Lotus Workplace 2.0 Thoughts

September 19 2004

After 2 days (Day 1 notes / Day 2 notes) of Lotus Workplace 2.0 training, here are my thoughts about the class and Lotus Workplace 2.0

The Training Class and the Lotus Innovation Center at the IBM Plaza Building in Chicago

The Class

The class felt more like a 2 day Lotusphere session then one of the Notes/Domino certification classes. It was lots of slides and then very structured labs to get some hands on experience with Lotus Workplace. Now, we only had 2 days, so the labs were pretty basic. All of the API Labs were 'done' except for a couple of exports for WSAD and then selecting the right options in Lotus Workplace or Websphere Portal administration screens. Not that I didn't learn anything, I just had the expectation of writing more code.

Lotus Workplace was running on a single demo box. The boxes were pretty beefy ... 2.2 GHz Xeons with 2 gigs of ram. But the boxes were running:

  • IBM Directory Server for LDAP
  • DB2
  • IBM Websphere Application Server
  • IBM Websphere Portal Server
  • IBM Lotus Workplace 2.0

Also installed and used at various times was:
  • IBM Lotus Domino 6.5.1 Server
  • Websphere Studio Application Developer

At one point, we had all of that stuff running, and it was slow. But this software was never designed to run on a single box in a production environment, and this was just a class. But it took a long time to do some of the first actions, like pulling up the directory. whew.

The instructors

I separated out these as two items because my comments about the class and the Innovation Center should not impact my thoughts on Lotus Workplace. The instructors did seem to know what they were presenting, but in terms of being shown what we were going to go thru. I noticed a couple of stumbles and mistakes from the information I get from other business partner sources, but overall they really tried hard to teach us. And they were willing to go back to development and marketing with questions.

Innovation Center

I think I shocked them when I was not pleased that there was one kiosk with outside internet access for 10 people. Being disconnected from the outside world for 2 days is never a good thing ... too much builds up. So I had to push for internet access, and we got it. Overall, the Innovation Center and what it offers is a great thing, I just need to figure out how to take advantage of it more.

Lotus Workplace 2.0

Before I start this, I should put some frame of reference around how I am going to review the product. I have used Lotus Workplace 2.0 before this class. PSC had access to an install of LWP 2.0 for evaluation that I did. I also have lots of exposure to IBM Websphere Portal, which I think is the proper product to compare LWP to right now. I am not a Portal expert, but I do OK.

The best thing about the class was there was no argument on how to position Lotus Workplace 2.0. If your an existing Domino shop, or Domino is being targeted to your organization, Lotus Workplace is not for you! It is only a 2.0 product, in it's third generation (OK, second if you want to consider it a platform), so it has the characteristics of one. Those who remember Notes 2.0 or WAS 2.0 remember the growing pains. Lotus Workplace is at that stage. A new product that is trying to prove itself and get a foothold.

Lotus Workplace bring many of the 'application' like features we are familiar with in Notes and bring them to a Portal-like world. Mail, Calendar, Team Workspaces, Document Management, Instant Messaging, and Web Conferencing are not new applications, but being designed and built on top of a Portal like infrastructure is a new direction. These applications are not feature compatible with their cousins in the Domino world, but they are still brand new. They will mature over time. There is a huge audience for these applications, but the learning curve for using a new product is very high. Installation is a severe problem that IBM must address immediately.

The application that is going to drive LWP initially is going to be the Learning component, which is taking over as the future of LMS and LearningSpace. Those in the learning world need to get their hands around LWP Learning.

The Rich Client technology is interesting. You can see this as the best of the Notes client with the best of new technology. The provisioning of the client is the big leap. Every time the client connects to the server, it checks to see what applications you have access to. New applications and changes to existing ones are pushed automatically. This is all done via Synchronizing. How much is the bet that this gets called Replication by us Notes old-timers :) It is based on SyncML. Neat technology, but extremely heavy. I hope IBM realizes that many rural hotels and homes still do not have broadband. It will be interesting to watch the client evolve as it shares technology with the Notes client as we head towards the eventual merge of the clients.

The hardware issue does not phase me. If you are using IBM Websphere Portal today, you are going to have physical servers for Portal, WAS, DB2, Sametime, QuickPlace, Domino, and an LDAP server if your not using Domino. That is 6 servers. And I am talking about production, high availability, large number of user implementations. So for those customers, the server consideration for Lotus Workplace will not phase them ... its actually less hardware! Now, that is quite a bit of hardware, and IBM should address it, but it is not as big a problem as many make it out to be. Yes, small customers will not even consider Lotus Workplace because of this, but Lotus Workplace 2.0 is not targeted at them. So the server issue is not something I see as being that big a deterrent. Good news is that it looks like some of the install issues with 2.0 are being fixed in 2.0.1, which was just made available for download last Friday.

On the development side, Lotus Workplace is a huge jump for the typical Domino developer. For Websphere Portal and J2EE developers, the jump will not be so great. This is why the Lotus Workplace Developer client, which has not been shown publically yet, needs to be released ASAP. IBM, please show this at Lotusphere and commit to a LWP 3.0 release for the developer, along side the rich client.

For ISV's, the need to understand J2EE is now in your face. IBM needs to fix the templates in LWP to be packaged and distributed, but ISVs who want to build applications on top of Lotus Workplace will need to be able to write portlets, servlets, and beans. If you do not have those skills in house, time to get them.

Overall I am very excited about Lotus Workplace as a product and a set of technologies. There is much to be done, but it is a great start. IBM has to make sure the message that this is not a Notes/Domino replacement is trumpeted from every building top. LWP 2.5 should give us all of the APIs for ISVs to really start customizing. And hopefully IBM has something up their sleeves in terms of an Express version for the SMB market. I still believe many Medium sized companies will not really balk at the hardware requirements, but the small market will not even touch it.

So that's it. Interested in what others have to say .. and please, if you want to take shots at Lotus Workplace, please at least have seen the product running live.