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Notes and Domino 7 Now Shipping

IBM Lotus officials announced on Wednesday that the company is shipping version 7 of its Notes and Domino collaboration platform.

Lotus Notes 7 users will find more than 100 added features, including new visual indicators to help users organize and manage their inboxes by highlighting priority messages, and differentiating between group e-mails and messages targeted for specific users. Notes 7 will also automatically save and return to open documents and applications upon shutdown and restart.

Instant messaging and presence technology, already integrated in the Lotus Notes client, has been expanded to include e-mails and calendar items. The upgrade also adds improved access to large-scale databases and other back-end applications.

IBM officials pointedly positioned this latest release as more than a worthy competitor to what they view as Microsoft’s more-complicated collaboration tools strategy. “Customers are looking for more than just e-mail in their collaboration environment,” says Mike Rodin, general manager of IBM’s Workplace portal and collaboration business.

In support of their low-key jabs, the officials cited 500 customer wins against Microsoft in the first half of 2005, as well as the sheer volume of Notes and Domino already in place in a marketplace created 15 years ago by Lotus, as proof of the collaboration platform’s momentum.

“There are more that 120 million full licenses out there [cumulatively]," says Ken Bisconti, vice president of IBM's Workplace, Portal and Collaboration business. Domino/Notes sales also showed double-digit sales growth during the first half. More than 65 percent of IBM customers are building as many or more Lotus Domino-based applications this year than one year ago, he added.

"When considering a new platform to replace our aging Microsoft Exchange 5.5 environment, one of the most important elements was the long-term viability of the product," says Jim Tieri, director of IT at Holland Company, a railway manufacturing company based in Crete, Illinois. “As a [former] programmer, I didn’t want to be having to deal with a revolution every two years.”

Perhaps a little ironically, one new feature provides support for Microsoft Office 2003 “smart tag” technology.

Other new features include a new Web services design element that lets developers use Lotus Domino as a Web services host. Additionally, Lotus Notes and Domino 7 provide developers with the option of using either traditional NSF storage features or IBM DB2 as the foundation applications. New autonomic monitoring tools and the inclusion of Tivoli Analyzer technology aim to save customers money by automatically alerting administrators to potential performance issues before they occur, helping administrators maximize their IT resources.

The upgrade was not unexpected. IBM has been telling Workplace customers for some time to expect major upgrades of Notes and Domino every 12 to 18 months in order to help them plan ahead. To emphasize how large such a project is, officials stated that the product has grown to more than 20 million lines of code and that development work is now done on a round-the-clock cycle in various parts of the world.

“The overall total cost of ownership of Notes/Domino 7 should be 8 percent to 9 percent lower than that of Notes/Domino 6,” predicts a report from analysis firm Ferris Research. This is partly due to general performance improvements of as much as 25 percent on the same hardware and the ability to run 50 percent more users on a single server, according to IBM.

Big Blue officials also said IBM will give developers a preview of the coming “Hannover” release of Notes and Domino at Lotusphere 2006, to be held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in late January. If IBM sticks to its delivery schedule for releases, analysis firm IDC says to expect Hannover (possibly to be dubbed Notes 8) to come out in the first half of 2007.

IBM Lotus Domino server software starts at $1,145 per CPU, while IBM Lotus Notes starts at $101 per client. IBM Lotus Domino Web Access 7, IBM's Web-based messaging client, starts at $70 per client.

Lotus Domino 7 is currently available for Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003; IBM iSeries, zSeries (z/OS and Linux), AIX 5.2 or 5.3; Sun Solaris 9; and Linux (x86) -- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 8 or 9. IBM says that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and Sun Solaris 10 support will ship within a month. Lotus Notes 7 is available for Windows 2000 and XP, with Mac OS support planned for a future release.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.