IBM Domino support #3 - Responsibility and legacy

I’ve been accused of writing dribble, trying to dig up a story when none exists and a few comments on my postings about Lotus Domino support have even suggested I get a new job and a life.

IBM is a commercial company. It’s in the business to make money. And it makes money by selling software, hardware and services to its customers.

Whatever it does will affect customers and users – the people who buy, install, run and support IBM products in their companies. Some of its actions will be well received; some won’t.

Here on this website and Computer Weekly, a magazine I have been writing on since 1998, I have a responsbility to make sure the voice of the user is heard above all the marketing bumph.

Not everyone wants to move onto the latest thing, which probably annoys the pants off the sales people in big IT companies. So legacy software and hardware remain in use long after support has expired and people find ingenious methods to keep these things running.

So I don’t think it is at all unusual for companies to try to run unsupported software on new platforms. It’s not up to me to judge the wisdom of their IT configuration choices or the financial situation that has influenced their decisions.

If, as some commentators have said:

these [IT] companies don’t have the resources to maintain software that’s 5 years old. Priority is placed on new and improved software that will run on current OS’s.

And so it maybe unrealistic to expect IBM to support old software on a new OS like Vista, perhaps someone else can.

Now here’s a an idea for IBM. If you don’t want to support old versions, why not make the code open source and let other companies and your customers take a stab at supporting these products themselves.

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1. You never made it clear that the original article was from someone else.

2. You didn't bother to do a bit of research. You didn't even read the link you posted in the article to get your answer.

3. You don't explain how you passed that information on. Notes forums would of given you the answer.

4. Unsupported doesn't mean it won't run. It means if there are bugs from running in Vista then it won't be fixed or supported.

Based on the last two posts this is just clear trolling. Learn from your mistakes.

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Do you have a reference to the trouble-ticket you opened against IBM support?

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I think you simply know nothing about software and its business, notwithstanding your claim since when you have been writing for this magazine.

You say, "if you don't want to support old versions, why not make the code open source and let other companies and your customers take a stab at supporting these products themselves."

Really? Do you know the newer version of software typically evolves from older versions, and more often than not has significant amount of code from older version. Then, will that make sense to make old version open source? Wouldn't that mean letting go a lot of intellectual property that you are currently using in the software you are selling to make money? You would do it only if you want to become history.

No company is doing any wrong in not putting in effort to support old software on new platforms. It never committed itself to do. When any company sells you software, it very explicitly and clearly tells what you are buying, and till what time you can expect support. When that time expires, a company would evaluate how profitable is to support that old software further. Only if it makes business sense, it will pursue it. IBM

Any other business which buys anything from another business wouldn't expect the other business to do charity. Will it? So I am not sure, in the name of "user is heard", what your point is here.

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Even open source software has expected (and unexpected) end of life -- for example Ubuntu 7.10 will be supported (security and other updates will be available) until 2009 -- after which users should upgrade.

Maybe there is something you would really be better at writing about? Surly you must have interests in which you are actually competent?

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Good to see that expressing your opinion is still as popular as ever.

Never knew that IBM had such an impassioned and opinionated following. Though I guess if you read James Collins, Built to Last, they certainly have a type.

The quality and vitrol of these comments seems to be way out of perspective to the opinions expressed in the posts. Freedom of speech is a responsibility as well as a right. Only the minority of commentors seem to have observed this.

Oddly enough I would never have happened upon this blog if it wasn't reported by on here

But I'm glad I did. IBM has a lot, a lot, to be praised for, but one of its great, great failings is complacency. Both now and in the past. And yes, I speak from experience...

Cliff, I'm not surprised that they didn't respond to your request for information. If you'd been one of their major clients you can bet that you would have had a pile of excuses thrown at you before you got anywhere near some useful information. There's a guy in the system somewhere that knows the answer to your question, but 'damn-it!' its not in his JD to respond to poxy little out-of-support Qs.

Good luck!

Didn't know that Lotus Notes was even still going...

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Sadly you still don't get it. I don't care how long you have been writing you don't grasp very simple concepts. Maybe you have been writing so long you have lost touch with reality?

I have been reading your blog now and your not reading what you write. I read a post and then read the link and nothing you said matches. You get your facts wrong and you really have no grasp of IT or software life cycles. I like the reader who pointed out Ubuntu even gets software life cycles.

The reason Windows is so junkie is because you have to keep supporting old code. That is just bad for software. Big picture, if you running a 6.5 Domino Server or Client and you cant upgrade to 7.0 then we have much bigger issues than money. It's really a rather simple path to upgrade from 6.0 or 6.5 to 7.0 in most cases. There are plenty of people inside and outside of IBM that would help you for a small cost. Say under $1000 in most cases.

You seem to like to pick at nothing and make up issues. Again I am not impressed with your view of the world and neither should the web site that is hosting you, but then again you may feel the same way about me.

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This is late... but I'm going to comment anyway...

If IBM should open source Notes 6.5.6, then why shouldn't Microsoft open source Ms Word 95/2000 or 2003? I bet you've bought MS Office 2007 though?

You would've gotten the same non-response if you had asked any Software manufacturer about their 5 year old software on the latest MS operating system.

I can tell you this, Notes 8.0 will work with your 6.x server. Also check the Express offerings. The Notes client is very cost effective at a per user cost, and, you might be able to get your client upgraded - download the trial software and try it out (http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/lotus).

This would make a worthwhile blog entry (whether you liked the software or not).

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Cliff,

I was alerted to these entries and comments by Ed Brill's Blog. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an IBM Business Partner, I am also a Microsoft BP, Red Hat BP and BlackBerry Alliance Member and several other tech company's partner.

Although as an avid Notes/Domino user I am glad to see the people are in fact responding to these blog entries, I agree with Ed that it would have been more professional and probably less attack-ish had there been fewer anon responses.

You see, the fact that so many responses came is a good indicator that there is a very lively and thriving Notes Community that is quite frankly fed up with the FUD about Notes and Domino. That's good.

In response to your original and subsequent postings, I agree with many of the commentors, you should divulge the method with which you submitted your request and any follow up that you may have done. The big thing here is that unless IBM received your request, the response isn't late. In other words, if someone sends an email to a non-existent email address and no bounce back is provided (an anti-spam/phish technique) you have not actually sent an email.

So, I would like to know how you requested the support.

You mention that it is an economic issue, that you haven't (or your "reader" hasn't) upgraded, yet an upgrade was performed on the computer running the Operating System and Vista is not inexpensive. Perhaps it wasn't upgraded but installed new and there is still and economic component here. Not to mention regardless of upgrade or new, the hardware would most certainly have been upgraded as well. Vista doesn't play nice with old hardware.

So, I don't go for the economic aspect here.

If you posted your question to IBM technical support, that would imply that you have paid technical support, which would mean that you are licensed to run the latest version of Lotus Notes and be eligible for said support. You would also have had documentation that would instruct you on how to obtain said support. Again, if it is "on behalf" of your "reader", then you shouldn't expect a response either, the support is for the licensed user, not your friends and family. This applies to all of the major tech companies, it is not unique to IBM. If you simply sent an email and no one responded, maybe you sent it to the wrong person.

Cliff, it sounds to me like you were ticked that BIG Blue didn't respond to you as fast as you would like. Fair enough. What did you do to follow that up? Were you expecting by making that post that an IBM executive would respond to you personally and help you with your answer? Well, Ed Brill has responded twice and he's about as high up the IBM Executive ladder as you could expect for such an issue. I suggest that you contact him. He is someone that works for IBM that not only can, but will do what needs to be done to see that your issue is addressed.

Lastly Cliff, as I mentioned, I am also a Microsoft Business Partner. In March of 2007 we had an Exchange Server crash, hard. As a hosting Company, this is not good. Yes, we had all the support options paid for, we knew how to get support and we got a ticket number, etc. We had to pay $250 on the first phone call to our "paid" support line in order to get that ticket number, but it was 2:00am and we had several clients without mail.

Next week it will be 1 year, and not one single person (technical) has responded to that ticket. I had marketing people call me, I had accounting people call me as they figured out that I shouldn't have paid the $250 that I did pay, but I have not gotten an answer and I have never had a return phone call or email from a technical person.

After about 4 hours waiting and recalling Microsoft and being told we were in the queue and someone would call us, we called a local support organization and we eventually moved half of the clients to Domino as they didn't care what they used as long as they had mail and the other half were "upgraded", sorry, I mean we riped out the old infrastructure and gave them a new one, we have subsequently moved half of them to Domino as well.

I don't hold it against them, I didn't deduct the expense of the crash from our Partner dues or post a disparaging remark on a blog about them. I got the problem fixed and moved on. We are still a Microsoft Partner and will continue to be.

So, 24 hour response if it was Exchange, a) No, b) Unacceptable if it was.

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a rant against you as a journalist who should know better, etc... I don't care. It isn't a rant because you slammed IBM, I don't care, they are a big company, they probably didn't lose $1 from your posts and if they did, they will recover. I am just trying to expand on what others said and implore you to talk to Ed Brill, disclose your method of contacting IBM and understand that no one is going to support 4 or 5 year old software on a brand spankin' new OS. If you want support for a new OS, get the latest version of the product that you need. If it is so valuable, it's worth the upgrade. I personally know of people with paid Notes support that for whatever reason stayed on an unsupported version, called in for support and IBM said "We can't gurantee anything, but we will go through this with you". Some problems were fixed, others weren't. The point is that IBM supported the customer.

One other thing to consider Cliff, Notes has a history of being backwards compatible, i.e. if you have a Notes database that was created in version 1.0, it will still open and function in the currently released version 8.0.1. Please name me any other software application at least 10 years old that has that kind of support? Besides 123 ;-)

Regards,

--Pete

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Cliff, it seems to me that most software companies would be praised for supporting a two-and-a-half year old version of their product on a new OS, not criticized for the fact that they don't support the three-and-a-half year old version. But you choose to criticize IBM in exactly this circumstance.

The fact is that IBM does still support Notes 6.5.x. They have not yet announced an end-of-service date for that release, and they continue to support it on the set of platforms that it was developed and tested for. Vista is not included because IBM has decided that running code that is four years old through an extensive pass of regression tests on Vista is not cost-effective.

I don't work for IBM, and I have no inside knowledge of this, but it's a good bet that some of the automated test tools that they relied on four years ago for testing the 6.5.x code simply won't run on Vista. If true, that would mean re-implementing a massive suite of test scripts with new tools in order to run the tests that are required in order to give their support organization assurances that that they are not stepping into a rat's nest. Given a set of test plans that are four years stale and personnel turn-over, that re-implementation would likely as expensive as the initial implementation was! How many customers would really benefit from that? What revenue would this effort bring to IBM?

As you said, they're in the business to make money. Re Robin's comment that she didn't know Lotus Notes was still going, I believe it's now 12 consecutive quarters of revenue growth for the product. Clearly, they're doing a pretty good job of making money. And they've made a business judgment that it will cost them more to support the 6.5.x code on Vista platform than it will be worth.

So, lack of support for Vista is really far from a good reason for IBM to open source Notes 6.5.x, which is still currently supported code for a product whose license revenues are still very, very healthy -- and growing.

Not all customers will be happy with the fact that Notes 6.5.x doesn't run on Vista, but IBM is giving those customers two viable options. Customers who are deploying Vista can use either Notes 7.x or 8.x, and no upgrade to the Domino server infrastructure is required. 7.0 was released in 2005, is very stable, requires no significant new end-user training, and customers have had plenty of time to prepare for it. Certainly, any customer deploying Vista has had ample time to prepare for Notes 7.

BTW: IBM also has versions of the Notes client that are supported on Mac and Linux PCs. In fact, I challenge you to name a vendor that actively supports more versions of one client/server software product on more platforms and operating systems than IBM does for Notes and Domino.

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I really think you are dragging this out much longer than necessary. Firstly, you have not stated your method for contacting IBM. Was it through the correct technical support channels or contact through press channels as a journalist? The organisation I work for has always found the IBM Technical support in the UK to be extremely helpful, and they have always responded quickly.

I also don't think that there is a problem with 6.5.4 not being supported on Vista. Domino is so flexible that you can run pretty much any version of the Notes client, with any version of the server. I am currently running Vista with Notes 7.0.3 with a Domino 6.5.5 server. This means that IT departments are not forced into having to upgrade the servers in order to accommodate vista users.

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