IBM Connect 2017 #3: I’ve Seen The Future of Domino and it is Sapho

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!


34 thoughts on “IBM Connect 2017 #3: I’ve Seen The Future of Domino and it is Sapho”

    1. Yeah, that price is insane, and I told them so. The reply was that they would look into it. My guess? It will be a part of the license from IBM.

        1. They’ve already included products from other strategic partners into their portfolio, which you would normally have to pay for (for instance from Panagenda). And: I think they see this as an opportunity to keep companies on the platform, which means more license revenues, since nobody is using Xpages.

          I might be completely wrong, though.

          1. You are completely wrong about nobody using XPages and Panagenda is, to my knowledge, the only example of IBM ever including a useful 3rd party tool in a licence.

          2. @Sean Cull: It might the be the first time (I don’t think so, but I’m not in a position to google about it right now) but it does show that IBM is changing course and opening even more up to other products to keep people on their platform.

            As for Xpages… I’ve had this debate for almost a decade now. People have been claiming that Xpages is going to save Domino and all that stuff. Compared to the number of Domino installations there are out there, compared to how many who are lifting Domino applications to the web without migrating, almost nobody is using it. Seriously, the percentage is very low.

            However, that point is moot. When a guy like Paul Withers, the king of Xpages, tells you to your face that “Xpages is dead,” you know it’s over.

          3. XPages will be alive long beyond 2017 and has an audience for many developers. The reducing releases from IBM has been a challenging factor, and there is only so much purely open source projects can provide. The number of XPages sessions at user-groups and XPages-specific open-source projects has reduced, but the demand for XPages training has increased and questions on StackOverflow continue. I still support Notes Client applications. I suspect I will be supporting XPages applications for some time (I think you underestimate the number of customers who have used it, from what I’ve seen). I will continue answering on StackOverflow where I can (over 4500 questions there although many still use the IBM forums). And I will be involved in XPages open source projects like XPages OpenLog Logger. As an OpenNTF Board Member and consumer, I’m more than aware of the frustration of projects that go into a black hole or just stop working. I don’t want that to happen for my projects and I would be very upset if anyone stopped using those projects because they thought I was just going to walk away from them.

            As you say, development elsewhere is more time-consuming and this will be the single biggest reason XPages apps continue to be in production long into the future. I have XPages applications with lots of SSJS still being used heavily because they work perfectly well, even though personally I would prefer to have redeveloped them with Java. I’ve been developing with Vaadin for a few years now and did a blog post about using Vaadin with Domino – it’s still been slower to develop with. I’ve been a big fan of it, but still never done a customer project with Vaadin. JavaScript frameworks change even more rapidly, arguably destructively so – enterprise organisations will be unwilling to redevelop all their apps every few years. The cost of re-development, not to mention administration costs, will prevent many customers from moving away from XPages as it has stopped many moving away from the Notes Client. Application migration products have been available for some years, but they do not appear to have made a major impact on the market, even last year. REST with an alternative front-end may be an easier sell, if it does not require additional infrastructure costs.

            For anything else to replace XPages for developers – even for anyone who’s stepped beyond Domino Designer – there is a much steeper learning curve than there was or is for XPages. XPages allows developers to use Domino Designer alone, and many are not familiar with any other development IDE. Indeed most of my exposure has been from open source projects and an investment of personal time that many are unwilling to make. XPages documentation has been criticised, but it’s better than a lot of the non-Domino documentation and training I’ve seen and fought with. The roadmap I did for XPages in September 2015 started with pre-requisites like HTML and CSS, which some Domino developers are still not familiar with and which XPages does a lot to make easier (e.g. pickers for styling that can then be exported). Many XPages applications I’ve built have used little or no JavaScript, but it will be required beyond XPages, unless Java frameworks are involved (and many developers are resistant Java). That roadmap, even then, recommended looking at other Java or JavaScript frameworks as well because, as you’ll be aware from Connections, few have just embedded XPages in current Connections, it doesn’t look like XPages can be used for Verse extensibility, and can’t be used beyond the Domino server in e.g. Darwino. But then again, many customers and developers will not be interested in those products.

          4. Thanks for a great, and lengthy, answer @Paul Withers. I know I can come off as very “it’s either this or that!” at times, so it’s good that you can come with great information to balance the scales.

            As for the usage of Xpages, my opinions are most likely coloured by the Norwegian market, where the usage is very low.

            Looking forward to what you will be doing in the future. And yes, Javascript libraries are a pain. Just when I had started to handle Angular, Angular 2.0 is announced, and it will have very little to do with Angular 1.

          5. Sean Cull is correct – you are completely wrong with regard to XPages usage.

            I look at and I see there are almost 94,000 downloads of the XPages Extension Library to date. I know that “Mastering XPages” is the best selling IBM Press tech book of all time. The XPages team fixes PMRs for real customers all over the globe… these are some of the facts.

        2. @Martin: But since the last update in June last year, 3034 have downloaded it. If I compare this with the number of downloads in some php- and JS open source projects I’m downloading, which had the triple of that in just a week, it’s not much.

          However, there are of course fewer people developing solutions on Domino, so 3034 might be a lot in percentage. I’ll try to not be so cocky in the future when I say “nobody uses it.”

          When the Norwegian user group have arranged Xpages seminars and classes, the interest has been low. And none of my customers are even considering it. But the interest might be a lot bigger in other countries.

          I do however wonder why IBM isn’t pushing it, if there is a market for it. Instead, they promote third party products to keep people using Domino for data storage for web based solutions. I thought this was the main thought behind Xpages when it was introduced.

          1. Sticking to the original point – ““nobody uses it” – is not so much cocky as just plain wrong 🙂

            XPages Ext Lib download numbers can be tricky to interpret – they would be larger overall if we did not re-integrate its contents into the core Notes/Domino releases periodically and thus obviate the need for people to download the open source version for periods of time. So for example, the upcoming 901 FP8 will have the aggregation of all Ext Lib updates since 9.0.1. Also, each individual releases have a particular feature set which may only interest part of the community, e.g. Bootstrap enhancements.

            Some of the other points you raise are more the domain of Offering Management than Development per se.

          2. Okay, Martin! Thanks for the feedback! I’ll try and not be so…err..categorically about Xpages in the future. 🙂

            The more ways to take advantage of Domino, the better. So don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish Xpages bad. It’s just my impression has been that it’s not widely used and I was surprised that it was hardly mentioned in the road map.

    2. The link you provided to Saphos now says “Legacy integration $25,000 each*” as well as $4 per user per month.
      As for X-Pages – as an IBM Trainer for Domino. Websphere. Connections, etc, I can’t remember the last time I’ve taught an X-Pages class.

      1. The legaci integration price is insane. I really hope they change that. At least here in Europe, with much smaller companies, that’s a big price tag to pay.

        As for Xpages: I took part in several panel discussions at Engage last week. And the consensus was pretty clear: Don’t bother learning Xpages.

  1. REST services, MVC framework, no Domino Designer, microservices and no XPages. I guess we have been ahead of our time over 5 years ago. Never like how XPages was implemented and I am glad we never went that route. Domino has always allows all the above from the very beginning when it became a Web server. Same for everything that MongoDB and others do now and that was over 27 years ago or was it 26.

    1. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve also done it in the way you guys have, but I can foresee that products like Sapho, if they become more affordable, would be the way to go for a lot of companies. Certainly some of my clients.

  2. Can you please elaborate a bit more on “No more Domino for iSeries”? This is concerning as we’ve been running Domino on iSeries for years.

    1. It basically means that none of the updates and feature packs that are coming in the near future will be released for iSeries. IBM no longer plans to support Domino on this platform. You can of course continue running Domino on iSeries, but you will not get any upgrades in the future.

      The same goes for the linux version of the IBM Notes client.

  3. By the way…thanks for the great recaps. I’ve been going to Lotusphere and Connect for years but no more…I also read the post on Connections. V6 sounds rather boring but I’m loving the thought of Connections being rebuilt from the ground up and NOT running on WebSphere!

    1. Thanks. My pleasure. Personally I love what’s coming in Connections 6.0, and I agree. No more friggin’ Websphere. Man, Websphere sucks!

    1. Hmm, ok. Strange, I could be sure that they said it wouldn’t be continued. Ok, Jim, seems like Christoph has calmed your nerves there. I’ll correct the blog posting. Thanks, Chris.

  4. Just to clarify we did not drop IBM I from Domino support. It is still fully supported on this release and will be as long as this release is supported. Thank you for removing that statement from your blog.

    As for XPages, it is not dead either. It was not mentioned explicitly in the session on Application modernization due to time constraints. We wanted to cover the new announcement and devote as much time on the API demo as needed. Martin had a separate session devoted to XPages and app dev delivery in the new Feature Packs. I will admit the message came across in a fragmented way and was not very clear. Going forward, we will be tying the N/D FP roadmap, Verse On-Premises, and the App Dev strategy with XPages included, into a single consolidated message. We now have significant investment into the entire platform and can tell it in a holistic story.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Barry. If course I removed the part about iSeries from my blog posting when I learned it was a misunderstanding on my part. As for Xpages, I feel the message did indeed come across a bit… ambivalent. I was told yesterday that one of the presenters had said after Connect that he had removed a slide or two about Xpages. I think if it had been included, it would have made things a bit clearer. I realise that Xpages is one of the many paths one could take when it comes to Domino, but I think that it has much less enthusiasm around than just a few years ago. I was a bit optimistic when it became supported on Bluemix, and had hoped it would be more prominent in the roadmap presentations for Domino. I’ve edited the blog posting now to clarify that the point about Xpages is IMO.

  5. I heard from a co-worker yesterday that a group in our company that deals with vendor contracts received an official letter from IBM that they would no longer be supporting Domino/Notes in any respect after 2020 I believe, but we did buy an extended support contract for an additional 2 years. This was shocking to me as nothing I have found says this to be true. I think the letter is being taken out of context and used as a way to migrate to Microsoft 360 for mail, DB2 as the backend, and Java/BPA as the UI.

    Can anyone comment on whether IBM is indeed not supporting Domino/Notes after 2020?


    1. This is the first I’ve heard of this. IBM has said that they will support IBM Domino until at least 2021, but that this doesn’t mean they will abandon the platform after this. Realistically Domino will for most companies be a thing of the past by then, but IBM has not said what you’ve been told here.

  6. It’s funny to read all the speculation from the perspective of February 2018. With the Domino2025Jams, we are now expecting new releases at least through 2025, and therefore support at least through 2030. And 901FP10 has been released — for iSeries. Let me also say that I have a ton of enthusiasm for Xpages, especially with the Bootstrap theme and with data bound to MVC-style Java. Xpages are a quick but powerful path to mobile-enabling legacy apps.

    1. We have a saying in Norway that you can predict everything, except the future. So let’s see. All I can say is what I see happening in Norway. And there’s little to none use of Xpages, and one IBM customer after the other moves on to Office 365.

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