after posting a short rant on facebook and the reactions thereabout regarding the debate about the future of Domino, I feel that I have to express myself in a bit more details than the one-line-rant on facebook.
The market as I see it currently with my customers
Customers are moving away from IBM Notes as an email platform. This has been happening for a while now but started to increase some more over the last year. Where are they heading ? Microsoft mostly. Most of them on-prem, some cloud but rare occasions.
My experience ? This decision is driven top-down by management, mostly goes along with iPhones as the mobile platform of choice. "We buy standard products" is what I hear most of the time. The migration tools for that are somewhat straight forward and are working well. IT is hoping to get some quiet time now after everyone is on Outlook and iPhones then but hey - guess what, not going to happen. Now, different people complain so you still have your share of negativity about personal productivity tools but now with a different spin. "If we would have gone to O365 and let Microsoft handle our IT it would be perfect, our IT guys are just so not cuttting it !". So again, the CIO is not a happy bunny. Now, is IBM Verse (on-prem) helping IBM and the CIO here ? I doubt it. For me, it's too little, too late. That's water under bridges now.
On the application front, things are a lot more difficult. Only a couple of customers made the move the "webify" their apps and digested XPages as the vehicle. Some made the strategic decision for XPages and are pretty happy with it, others, and this is the biggest part, are just running their Notes Apps as is as long as Domino is around. Some applications simply die off and that's a good thing - some customers run Notes Apps for 15-20 years unchanged, guess how these look like. It's the good, the bad and the ugly about this platform - invest once and run it for years without changes. It's a blessing and a curse. Will those customers use XPages ? Probably not. Will they use migration tools to move the data ? Probably not. And for a lot of customers the Notes Client is just good enough, believe it or not. Are all these applications worth enhancing or migrating ? No. A lot of them are "groupware", sort of an Excel Sheet on steroids. They live for a certain time and then they are kept some more time for reference and eventually they die off. Like a Community in IBM Connections. That's not a bad thing, that's what they are supposed to. But there are other applications that are a totally different breed - strategic business applications. And there are a lot on N/D out there still.
Some of these strategic applications might get migrated / tried to be migrated to SAP, Salesforce, etc., but these are cumbersome and daring attempts, especially if you have complex applications that span business processes and complex workflows and business logic. BTW., I don't buy the notion "the value is in the data". The value is in the data AND the process. A companies process is part of the asset and part of the unique way of doing business. There is no asset other than data in an address database of a CRM. But in a multi-tenant, multi-language, multi-national proposal workflow there is. And rebuilding this process in a standard tool from Salesforce, SAP or Microsoft is a complex, sometimes not doable effort, at least costwise. That's why these projects are taking longer and are getting more and more expensive. It's not because of the data and the data structures but because you as a business division have to decide whether and to what extend your own way of doing business (that differenciates you from your competition) has to obey to the standard platform your CIO and senior management try to force down your throats. In the end, this mostly isn't a migration issue but a "target-platform-not-working-for-us" problem, meaning more cost and more customizing than initially expected. And trust me, I have seen this pattern a lot.
Is there business in the Notes Client based area ? Yes, but it's declining. Is there business in XPages and Web Application Development with the Domino platform ? Absolutely, and for us, this is a growing segment for new customers as well, especially in SMB and larger mid market customers who like to have individualized and tailored business processes and integrated IT systems without spending a fortune. Is that on prem or cloud ? Both and hybrid as well. Do we solely rely on Domino as our app platform of choice ? No, of course not. We, like many other consulting companies like to pick the right tool for the right problem to tackle.
The IBM partner ecosystem from my point of view
In a declining market segment, companies are looking for alternatives. We at SIT do that, every other IBM partner does that. Everybody has to find their niche to make a living. It's part of the business system we live in - stuff comes and goes. IBM Domino has always been a great product for me and our customers due to the fact that it adepted to upcoming IT trends and helped existing customers and applications to inherit new technologies and transition onwards without breaking to much valuable investment. I still see this today in the portfolio.
On Facebook, I spoke about Partners that are heavily promoting their migration tools/frameworks/products/services by scaring customers off about the near doomsday of the platform. While I totally agree that we need to pester IBM to continue their investment in Domino as an application development platform, I don't like the way certain partners that have received more than enough benefits from IBM over the past decades are now trying to make some short time business gains in scaring of customers off of a platform due their own products or their own problems in finding business. Don't get me wrong - not all partners that are taking part in this discussion are part of this. Only a small amount of IBM Champions are part of this - it's a loud minority.
The ecosystem is in transition - but for me, it has been that way for two decades now. I have seen IBM doing a lot of things that did not work out. Some worked out quick others worked out over time. You always had to pick and choose but what I learned early in that process was to not put all your eggs in one basket. This aims true FOR ME to this day even in a small area of N/D development. There are still some BPs around that never got their feet wet in Web Development other than Pass-Thru-HTML and WebQuery Somewhat Agents. If this works for you - well done. It did not work for me. Change is immanent in this business and for some, the IBM Domino bubble clearly forced too little change over time.
IBM and the platform - quo vadis, my point of view
First of all - I don't know what IBM is eventually up to with Domino and Notes in the very long haul. I can talk about what I hear (without an NDA in place) and I totally do not see any end-of-life plans for development or support for the next years ahead. I heard no relevant IBMer talk about that, not even in priavte. If I look into the investment IBM is doing in the EMail sector (not only with Verse On Prem) then I doubt that there is a near end-of-life for Domino. Do I think that's the right way for IBM to go ? No so much, but that's my point of view. If it helps to get some goodies along the way, I'm all in.
Do we need N/D 9.0.2 ? I don't know, as long as support gets extended and service/feature packs are coming I (for myself) am good.
Do we need more investment in the AppDev part ? Hell yeah !
What's on my wishlist ? Java 8, a Designer plugin to go with an updated Eclipse platform or become a more independed toolset for eclipse, a new servlet engine and an upgraded OSGi-Runtime for the Domino Server (talking Apache Felix here).
Do we need the Notes Client still ? Unfortunately, a lot of customers do and will probably for a lot more years to come. Do I prefer it over Web/XPages stuff ? No, but reality is grey.
What do I expect from IBM ? I would like to see an official road map statement for the product portfolio going forward that is not supposed to change for the next 12 months. Stop the speculation and uncertanty and add some facts to the matter. We may or may not like it, but get it over with and let us know your plans and stick to them so your partners and your customers can make the right and well educated choices.
That's it, let me know your thoughts.