too. Notes/Domino can not deliver that functionality. Without Connections, Notes Social Edition is useless (See Ed’s comment). The activity stream would be the thing that sets Notes apart, but that does not work without Connections. From where I sit, the other enhancements don’t have enough WOW-factor to make me grin.

Much to my chagrin, Connections is just out of reach for me and many small companies. Having more servers than users, does not make sense. The administration is not really user friendly, either. Yes, I could go for Smart Cloud, but somehow, I like to have my own stuff … and in the cloud IBM must make my data available to the US government without telling me. Not that my data is of any interest to them, but one never knows, what may be of interest all of a sudden.

If I was in IBM shoes, I would do the same thing. Domino can not win against Exchange and that has nothing to do with technical advantage. Exchange is almost as old as Domino and the jet engine was worse than .nsf from the start, but FUD and other creative ways of selling, make it hard for IBM to compete.
IBM is focused on big companies. The marketing approach is pretty easy here. Everybody knows everybody. You sell trough personal contact. That settles it for the smaller companies. 1000 users just isn’t big enough for that extra effort to keep customers. That may sound sarcastic, but it looks like IBM thinks that’s the way to go.

What I found interesting is Ed’s remark, that they were never as many Domino servers in the free wild than today. Unfortunately, that’s servers, not customers. I would prefer the other way round, but I don’t know, what that should tell us.

Does anybody wonder, why there wasn’t a real road map for Notes/Domino. There wasn’t a sort of preview for the future. It’s pretty dark on that road in front of Notes/Domino.

For the traditional Lotus partner that does mean, you either learn Connections pretty quick and start talking to your customers about it, or bring them to the cloud. In that case, they are lost to you, except for the occasional PC or network problem (hopefully they have a few windows servers that need update).

Though, now I am standing on a cross road and ask myself, where do I go from here and I think, many other Notes geeks have the same mixed feelings. LotuSphere did not give anybody the security about an exciting future. Rather a the same old battle to keep existing customers and hope for the best … but I do like Connections.


LotuSphere 2012 – My one and a half Cents

Oh, bugger, I missed the OGS … at least the most important parts, the demos. I saw Michael J. Fox and the end, because I had to bring my wife to the doctor … she has a flu. Damn, but my wife’s health is more important … I told myself every 5 minutes … and the kids sports and music lesson, too. Now I am waiting for the recorded OGS … not there yet. Grrrr. Right now I have to live with second hand reports and I still don’t have all the information’s I need, because I have to do an article for the Swiss Small Business Association. Can somebody please point me to good information’s about the new Notes and Connections stuff? I don’t see the whole picture yet.

Now, what did I got until now. I watched Ed Brills presentation and I think IBM is going in the right direction. Unfortunately, we will not get the completely new client i hoped for, for at least another year, but Social Notes and Domino is one hell of good step towards what I would like Notes to be.
Do away with different types of documents. An email, a letter, an invoice, a complaint a spread sheet, a chat protocol, an SMS or anything else with information in it isn’t something that should appear each in a different application. The means of transportation may be different, but for the user, it is just something that get’s read on the screen (or printed out). I want all that stuff in the same place, but linked to persons, companies, activities, hamsters or what ever. I don’t care, if it is sent by mail or tied to a pigeons leg. But it is important, that I know, where the heck it belongs to and who is involved … and how all this is linked to other things.
What I have seen until now, Notes and even more Connections, are on the right way. I like that … a lot. And the Client looks better.
I have yet to see, how the inbox will be less cluttered with the intelligent sorting gadgets behind it, but it is a start and I see this as a game changer.
What I really would like to have as soon as possible, is Connections with Connections Mail. That does mean, I would have to learn Connections … or I get the stuff of those guys here: Connections Administration Toolkit Now isn’t that cool or what? I just imagine a Collax V Cube with all the Connections and Domino Servers on it. At the same time I would do reusable templates of the virtual machines and we have a plug and play installation with the whole administration through the browser. Have to think about … a lot … makes me dream of a better future.
Me too, I thought about Workplace. I liked it. I thought it wasn’t a bad idea. Was probably ahead of it’s time.

There is one thing, that troubles me. Ed said in his presentation, that they have the highest number of servers out there ever (if I got that right). That does not correspond to our feelings, that IBM is actually loosing customers, or does it? He said too, that they are adding more and more seats in companies above 100’000 users and at the lower end, too. How is that possible? What did he say? The number of servers. NOT the number of customers. If he says though, it is true, but I am (and yours truly probably, too) waiting for: „We have the highest number of CUSTOMERS ever!“

Now, how do I feel with everything I know by now. Mixed. I like the approach, but I don’t like the time frame. I hoped for the big thing, but it did not come. But haste makes waste, but this is another year where partners will move to other pastures and customers will go for the main stream stuff (MS) at any price (they really do, at ANY price. Expensive way of thinking).

I hope I get some more good information in the next few days.

PS: What I really liked would be the functionality of Connections and the ease of use and installation of Domino. But that is too much to ask, I suppose.


The Cloud – Risk or Chance for Business Partners?

During the last year, I attended many entrepreneur meetings all over Switzerland and I met many, many new cloud fans. Cloud solutions are spreading. What does that mean for the traditional business partner? Bad news actually.
Cloud solutions with the most impact on our business, are normally provided by the biggies. Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Google you name it, they have it.
SAP one design is eating into the SAP Business One business, Microsoft 356 into every business partners revenue stream, IBMs LotusLive, too. Suddenly, the Big Ones can provide services to everybody fast and easy and all we can do, is migrating our customers and then they are gone for good.
Customers love cloud solutions. No more hassle with servers and all the updates. Access it everywhere. It is cool. They may loose a bit of individualism, but today’s software has so many features, that at least 90% of the needs are covered by one provider or the other. The need of the average business for individual software is diminishing. Some of this is just happening in the heads of CIOs and CEOs who want main stream solutions. They see it as less risky to buy of the shelf. That this may lead to additional manual work, instead of automatizing, is just not a factor. ROI isn’t an overwhelming argument (Silly, if you ask me). Many customers see recurring manual work as more productive, then taking the time to create a template and reusing it. Really! I heard this story so many times, my blood pressure doesn’t even raise anymore. A gain of productivity and a pay back within 6 month just isn’t always an argument in IT. BTW, that’s one reason, why Lotus Foundations failed in the market (apart from that nobody knew it). Gaining time in setting it up and having a incredible good backup and recovery system, isn’t enough. Because during normal operation it works like anything else and you can’t complain at the country club, like your chums who went main stream, or in other words, it had no want-to-have-feature for the user.
Now back to the cloud. It’s the new black. It was Apple and Google that broke the Microsoft monopole for good to make room for everybody else to start cloud solutions. Today it’s cool to have an iPhone, iPad, Mac Book, iPod, at least at home. Android is kinda cool, too and Microsoft is just for the rest. You need it in your company, it is taken for granted, but it is not the ultimate thing to have. Today customers only want to know, if the new CRM works in the web browser and on the smart phone. The technology isn’t important at all anymore. Or would you care, if SAP uses Oracle or DB2 for SAP by design?
As a Business Partner of any of the biggies, we should be alarmed. Don’t get me wrong. If I was Sam or Steve or Gini or Larry, I would do exactly the same thing. Eliminate the middle man (the BP!) and bind the customer directly to me. Hey, but what about the BP, who has been a loyal follower for years? Who cares. Frankly, we are all attached to Notes, not so much to IBM. Probably to Ed, but not to IBM. BPs who are playing on both sides, Exchange and Domino, are from my point of view as the boss of IBM, not my loyal followers. Yes, yes, we always told customers that Domino is so much better, but they still want Exchange. Got it? We are rather loyal to the customer. If there was a completely new product with all the nice things of Notes and more, more speed, better design and so on, we would all jump wagon before you can say SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC – EXPIALIDOCIOUS. Now why should IBM care about us? They don’t have to (we would better call ourselves resellers or something neutral, than partners).

It’s all about keeping the customer. There are a quite a few arguments, that do not work.

If you tell customers that by US law for US companies or companies that just do business in the US, his data must be made available on request to the US authorities, without the need to inform him!
He does not care. I do, but I have yet to find somebody who does care.

„If you have no internet, you don’t work.“
Internet is extremely reliable today, therefore not an argument.

„You still have to do backup, because you can’t trust your cloud provider.“
Customers just expect, that the clouds backup works.

„You will have problems to get your data back, when you want to migrate.“
Why should I think about migration now?

„You will have problems to get support.“
No, not really, it may be less comfortable than just calling you, but it works.

„You will have outages at the worst possible time.“
But they do guarantee 99% accessibility!

… and so on. The answers of the customer may not be always entirely correct, but he believes it, because the cloud sales told it.

What should we do now, to keep our customers? I know, on premises isn’t dead, but if the stuff in the server room is more complicated and less performant, than the cloud, more customers will move to the cloud. Incidentally, there are solutions which are less complicated, than the traditional stuff (LF was one, Collax is another) and they could provide customers with something that feels like the cloud.
IT companies can set up on those tools their own clouds. Collax cluster solution is pretty cool … and has a license scheme, which is clear and easy. Even I can handle the installation and the administration and it is the chance for any IT company to go forward and keep customers.
Another idea would be fractional ownership in the cloud. Buy part of a cluster and share the hard- and software with other IT companies. Makes it easier to start.

What is the advantage, if you go cloud? Keep the customer! Create a continuous revenue stream. Easier path to the customer to offer new services. Become a customer to the big ones, instead of a reseller. They will like you much more. You can take whatever technology suits YOU.
Disadvantage? Initial investment, but that isn’t so big, if you start with KVM solutions. The change of the business modell is quite a step, but managable with good planing.

If you have a customer, that wants to go cloud, why not going with him? It’s a chance or a lost customer. Rather take the chance.
And now think about XPages and XWork Server. We just got the easiest path for extremely cool cloud solutions presented on a silver tray.
Grab it. See! IBM is still caring a little bit about it’s BPs. But IBM is changing and the BP has to change, too.

I completely forgot to tell you …

… that I am not always devils advocate, as Ed called me.
Here is my article that was published in November in the publication of the Swiss Small Business Association.
… and a quick search on Google reveals, that I am probably the only one, who ever wrote in a Swiss printed publication about the XWork server.

Das geheimnisumwitterte Projekt: IBM XWork Server

X-FILES – SIE SIND UNTER UNS! Im Oktober stellte IBM den XWork Server vor. Meiner  Meinung nach eine ideale Plattform für KMU, um die eigene, vielleicht nicht sonderlich homogene Umgebung, für Mobilgeräte und Internetbrowser fit zu machen. Der XWork Server enthält vom Start weg alles, um webbasiert Business-Logik diversen Endgeräten zur Verfügung zu stellen. Webserver, Datenbank und Userverwaltung sind integriert und wer zufällig IBM Notes nutzt, kann lokal replizieren. Ein nicht zu unterschätzender Vorteil für Mac und PC Benutzer, die nicht immer online sein können oder wollen.
IBM hat es verstanden, aus vorhandenen und neuen Technologien einen Webserver zu kreieren, der offene Webstandards, Entwicklungsumgebung und Lizenzmodell zu einer Plattform vereint, die den Einstieg in die mobile, bzw. browserbasierte Welt erleichtert.
Der Clou am XWork Server ist die Fähigkeit, wie eine Spinne im Netz zu sitzen und verschiedene bestehende Datenquellen, z.B. SQL, Filesystem usw. zu Web-Anwendungen zu verbinden. Das eröffnet Möglichkeiten beispielsweise für Reportgeneratoren und individuelle CRM Systeme. XWork Server braucht nur eine Hardware und kostet genau einen festen Betrag pro Jahr. Keine CALs, POV oder sonstige Gemeinheiten die Preisberechnungen zum Projekt ausarten lassen. Das es das noch gibt?
Mit kostenlosen Erweiterungsbibliotheken und auch Code-Beispielen die man sich aus dem Internet holt, ist der Fantasie für auf den Nutzer zugeschnittene Business Applikationen kaum Grenzen gesetzt (Sie wollten sicher schon mal ein Business-Cockpit)! Das ausgefeilte Berechtigungssystem funktioniert bis hinunter auf Feldebene und ist relativ einfach verständlich. Anbindung an die gängisten Benutzerverwaltungen ist selbstredend integriert.
Der XWork Server nutzt  zwar offene Standards wie beispielsweise Java Server Faces, doch es reichen normale Webentwickler-Kenntnisse, HTML, XML und JavaSkript. Als Einstieg kann man sich schon mit Drag&Drop ausgefeilte “Webapps” (denglisch für Internet Anwendung, aber man muss dem Zeitgeist hinterher hecheln) zusammenklicken. IBMs “XPages” machen es möglich.
Mit XWork Server wird insbesondere individuelle oder schon erhältliche Standardsoftware erschwinglicher.


See Ed? I am acctually trying to help you selling it (and I am still waiting for that invitation for that feast).


IBM Marketing for Notes/Domino – move on, that’s a boring post.

If you are expecting ranting about IBM’s marketing here, move on, nothing to see here. Marketing shouldn’t be a never ending story.

A lot of things were written about Sam Palmisanos time at IBM, since he announced to step down. Interestingly, the head of marketing, Gini Rometty is taking his place (do we have an Italian clan thing here?). Therefore, she is responsible for the marketing of Notes/Domino – or the lack of, as many would say – for the last few years. Was it really that bad? Depends on your point of view. There is one thing, which explains a lot.

IBMs focus has always been on business software, hardware and services.

No consumer products. Not even the PC’s were widely available at mediamarkt or whatever retail chain is out there. That limits the possibilities quite a bit.

Would Notes be a good consumer product? I doubt it. The current Notes client lacks quite a few things for being suitable to consumers: MAPI, good IMAP support, ease of use for several mail accounts and so on. A private customer can’t even buy it. Therefore the whole theory of getting consumer products into business fails for IBM products. That works for Microsoft and Apple. They have cool (at least Apple) products, people want to use professionally. IBM would have to go the other way, cool business products for consumers. Does that make sense? No way (look a RIM)! It could happen, that IBM comes out with something really cool that everybody wants. Yes, Vulcan could be the thing, but would IBM would have a huge uphill battle until they had a consumer channel. I don’t think it is going to happen (but I like surprises).

If IBM cares about businesses, why are they loosing one account after another? They add a few, but that does not make up the loss. Part of it are certainly the consumer products, that move into corporate IT. I believe, that is not even half of the story. What I don’t believe, is that Ed and his team are not fighting for every customer – who must have a certain size, certainly – that wants to move away from N/D. In the case of Ernst & Young it could be that IBM his happy about it, because that would give PWC a financial advantage.
Microsofts FUD and other really aggressive moves towards IBM are certainly a big part, but IBM lacks a few products, to make customers completely happy. As long as Windows is the corporate user interface, Microsoft will always have a foot in the door. Even Apple is in a better position here.
CIO’s are often not really geeks and everybody prefer what they know. Unfortunately there are much more MCSE’s and so on out there, who are much happier installing Windows servers, than Linux (you are lazy) and since M$ promises that everything works perfectly together, they just do it. That you get lots more trouble with M$ products, then with anything else, isn’t a factor. The problems people have with M$ products are taken as normal.
ROI just isn’t a strong argument. Many of the geek CIOs don’t even know what it is and those who know, aren’t geeks and believe M$.
IBM has two strong psychological factors against it. First, people don’t like change and people tend to do what others do, or in other words: „You will not get fired for buying Exchange“. The first factor makes it hard for IBM to move people to N/D, the second factor makes it hard for IBM to keep customers, who want to upgrade/update their infrastructure.

After being nice, now a bit of rant. The mistakes about N/D marketing have been done years ago (Workplace!) and Ed can’t turn back the clock easily.
In the moment I don’t see a product portfolio, that would attract customers below enterprise size. Having the possibility to add Connections files and profiles is great, but four different applications on three different servers? Lots easier to deploy Sharepoint (I believe, but I could be on thin ice, here. BTW, Connections screams for a high availability solution from Collax, sorry, had to do it).
AFIAK, the bonus system for IBMers does not motivate them to go after renewals. If it is true, that’s a shame, really (again, thin ice here).
Notes is getting old. Too big, too clumsy, not intuitive enough, not-so-nice UI (I would not call it ugly, though, but the workspace should have had a makeover years ago).
Said all this, I don’t believe that Ed or Gini are stupid. I rather think, that they know everything I have said, already, but it isn’t easy to turn that train around. At least they could fight the M$ FUD, after all, IBM invented it.

Do I have a solution? Not if the next major release Notes Foo, isn’t something I would like to use as my one and only application to solve all my business and private needs. In other words, either Notes Foo is a huge step forward in integration of all those bit’s and pieces I have currently to deal with, or it is over. Yes, that’s easy to say, because if Notes Foo is the huge step forward, it will sell like hot cakes anyway, but in IBM’s situation, a me-too product will not get them anywhere. Therefore the solution lies in the product, not in the marketing.

Now lets wait till LS2012 and see what happens. A bit like a second Christmas. You hope it is what you wished for and that it isn’t another pair of socks.

Ps: Told you it’s boring.

XWork Server … a new era?

Ed announced the XWork Server one day early … probably just because he wanted to be the first! I me, the silly idiot, even asks before posting anything on the 4th, if it is OK, to write about it before they wake up, because of another time zone.
Anyway, let’s look at Ed’s new toy.
Now what about the the fuss? First, it’s an ISV offering. It’s up to you and me (again!) to push it in the market. That’s great news for all the XPages developers out there, who’d like to sell their browser based applications without having to sell Domino. Now you can tell customers that your app is based on an IBM application server. It’s bad news for those who saw marketing money raining down on us, because of the re-branding, but I come to that later.
During the webcast last week, they made the point, that ASL would be a good way to sell it. If you consider ASL, please look at the warranty. All the warranty IBM is giving for the licenses you sold remain with you. Your customer does not get warranty from IBM. You have to provide the warranty for your products AND the XWork server. This sometimes leads to extensive discussions with the legal department of your customer.

Let’s look at a few things I discovered in the F&Q’s:

Q: How is XWork Server licensed?
A: XWork Server uses a fixed term licence and is licensed per install.

Q: What is a fixed term license?
A: A fixed term license offering grants the right to use the software, including Software Maintenance, for a fixed period of time. At the end of the Fixed Term License period the license and its associated Software Maintenance will be automatically extended for another period and the customer will be invoiced for that new period unless they notify IBM or their IBM Business Partner prior to the end of the term of their intent to terminate the license. If they choose to terminate, they will no longer be authorized to use the software and they will lose their entitlement to Software Maintenance.

This is more a subscription modell. If you use it, you pay… $2000 every single year. No more „It works, why would I need maintenance for it!“
… and this answers also the question that came up during the webcast, if IBM will still send our customers the bill 3 month before the end of the licensing term. Yes, they will.
If you use ASL, IBM will come after YOU, if you let slip the date!

Q: Can you give me an example of what constitutes an application?
A: Say you have a product launch application comprised of the following.

  • One database for administrative/configuration
  • One database for marketing content
  • One database for launch tasks
  • One database for workflow logic

    This would constitute one of the four applications per install

Q: What if my application requires more than 4 databases or I want to run more than 4 applications on the XWork Server?
A: You may purchase an additional XWork Server entitlement for that physical server. This means that each application may contain up to 8 databases. It also means means you can have up to 8 applications on that same physical server thus allowing customers to run more applications before purchasing additional hardware.

Q: XWork Server ships with a lot of databases. Which ones count towards the definition of an application?
A: XWork Server ships with numerous databases that can be broken into two categories. Social Business databases deliver business value to individuals or groups of individuals and would count towards the definition of an application. They consist of Teamroom, Discussion, Document Library and Blog. All other databases are defined as system databases and do not count towards the definition of an application. Some examples of a system database are Directory and Log.

I am sure, the whole database/application thing will be a thing of many (probably heated) discussions. If I use a blog and a online shop with 3 databases, is that one or two applications. The blog has technically nothing to do with the CRM, but is part of marketing, because I would very often link to products in may shop. I would use only 4 .nsf, but that would count as 2 applications? IBM, I think that modell is bound to rise blood pressure on many occasions, especially if a customer is just one or two databases over the limit.
Why couldn’t IBM just think simple once in a while.

Q: With XPages, can I access data that resides in an NSF on a Domino server?
A: Yes. XPages allows you bind your controls to data that resides in a separate NSF and that NSF may be on a different Domino server. If that NSF resides on a non-XWork Server, you can access that NSF and
that NSF would not be counted as part of an XWork Server application.

Now that made me smile. I can have 27 databases on different Domino servers, all accessed through one XPages app on a XWorks server. If your customer has already Domino, there is a loop hole. If he hasn’t, how about buying a single Express license and the XWork Server? Unlimited access through the XWork Server but the data of more then 16 nsf on an extra Domino Server, plus the replication.
The silly thing is, if you start looking for loop holes, the licensing modell isn’t a very good one. The more you have to explain the licensing to the customer, the less confidence he has. Look at VMWare, there is a half day course about the licensing. A competitor with an easier licensing modell, has a head start (Collax, hint, hint, sorry, had to do it).

Now the marketing, or rather the lack of it. The offering is for ISV’s. If you’r not an ISV, move on, nothing to see here, really (after having read all the stuff above, thank you). It will not be a new LFD (Lotus Foundations Desaster), because not even IBM thinks, that they will sell many XWork Servers, but it’s a good offering for ISVs and it opens the way into new companies, who hang up on you, if you just say „DOMINO“.
I think, that XWork Server is a shot in the dark, to find out, if the re-branding works. I am pretty much convinced (I have said it before), that „Domino“ and „Notes“ will be gone within 12 month, and I applaude IBM for this. But as I also said before, that IBM has to deliver a completely new product. (from the outside! What user cares if the technology is still Notes, as long as it looks better, has cool new features and is faster, AFIAK Exchange also still runs on Access/Jet). Throwing marketing money at the XWork Server, does not make sense. The next Domino (called XTalk? Naa, that’s taken, XCollaboration, that’s not snappy…) and XWorks Server together will be a more complete offering. Marketing will make sense for the whole product line. But if IBM tells us again, that it is up to us to promote it, it will be a LFD.
If you count on „viral“ marketing, uh oh. That works for cool products from underdogs much better. Apple has this success also because of good marketing and they do lot’s of it. They are here in Switzerland in the top 10 regarding marketing budget and have over 20% market share. Think about it.

„Dear IBM, even though you may believe, that many of your BPs rant and whine, you should realise something: the majority is calm, but will move away without saying a word. Your partner base is shrinking, your customer base is shrinking. If YOU want to stop that, it’s up to YOU!“

Anything else?


Holiday Season – Time to reflect on Notes, IBM and other stuff….

I have been away for a while. We went on holiday in Sigri on the isle of Lesvos, which is kind of the end of the world. 300 habitants. Not what you would call a vibrant holiday resort, but we had perfect conditions for windsurfing and a lot of fun, I mean really a lot.
My wife did beat me in a regatta and won a Lycra surf shirt. She will look to it, that I am not going to live that down.
The surf station is owned by a young austrian couple, Martina (the one with the bikini collection) and Marcel (the one with the camera that made me look like an overstuffed sausage in a wet suit), which does everything to make your holidays as relaxed as possible. If you are into windsurfing, have a look:
I had my iPad with me and that was just perfect (free wi-fi on the beach) to be in touch with the rest of the world and send my friends at home pictures to make them green with envy.

I had time to reflect on the things that happened in the yellow bubble after that now infamous call. Today I think it was nothing new. We had that before. Notes is dead … yeah right. No marketing from IBM … Yawn. Lousy communication from IBM … we would do the same thing with that kind of legal department looking over our shoulders. But, we got some news out of it. Ed said, they haven‘t decided on a name for the next release. I think that is great news, as long as „Notes/Domino“ in the new name is finally going away and the new product is really a major step forward. Faster, more reliable and new ideas is what we and customers want. This should be the last version that allows backwards compatibility.
I would not be angry, if IBM added MAPI to „TSFCD (The Server formally called Domino)“. If the customers want‘s Outlook, let them, they don‘t care about the server. XPages will give us enough opportunities to build jaw dropping applications.
Go for it IBM, give us the WOW. It‘s time to milk the last drop out of the cash cow (she will retire on nice pastures for a few years) and bring in the rising star.

But (and that is a big BUT), I get the feeling, that the yellow bubble is unsettled, if not outright afraid about the future (not people like Nathan Freeman, who knows probably lot‘s more then the common business partner).
It wasn‘t that bad, when Notes 8 was announced, because we were all involved. We had the beta very early and were able to contribute. Made us proud, didn‘t it? This time we are out of the loop, that‘s what makes us nervous. We see ourself as a loyal bunch, but not really respected. We get all kinds nice sales talk, how important BP‘s are for IBM but don‘t see anything coming from IBM that proves it. We loose customers we found, because IBM takes the deal away or IBM reps bring in other partners, who make the deal with IBMs blessings. Why should we be loyal to a single IBM product? We should not. Every shop owner has several products in the shelf to give customers a choice, but the shop owner has preferences as everybody else and will try to convince the customer, but sometimes the product of his choice just does not fit. Therefore, if you want to make customers happy, get more products in your portfolio. Get for example Zaraffa as an alternative for a mail server. If a customer wants something new, it‘s better that you get the contract, then somebody else. There are a lot of products out there, that are not as versatile as Notes, but do the job and are easier to learn. That is perfect for you and me and gives us a lot more power as BPs. Don‘t count on IBM for your survival, it‘s up to you. If Vulcan is the hell of a product we expect, great. If not, move on.
Loyalty is not something that is held in high regards nowadays. IBM employees who apparently love Notes move to the dark side without so much as an explanation. Who cares? IBM will start to care, if more and more Business Partners look for other products. Loyality is something IBM has to earn, not something we have to give.
The village of Sigri is a school book example for bulk risk. For years they relied on a single british tour operator, which filled the hotels and apartments every year (with bird watchers…) and then he went belly up. Now they try desperately to diversify in the middle of a crisis which affects the whole country. Don‘t fall into the trap of bulk risk. Learn new things now.

Another thing that came to my mind, why Notes does not sell good in the SMB market, is: IBM lacks a face. Apple has Steve Jobs, Microsoft has Steve Balmer – even though the videos on YouTub make me wonder about his mental sanity – IBM has … nobody. If the Lotus brand had a person who radiates confidence, it would sell like hot cakes. You could even take somebody from outside. William Shatner would be a good face. But since IBM has the marketing mantra „We don‘t do this (or any) kind of marketing“ my expectation for the future of IBM marketing is somewhat limited. But one never knows.

What is all the Fuzz about – IBM is doing with Lotus what it should

I admit, I wasn’t invited to that ominous call, but what I have heard and read the last few days, made me think. I have not read anything, what was actually told in the call, only what wasn’t.
Let’s get a few facts together. It looks like IBM is making money with software. But which product, I don’t know, but certainly Notes is not the product where IBMs hope is lying in the future.
I said it before. It’s a cash cow. A good one, probably. IBM follows the text book what to do with a cash cow. At the same time, they are building up a rising star. Today I would say, it is Connections.

Lotus is a brand that has turned into something people don’t like too much. Therefore kill it. Makes perfectly sense.

Interestingly, the discussions, especially on vowe’s site, turn technical pretty fast. In short, many of us think (that is, the heart of the community), Notes is a dinosaur, too big, too slow and too old and we would like a revolutionary new toy. Something that wasn’t here before, but it should be backwards compatible with all the old Notes apps. Forget it. Will not work (I like Mikas idea, rewriting it in Fortran, hihi). CouchDB could have replaced the nsf files. IBM owned it and certainly thought about it, but did not make the move. Wonder why?
If I was a developer at IBM for Lotus, I would also say, let’s do something else. You can’t endlessly fiddle around with the same stack and IBMs promise to guarantee backwards compatibility, is a very bad heritage. It is almost impossible to change the nsf engine. That thing is over 20 years old. Why do you think M$ is never doing in place upgrades? They can’t, because the new product is always too different from the old (and they wouldn’t have a reason make the customer paying big money again next time).

If IBM is not completely stupid, Connections could be the new Notes. But to achieve that, IBM can do a few things, to help Partners to move and build up the new community.

1. Make it easier to install. In this aspect we haven’t evolved. We still need to install an OS before installing the application. How silly is that. Why can’t IBM include a optimised Linux server. Would help a lot and even give IBM a lot less headache in supporting the darn thing. Throw it on a Collax V-Cube (or other KVM based virtualization system or even hardware) and start it up. Makes customers happy (the M$ affectionados can continue to install it on their own). IBM knows how it works. The smart cube does just that (that’s were LF ended up).

2. Make it available for small companies, too. It can be a useful tool for anybody. Limited version for free? Good idea.

3. Add a simple mail server to it (or is it already integrated?) IMAP, MAPI(?), WebDav should be there.

4. Train us IBM. The whole lot of us. Everybody who has a Notes certification should be trained for free (LOL, I can’t even get XPages training in Switzerland)

5. APIs, APIs, APIs … if possible even for Cocoa and Ojective C (and Fortran for Mika). I want an app for that.

6. … and for all those Notes customers. Integrate the XPages server and a transformer license

7. Mobile, mobile, mobile … even limited offline capabilities would be good. I mean apps, not browser, btw.

8. Don’t make a fat client. Let the community write apps, but build support something like OpenNTF.

IBM you would have a new community in a blink of the eye. Will they do it? I have my doubts. There isn’t a business process for thinking out of the (In-) box (I still remember that marketing pitch).

We have seen in this episode again, how badly IBM communicates. We all remember the times, were we felt valued and respected by IBM as business partners. It hasn’t been like that in the recent past.
I think, the big ones have more luck, but Notes partners are on the lower end of the food chain now. Imagine, Group is the biggest and has just over two hundred employees and makes 20. mio € in turnover. 99% of us are not big enough. Therefore we fell out of the focus of IBM. Logical no?
Now lets get our grips together and evolve. Let’s move. We will be lucky, if we get any help from IBM, but there is no question, that in 5 years, many of us will have moved to other pastures. If IBM likes us, they will try to keep us, if not, you know, how much they cared about you, but don’t get angry at IBM. It’s just a strategy that maybe isn’t that bad.

BTW: I wouldn’t bet on Exchange and Sharepoint. Those are as antediluvian as Notes. There is still life in them, but they are hardly very innovative (even less than Notes). Don’t go there. Too many players already. I would bet on Apple and Linux right now.