Notes users can spread their skills

In the SSL/CW list of IT skills, Lotus Notes is number 49

In the SSL/CW list of IT skills, Lotus Notes is number 49

What is it?

Notes and Domino are the client and server portions of the IBM Lotus messaging and collaboration solutions. As a messaging platform, Notes and Domino compete most directly with Microsoft Exchange, and IBM and Microsoft each have a stable of analysts ready to demonstrate that one or the other offers the best functionality and the lowest total cost of ownership.

But Notes and Domino have a much wider range of applications including workgroup co-ordination, document management, online training and enterprise application integration, with Notes functioning as a single front-end for mixed-supplier ERP and database applications.

Where did it originate?

Lotus arrived in 1983 with the 1-2-3 spreadsheet, which rapidly replaced Visicalc as the most widely used PC application. Notes appeared in 1989. In 1995, Lotus became part of IBM's software group. IBM now claims 90 million Notes client users.

What is it for?

In its early years Notes was widely admired, but nobody quite knew what to do with it. Software houses and in-house enthusiasts developed thousands of niche applications with it, including executive information systems, marketing databases and field workforce management systems.

The focus shifted to messaging when Lotus cc:mail was migrated to Notes, which also greatly enlarged the user base. There are now desktop, web and mobile versions of the Notes client. Mobile users can download the applications and data they need and work offline, or access the corporate Domino server from any PC, keeping their personal profile.

What makes it special?

Most, though not all elements of the Notes and Domino family are available across a range of operating systems and hardware platforms, from personal digital assistants to mainframes and Linux to Windows 2003 and XP.

The Domino Designer IDE includes the Lotus Formula programming language and Lotusscript, but developers can also work with Java and Javascript. The replication capabilities mean that project members in different timezones can co-ordinate their work.

There are Lotus Enterprise Integrator connectors for DB2, Oracle RDBMS and applications, Sybase, SAP and PeopleSoft. Notes and Domino are also tightly integrated with IBM's Websphere and Tivoli.

How difficult is it to master?

There are four-day foundation courses for developers and administrators, but to reach certification you need to pass at least three exams, demonstrating working capability based on experience.

Where is it used?

In larger businesses, usually - though not exclusively - IBM platform users. They include Coca-Cola, Earls Court and Olympia Group, publisher John Wiley, Manchester Airport and Flintshire Council.

What systems does it run on?

Different parts of the Notes and Domino family run on Windows 95, 98, XP, NT4, Windows 2000 and 2003, AIX, Solaris, Linux and IBM's zSeries mainframes and iSeries (formerly AS/400).

What is coming up?

Full integration of Lotus instant messaging (Sametime) within all applications; consolidation of end-user access in a web portal; and "wall-to-wall" Linux for all Notes and Domino products.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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