Hot skills: Lotus Notes and Domino

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Hot skills: Lotus Notes and Domino

What is it?

IBM's Domino server and Notes client are frequently treated as direct competitors to Microsoft's Exchange Server and Outlook. But while Exchange began as a messaging server, Notes and Domino originated as collaboration and application development platforms. They support calendaring and other groupware functions, but can also be used to develop client/server and web applications, particularly workflow and document-based. This may explain why analysts' figures for IBM's and Microsoft's shares of the messaging market differ so markedly, from giving the two suppliers near-parity, to awarding Microsoft a three-to-one advantage.

In August 2007, IBM announced Notes and Domino Release 8, with a move to the Eclipse development platform. Most Lotus announcements in the last year have concerned "Web 2.0" capabilities - RSS and Atom, representational state transfer (REST) application programming interfaces, mash-ups, social networking. A lot of businesses have been expressing enthusiasm about the potential for Web 2.0 technologies to cut IT costs and improve the quality of collaboration and feedback. Oddly, research by Forrester shows they are less convinced of the benefits of unified messaging, one of the main selling points of Exchange 2007 SP1.

Where did it originate?

Notes began in 1989 as a document-oriented database and workflow application development platform, with replication capabilities which supported collaboration between teams in remote locations and different time zones. IBM took over Lotus in 1995, acquiring Notes at release 4. Domino appeared with Notes 4.5 in 1996

What's it for?

As well as native development tools such as LotusScript and Domino Designer, Notes and Domino support development with Java and Javascript, Domino XML (DXML) and the .net framework, and there are toolkits for C and C++. As an alternative to the document-based NSF (Notes Storage Facility), DB2 can be used as the back-end database. Notes and Domino can be used to develop and run Web services. Other members of the Lotus family, such as Sametime integrated presence, IM, e-mail, telephony and web conferencing, and Quickr web-based team collaboration, can be plugged in.

Recent developments include Domino partitioning (running more than one instance on the same server), and Domino clustering for failover and load balancing.

What makes it special?

Replication enables Notes users to work offline using the most recent version of the Notes database, which is synchronised next time they go online to the server.

How difficult is it to master?

To become a Certified Associate Notes and Domino System Administrator involves a one-day training course and one exam, plus demonstrating hands-on competence. But there are different training "paths" for administering, deploying and managing Domino, and you must follow all three to become a Certified Advanced Domino Systems Administrator. Developers, on the other hand, can achieve certification on the basis of pre-existing JavaScript and web services skills, as an alternative to LotusScript.

Where is it used?

Domino and Notes users include industries that need document databases - such as pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals there is also a thriving sector of software houses developing Notes applications. Recent customers include Colgate Palmolive, the US FAA and IRS, and Verizon.

What systems does it run on?

Windows, AIX, i5//OS, z/OS, Linux.

What's coming up?

Lotus Notes Traveler provides mobile access for Windows mobile devices.

Rates of Pay

From £28,000 to £36,000 for Notes developers £32,000 to £38,000 for Domino administrators

Training

See Ibm's website for training and certification. There are free resources available.


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This was first published in September 2008

 

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