It’s all about J2EE and Web services

One important attraction of Workplace, says Jim Russell, director of application development tools for Lotus, is the ability to retrofit Domino applications to participate fully in next-generation application architectures. Notes and Domino are very powerful, Russell says, but they were designed before mass acceptance of Web services and the advent of service-oriented architectures. For customers who wish to expose their Notes and Domino collaborative applications as Web services, or who want Notes and Domino to be part of an SOA, Russell argues that Workplace and its J2EE-based WebSphere underpinnings are just the ticket.

'Domino is still the most cost-effective e-mail system on the planet, and it also has very good productivity for the team-based applications, but Workplace is bringing sort of the enterprise characteristics to this, the J2EE integration, the building on top of the WebSphere portal,' Russell says. 'Using the portal, we have connectivity to SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft, and Domino—and you can tie in those applications as portlets into your Workplaces, so that you have access to that information, and at the same time, you have access to people awareness.' What this means, he says, is customers can tap Workplace to expose Domino collaborative applications to SAP, Siebel, and other systems: 'This lets [users] see who is online at the moment, and at the same time have access to the team-based documents they need for their particular environment.'

Canned connectivity a courtesy
There is, on paper anyway, a slight problem with this vision: It could just as easily include Domino, to the exclusion of Workplace. After all, Workplace’s canned connectivity to SAP, Siebel, and other application systems is delivered courtesy of the WebSphere Portal, not because of any tooling IBM built into Workplace. And, IBM has promised to deliver enhanced support for Web services in Domino 7, due this year. More to the point, IBM bundles a version of WebSphere Portal with Domino. Why couldn’t existing customers use this to link their Domino collaborative with SAP, Siebel, and PeopleSoft systems on the back end?

It’s a nice thought, Russell concedes, but it just won’t work. 'Domino includes the [WebSphere] Portal, which includes connectivity to SAP and Siebel and PeopleSoft, but this [connectivity] is only available as part of the portal extended package,' he explains. 'The reason we have WebSphere Portal in the Domino package is so that you can basically take Domino Web applications and put them together in portlets. It’s to enable further reach for your Domino applications by making them accessible through browsers.'

But couldn’t Domino customers just license an extended version of WebSphere Portal that comes bundled with adapters for SAP, Siebel, and PeopleSoft? And if that’s the case, why doesn’t IBM give customers the option of purchasing an extended version of WebSphere Portal along with Notes and Domino? 'It would be sort of a packaging question, whether that particular packaging contains the access to SAP and PeopleSoft and so forth. In the context of what you get with Domino, that would not be in the package. The Domino package is about integrating the Domino applications themselves,' Russell comments.

For this reason, many Notes and Domino developers are suspicious of IBM’s Workplace strategy. 'I like that [Workplace] promises to take advantage of new technology standards, but honestly, they could have built that functionality into Domino,' says Jimmy Ray, a Notes and Domino developer. 'It all stems from the IBM flagship product [being] Websphere. Workplace is Websphere and Domino is not.'

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor. He can be reached at [email protected].