What is it?
Now described as "an integral part of the IBM Workplace family", the Lotus Domino server can either be used for e-mail and enterprise scheduling, as a custom application server, or both.
Domino competes with Novell's Groupwise and with Microsoft's Exchange. IBM and Microsoft have analysts permanently arguing over which has the better total cost of ownership. The most recent release, Domino 7.0, is claimed to support more users per server, and to reduce CPU usage by 25%.
Exchange users can migrate to Domino while continuing to use Microsoft Outlook. IBM claims to have brought over 1,500 Exchange-using organisations in 2004. Unlike Exchange, Domino also comes with a built-in programming platform and tools for custom application development. These are now open standards-based, in common with IBM's other development products. Thousands of third-party solutions are available for Domino users.
Where did it originate?
Lotus Notes appeared in 1989 as a collaboration and workflow product, and was hailed from the outset, although for several years nobody knew quite what it was.
Thousands of niche applications were developed, from conferencing and project management, to enterprise information systems and field workforce management.
The focus shifted to collaborative messaging when Lotus cc:mail was migrated to Notes, bringing a large user base with it. IBM took Lotus over in 1995, and later divided the product into Domino server and Notes client.
What is it for?
From their relatively simple beginnings as client and server, Notes and Domino have evolved into a portfolio of products based on messaging and collaboration.
Confusingly for those who have been following the products over the years, there are Domino rather than Notes clients for web mail and web access. There are Lotus products for mobile users, web conferencing, document and web content management, learning management, workflow and enterprise application integration.
What makes it special?
The latest release of the Domino Designer application development software introduced web services design and built-in support for Web Services Description Language (WSDL). Applications can be integrated with J2EE and Microsoft .net environments.
Lotus applications can now be DB2-enabled, and use SQL to access data in DB2 applications.
How difficult is it to master?
Where is it used?
In 2005 IBM claimed 20 million licences and 60,000 customer organisations, ranging from academic to public sector and commercial users.
What systems does it run on?
Linux, Windows, IBM's i5/OS and z/OS. among others.
What is coming up?
The Hannover release of Notes/Domino, previewed last summer and due later this year, introduces support for composite applications, which combine components from third party applications with Lotus applications.
Rates of pay
Salaries for Notes/Domino developers and administrators start at £25,000.
A good starting place when looking for Notes/Domino training is IBM's Lotus homepage.