Domino, Notes and videotape
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onboardingSorry for being late with following up on the Connect 2017 conference, but the last days in San Francisco just flew by like a whirlwind. And after I got home I was stuck on the couch with flu like symptoms. But now I’m ready to talk to you about the future of IBM Connections, which is pink!

IBM Connections 6.0 is soon ready to be unleashed on the world. And I think it looks very promising. In fact, I was grinning when I was told about some of the new functionality. Here are the highlights from the new stuff that is coming:

  • Much better file syncing with top level folders
  • Onboarding manuals and guided tours for new users to get them familiarised with Connections much quicker
  • Much better control over community layouts
  • You will be able to copy community designs and thus create community templates
  • Integrated notifications which also will work with Microsoft Outlook
  • Improved mobile client with much better search possibilities and a day-at-a-glance summary
  • My Drive view for your synced folders, which also includes nested folders
  • The rich text editor will now be the same for all applications in Connections (blogs, wikis, forums etc)
  • Hide widgets in a community without having to delete them

The point I really, really liked was the fact that you now can make the area that describes what the community is about as large as you like. AND: You can now just paste whatever HTML code you like into that area! This means that you very easily can create your own social intranet without having to skin Connections to fit your internal design guidelines. This is a very smart move by IBM, and I like it! It’s something my previous employer was desperately hoping for, and was promised was possible, only to find out it wasn’t.

The future for Connections beyond 6.0 is Pink! Now, what does Connections Pink mean? It’s not the next version of Connections, per se. It’s more a new way of developing the platform, developing towards and with the platform, the way it will be updated and a new way to work, not only with Connections but with Watson and the ICS portfolio.

Highlights:

  • The deployment of updates will be container based and continueous instead of usual 18 months release cycles
  • There will be no more need for huge and costly upgrades to “the next version”
  • The experience will be more consistent between the web version and mobile apps
  • Cloud and on prem-customers will have a more similar experience than today
  • Much better separation between service layers and presentations, which will make it much easier to do your own customisations
  • The APIs will be improved heavily. This means it’s much easier to replace Connections applications with third party applications
  • The new APIs will also make it easier to develop your own solutions to work with Connections

Connections PinkConnections Pink is also a new development platform which makes it easier for people to contribute by creating your own extensions for Connections. It’s a completely open ecosystem which is made for developers, with a new technology stack. This is probably the most exciting new thing coming out of Connect 2017. The plan is to make this available from September 2017. Personally I can’t wait to play around with it.

It will also be amazing to combine this with the development platform for Watson Workspace. Just think of the possibilities you will have to analyse usage, data and a whole lot of other parameters. This is exciting, and I truly hope IBM will communicate this out to its customers. And most important: Use their IBM partners to help people understand what it is and all the possibilities it gives you!

Oh by the way, it was great to see that the Connections sessions were filled up. It’s obvious that a lot of IBM’s customers now are using IBM Connections. Wonderful

I promised a summary of the second part of the Opening General Session. And I will include it here, but this posting is mostly about the future of IBM Notes and Domino. It’s based around four separate sessions and lectures about the strategy around and development on the Notes and Domino platform.

First things first:

  • Yes, IBM will continue support and come up with upgrades and new functionality for the IBM Notes client.
  • Yes, IBM will continue supporting Domino but forget what you know about app development on the platform if all you know is the Designer
  • Yes, the Domino Designer is set to become a thing of the past
  • Yes, Cognitive, Connections and Watson will play a huge part in this
  • Yes, in my opinion Xpages is dead (but see the discussion in the comments field who says I’m outright wrong about this)
  • The APIs for Domino will be improved, expanded and upgraded

SaphoFor the first time in years IBM Notes and Domiono was, once again, the center of attention during an opening session. A lot of time was spent on it during Ed Brill’s presentation in part 2. He announced three partnerships with the companies Darwino, Aveedo and Sapho. All of them makes it possible to extend and refresh Domino applications. All of these give you the opportunity to stay on Domino, as well as combine your Domino app seamlessly with applications on other platforms without the need for development. I was especially impressed with Sapho.

In the session about the future roadmap for Notes and Domino, IBM also said that Notes and Domino would be updated via Feature Packs from now on (which basically means no Notes 10, folks). These will come out 3-4 times a year, and extend the features of both the Notes client, as well as the Domino server. It will be optional whether you want to install these and whether you want to enable the new functionality that is added in the feature packs. Security upgrades and bug fixes are also a part of the FPs.

Other news:

  • No more Notes client for Linux beyond 9.0.1 FP 7
  • 32 bit droppet for AIX and Linux servers
  • Template upgrades will be available as a separate download, so that you can use them without having to install the latest FPs

SwaggerAs for what is coming for both the Notes client and the Domino server, I will refer you to my blog posting about the very same subject from last year’s Connect. Yup, nothing has happened since then. But this year they actually showed us demos of most of the stuff you can read about it that blog posting. Last year they only talked about it. FP8, which will give you the ability to show email addresses as internet addresses, support Java 8 in the Eclipse framework and include email template upgrades will be released in March.

As you know, I love the IBM Connections plugins for IBM Notes. My 250 page long manual for the plugins will now have to be updated since CCM will get it’s own plugin! Yay! There’s even a plugin for Box, which I haven’t tested yet.

I spoke to one of the leading men in Xpages development, and he told me “Xpages is dead.” Personally I’ve never ever believed in Xpages, and I never bothered to learn it. “From now on I’m a web developer and a Javascript developer,” he said. And that is certainly what Stephen Wissel showed in his presentation, Beyond Domino Designer.

In the session he pointed out that you should leave the Domino designer and start learning Javascript frameworks like Angular, use Swagger as an API framework, become friends with node.js, make peace with command line tools, learn http and use clients like Postman to test http calls to REST APIs, separate front end and backend and test, test, test. This is pretty much how my previous employer modernised their IBM Notes solutions to lift them to the web and onto mobile.

Sapho 2The most exciting thing I saw when it comes to development of Domino based solutions was a product called Sapho. The product delivers a Facebook-like feed of data from your applications, both on Domino and a host of other platforms. I was amazed that every time someone asked the question “what if I need to do…,” Peter Yared, founder and CTO of Sapho, did it live, in the presentation, there and then! The product was incredibly easy to use, and you could fetch data from all kinds of data sources, including Domino. And you could of course write data back to the source as well.

So what does this mean? It means that you don’t need to migrate. You can keep your data on Domino, but at the same time add functionality to a Notes application which will run on web or on a mobile device. Or you could replace an entire Notes application, but still keep the nsf file on Domino. This is the future of Domino development folks! Spending loads of man hours on using the Domino REST API with Swagger, Angular and so on is incredibly complex, time consuming and complex. There are of course instances where you wouldn’t have much choice, but I think in most cases, a product like Sapho will solve your business needs.

I’ll wrap this up now. But you can still keep the Notes client and Domino, get new functionality, keep your applications and at the same time modernise them. In addition, you can give your users a choice when it comes to mail. They can use Notes, they can use iNotes (webmail), they can use Verse or they can use Microsoft Outlook. The mail is still in the same .nsf file on your Domino server.

IBM is opening up more and more to the outside world, and that is the main strategy these days, also in the future for Notes and Domino.

Stay tuned for more blog postings about stuff I’ve learned here at Connect 2017!

 

IBM ChampionsLast year I was quoted on Twitter saying “If you hated the word social, get ready to hate the word ‘cognitive’.” Boy is that word thrown out a lot by IBM these days. Not least the opening general session at Connect 2017 here at Moscone West in San Francisco.

This year the OGS was split in two. A wise decision, since they used to be too long at previous conferences. The session started with a DJ/singer who mixed music, both on her own and with Watson. She then invited the three lifetime IBM Champions up on stage, Gabriella Davis, Theo Heselmans and Julian Robichaux. After sampling their voices she had a bit of fun and mixed them into the music.

Inhi Cho, general manager of IBM Collaboration Solutions, then took the stage and talked about Watson and Cognitive, as well as about our community, which she joined last year. She is a really impressive presenter and it’s obvious that she is really knowledgeable about big data and cognitive. We were given a few demos of what’s coming with IBM Watson Workspace, as well as the way they are embedding Watson, Watson Workspace and cognitive into the ICS Portfolio.

In Connections, Sametime and Watson Workspace (there’s even an upcoming plugin for IBM Notes for this!), you can ask a robot for assistance as well as questions for help about topics. Look at this screen, for example:

Chip

Think of the possibilities here. New employees can get the information they need just by asking. We even got a demo where the presenters spoke into their microphone, and told the system to reschedule their meeting and inform the other participants about it. They also asked questions for help about certain topics, which was answered by the bot. The bot also replied, by audio!

Watson Workspace functions a lot like Slack. But as a lot of us know, the conversation becomes very cluttered, very fast. With the help of Watson and cognitive, you can simply ask for the highlights from the conversation. Watson knows what the highlights for you will be, based on your work habits, your interests and the general tone of the conversation.

Watson can also help you analyze your email,s blog postings, forum postings, comments, documents and wikipedia entries. All in all, everything shown are very impressive solutions. Now all IBM needs to do is to get them out there, promote them and get companies to use them…

Stay tuned for my summary of OGS Part 2.

Still in the US, but in a new city, on a new date and with a lot of new things you normally don’t associate with Lotusphere, now known as IBM Connect. The city is San Francisco and the location is Moscone West, a gigantic conference center in downtown San Francisco.

As Roxette said: – Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. So, I’ll get right to it. The first session I attended was the brilliantly named session “Your Mail is in the Cloud, What About Your Apps?”

This is a question that a lot of people are concerned with, because IBM has been heavily promoting companies to move their email to the cloud, and then start using IBM Verse. But most of us have a lot of applications running in Notes, which means we still got to run and administrate local Domino servers. Can these be moved to the cloud? Yes, turns out that they can. And IBM showed us how.

Some important points:

  • Files must be moved to the cloud and keep their original file path
  • Servers in the cloud have their own naming convention
  • SAML is used for authentication
  • If you use LADP you got to set up a solution that makes it possible to send requests back form the cloud to LDAP
  • You’ll need ID Vault

The process for moving is described in these images (click on them for a bigger version):

cloudcloudcloud

Most of us are responsible for gigantic .nsf-files with huge amounts of data. Personally I’ve been responsible for databases with a logical size of 100 GB. This is of course only possible through the use of DAOS, which stores the attachments, since an .nsf-file only can be as big as 64 GB.

How do you move all this data to the cloud? You could use good old fashioned Domino replication. This is going to take time, but it’s stable and very reliable. If you lose your internet connection, it will just continue when you get your connection back.

FTP: Quicker than replication, but it has to be monitored. And if you lose your connection, you need to start all over again.

Physical storage: Moving data via a hard drive, which you then ship off to the data center where they will copy it for you. This will take quite a bit of time, but you won’t have any problems with network connectivity.

Moving data online can take quite a bit of time, days even, so this must be planned in detail. Users will experience quite a bit of downtime if you don’t take advantage of weekends or holidays.

IBM calculates that this will take a couple of days. Before you start moving you must analyse and plan what applications you need to move. Some applications might not be needed anymore, or they could be replaced with other solutions.

When you’ve decided what applications you want to move, you have to go through them and check for stuff like

  • Hardcoded server names or databases
  • DBLookups and DBColumns that might create problems
  • ODBC and OS calls from Lotusscript

IBM can assist with all of these things via specialized tools.

And yes: You will be able to do this, even if you are running DAOS.