Packet Rat: Rat watches the Domino fall

The Rat has often had to bridge various IT vendors' credibility gaps, but never has a gap gaped so wide as IBM Corp.'s over the future of Lotus Domino and Notes software.

The whiskered one and his fellow federal Lotus Notes sysadmins have worried about the brain drain out of Lotus for the past several years. The trend started when former president Jeff Papows flamed out like the Marine fighter pilot he falsely claimed to have been. IBM's assimilation of Lotus began in earnest with the subsequent arrival of career IBMer Al Zollar at Lotus' helm.

This year, Big Blue's strategy for the Lotus crown jewels'the Notes and Domino messaging and collaboration software'grew more and more baffling.

The Rat missed Lotusphere 2002, but he didn't miss the storm of developer rage after IBM announced it was going to leave out of Domino 6 the Java ServerPages engine based on the open-source Apache Tomcat servlet container.

Many Domino sites already had started building applications with the prerelease Domino 6 version known as Rnext.

The confusion mounted as Zollar, IBM software veep Steve Mills and various Lotus managers painted divergent futures for Domino. Some of them said Domino would be completely rewritten in Java with a data store in IBM's DB2 database management system, totally abandoning the Domino platform's legacy.

Others said that anything done to Domino would be additive'and that the old Domino Notes Storage Facility would live on to feed the thousands of applications that have been written for it.

So, with his agency's messaging strategy hanging in the balance, the Rat flew to San Francisco for IBM's developerWorks conference this month. He was hoping to get a straight answer. And he did, sort of.

IBM proclaimed that both of the announced road maps for Domino's future are accurate. The company will follow two different development paths for Domino: one based on a next-generation Java/WebSphere/DB2 rewrite and the other building on the current Domino product.

'Both?' the cyberrodent gasped to a Lotus official after the news broke. 'You're going to do both?'

'Yep,' said the smiling Lotusian. 'You can have your cake and eat it, too.'

The Rat had swallowed enough, er, cake. 'So at what point did all of you collectively lose your minds? Even Microsoft isn't developing two separate code lines any longer'at least not until the disgruntled states and the European Union get through with it.'

The Lotusian's blissful smile remained undisturbed. 'It's the best of both worlds. All our customers win.'

The whiskered one shook his head in pity. 'You have no idea where you're going to get all the coders it will take to do both lines, do you?'

'Not a clue,' replied the still-blissful Lotusian. 'And I don't care. I'm going to work for Groove Networks next week.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected]

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