Lotus Unveils New Domino, Revamped Collaborative Tools

R6 is Lotus’ first Domino release in three years.

IBM Corp.’s Lotus Software Group on Tuesday officially took the wraps off of the long-awaited Release 6 (R6) of its Notes and Domino messaging and collaboration products. Lotus also used the occasion to unveil updates for its Sametime and QuickPlace collaborative products.

Lotus last refreshed Notes/Domino almost three years ago. Alan Lepofsky, offerings manager for Lotus software, acknowledges that the expectations and concerns of customers have changed since Lotus shipped R5.

“Customers want to be able to consolidate multiple Domino servers,” he points out. “They want to be able to support different [versions of] Domino on [system] partitions, especially when they’re planning migrations. We’re going to make it possible for them to do these things.”

To that end, Lepofsky touts Domino R6’s enhanced support for server consolidation, along with its new tools for policy-based administration, as merely two of the strategies by which Lotus proposes to reduce Domino’s total cost of ownership.

“One customer was able to move from 28 different data centers down to two because they’re moving to new AIX hardware and Domino R6,” he notes.

To facilitate migrations from existing Domino R5 systems, Lotus in Domino R6 will for the first time support version coexistence among different releases of Domino, Lepofsky confirms. “One of the things that we’ve done for the non-Wintel platforms, for the larger hardware platforms, [is that we have provided] the ability to have different levels of Domino code existing across multiple partitions.”

According to James Kobielus, a senior analyst with consultancy The Burton Group, a coexistence strategy of this kind is virtually a requirement in a space in which customers have traditionally moved very slowly to adopt new versions of messaging and collaboration groupware.

“I don’t have the figures in front of me, but I do know that it took more than two years for a quarter of Lotus’ installed [Domino |R4] base to upgrade to R5,” he points out. “This probably won’t mean that Domino [R5] users are going to run out and upgrade to R6, but it could mean that they’ll be more likely to evaluate it [in tandem with their existing implementations].”

As a result of Notes’ new compression capabilities, Lepofsky argues, IT environments can reduce Notes-to-Domino-related traffic on their networks by 35 to 50 percent. Compression also results in a reduction of Domino server-to-server network traffic of 25 to 30 percent. This had the added benefit of helping customers to consolidate Domino servers, Lepofsky argues. “The [number] of users they can get on to a given machine has been dramatically improved because of things like [network compression].”

Finally, Lepofsky says, Domino supports a new encryption algorithm that can substantially reduce the size of the data that it collects and stores on disk. “This results in an actual reduction in the amount of data that resides on your server, so you can reduce the amount of disk space in your environment. Depending on what files are attached to [Notes] documents, we’re seeing up to 40 percent [reduction].”

Lotus is also incorporating support for spam blacklisting into Domino R6. What this means, says Burton Group’s Kobielus, is that Domino will be able to refuse e-mail traffic sent from the domains or IP address ranges of known spammers. “Lotus is very much telling the market that they take spam very seriously.”

Revamped Collaboration Tools

Lotus also introduced Sametime 3.0, its instant messaging (IM) and collaboration product. New in the Sametime 3.0 IM Gateway is support for the Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE) protocol, which Lepofsky says makes it possible for Sametime to interoperate with other IM products that support the SIMPLE standard.

Paradoxically, suggests Burton Group’s Kobielus, this means that users of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP client environment—which ships with a SIMPLE-enabled IM client, MSN Messenger—can exploit SIMPLE capabilities in Lotus Sametime 3.0 that are currently unavailable in Microsoft’s Exchange 2000 messaging and collaboration server.

“Microsoft had the first SIMPLE-enabled client product on the market with Windows XP, but unfortunately Microsoft had not implemented that [SIMPLE] stack under Exchange or under its MSN Messenger service,” he observes.

Elsewhere on the collaboration front, Lotus’ QuickPlace 3 will ship with a Java- and XML-based API that now makes it possible to embed team collaboration capabilities in Web applications.

Lotus Touts Massive Notes/Domino Deployments

Although he acknowledges that Wintel remains Domino’s single largest platform in terms of individual servers, Lotus’ Lepofsky claims that several of his company’s customers—DaimlerChrysler, among them—are supporting massive Notes/Domino deployments of 100,000 or more users on high-end Unix hardware. In this regard, he claims that Domino’s ability to run across heterogeneous platforms—including IBM’s own iSeries minicomputers—gives it a substantial leg-up over the competition.

“Our larger customers who are in our 100,000 user club (we have 18 to 20 of these)—those huge customers are going to be not on Wintel, because it just can’t support implementations that large,” he says.

In addition, Lepofsky says Domino’s shared-nothing clustering capabilites --which make it possible to fail-over from one server to another across a wide-area network—remain unmatched by its closest competitor, Microsoft.

“In the Domino environment, clustering is the true failover and fault recovery of an entire server,” he says, stressing that Lotus can also support failover between heterogeneous operating systems. “We can cluster an AS/400 and a Linux box, and failover [from the one to the other].”

New Pricing Model

Starting in January, Lotus will begin pricing Domino on a per-CPU basis. For the moment, Domino R6 will be available for $894 per server—$2,308 per server for Domino Application Server. Both will require a Notes or iNotes client access license (CAL) for users, Lepofsky acknowledges. Lotus also markets a Domino Utility Server which, despite a cost of $11,750 per CPU, doesn’t require CALs.

Lotus’ Sametime and QuickPlace collaborative apps are priced on a per-user basis at $38 and $39, respectively.

According to Marcel Nienhuis, a market analyst with messaging consultancy Radicati Group, Lotus currently boasts a lower initial acquisition cost than its closest competitor, Microsoft Exchange. While he won’t speculate as to how Lotus’ revamped pricing model will impact its TCO, Nienhuis does indicate that the two messaging platforms will continue to be “neck-and-neck” in terms of cost.

“We did a TCO study last year, and we have Lotus a little bit cheaper than Microsoft on the acquisition cost, but it’s also more costly to manage Lotus than it is to manage Microsoft. Over a three year period, we found that the TCO difference between them both was $3.”

Radicati Group estimates that collectively, Lotus and Microsoft control 80 to 85 percent of the enterprise messaging market. At the time of its last count, Nienhuis confirms, Radicati found that Microsoft had surpassed Lotus for the first time in the total number of client licenses.

“The new release of Lotus might maybe change things or shift things in favor of Notes, but as of now, we have Microsoft ahead by a few million [seats],” he says.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.