We need XPages to surface relational, non-Notes data. And we need it soon!

Over the last 6 months I have had the opportunity to speak to a fair number of Lotus Domino and Notes customers. This has come about from several different directions, over half a dozen proof of technologies (PoT's) and a fair number of interactions via IBM and Lotus reps.

There are a few common denominators between these Domino customers:
1.        They rarely attend "normal" Lotus events like LUGs and/or LotusSphere
2.        They are Notes shops for mail, but are moving into .Net and $harepoint for other reasons
3.        They had not yet heard about Lotus Knows

Now, these are real, end of the line customers. Some are large with 15,000+ Notes seats, some are smaller with 350 or less. You rarely see these users, admins or developers reading Planet Lotus, however they have mostly heard of DAOS and/or XPages. You really won't see theses Domino customers at LoLA or on a design partner call. Yet it is these customers that are the life blood of the Domino product. Year in, year out they renew their IBM software licenses (usually directly with IBM or a hardware partner, not a Lotus partner) and continue to protect Domino inside their organizations on a daily basis.

Given that Domino 8.5.x does for the server what Notes 8.x did for the client, they are very excited about it. Most are (or have) implemented DAOS and all are very excited about XPages. Until they realize it is for Notes data only.

Inside of these loyal Domino customers, .NET development is (or has) eroding away at Notes application development, despite the obvious benefits of the Notes RAD application development model. Why is this? Well, .NET can access disparate data sources out of the box. Got Oracle? No problem. Got DB2? No problem. Got Notes? (almost) No problem. Yet when you drool over XPages you come to the sudden and jarring realization that we have been given a stellar application development platform that can only access Notes data. Got Oracle? Tough! Got MS-SQL? Tough! Got anything that is not Notes? Tough!

To a man (or woman) the majority of these companies would embrace XPages much more quickly if they could access non-Notes data and surface it in XPages. Indeed some may not ever look at XPages due this "limitation". This one addition to the platform could dispel the notion that .NET (or Java, etc) is the only platform of choice once your data is outside of Notes. It can dispel the notion that XPages is a pretty cool addition "if you still do Notes apps". IBM, you have proved you can listen. You have proved you can deliver. Now, lets take this to the next level and make XPages the defacto choice for all enterprise application development, and allow it to surface any data, not just Notes.

Real customers with real issues need this enhancement. Real customers. Not Business Partners. Not ISVs. Not bloggers.
Darren Duke   |   November 14 2009 03:22:54 PM   |    xpages    |  
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Comments (10)

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1 - Ed Maloney       11/16/2009 8:56:36 AM

Agreed. This has been a long standing limitation of the product that has been ignored, or addressed through partial solutions like DECS, LEI, Notes/DB2 and LSX. It has always been possible to incorporate RDBMS data in Notes, it just shouldn't be this difficult. We need a native SQL GUI tool and a 'data grid' component to display the results. Take a quick look at Lotus Approach and you'll see what Notes is missing. We should not have to create a custom solution for this extremely common requirement. Notes has lost out on many internal projects at my organization because of this issue.

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2 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    11/16/2009 9:44:26 AM

Yes there are lots of "workarounds", but like you said, look at Approach.

@All, go vote the IdeaJam up.

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3 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    11/16/2009 9:46:17 AM

Or to put it another way.....

Now that Domino Designer is "free", we need to "free Domino Designer".

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4 - Peter Presnell    http://www.dominoframework.com    11/16/2009 9:52:57 AM

Great post Darren. I especially like the point you make about these people living outside the yellow bubble and not drinking the yellow kool-aide on a regular basis.

Based upon my own (similar) conversations I would add the additional need to make Notes appear to be a little more relational (i.e. join Notes views to each other or Notes views to relational tables). Most people in IT departments seem to switch off when you tell then you cant join Notes data.

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5 - tom oneil       11/16/2009 12:03:35 PM

I'm sorry. I work in one of those "re-platforming" groups that is taking Lotus Notes applications and converting them to .NET. I've done C# programming for close to four years now (or is it longer?).

None of our C# (ASP.NET) applications use the .NET data gimmicks that Microsoft has sold us. We create C# code to talk to the backend databases. We generate objects and bind them to repeaters, datagrids, etc...

This dream of drag and drop objects are not worth Lotus' time.

On the bright side... the push to "re-platform" applications has pretty much ceased. I'm getting new requests for applications all the time. I tell people they can either wait 4-6 months for a system with a relation backend or they can have a new Notes system in a week or two. People usually pick Notes :-)

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6 - Bhavya K Jain    http://twitter.com/Bhavya_Jain    11/16/2009 1:45:39 PM

Great post Darren.

agree with the post and the comments :)

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7 - Wayne A Sobers       11/16/2009 1:57:11 PM

The only place where I find I miss SQL is in creating reports. I generally build a view to house my reports and summaries and then run the reporting tool on that.

The aggregate functions in SQL turn five pages of loops and look ups into five lines of code, and that is certainly easier to maintain.

I was one of those who thought that not having joins would be a barrier to development, but seeing the speed at which development can be done can change minds.

In all, prototyping a system is much faster in Notes than in other systems, but Notes still has catchup to do in widget display (multi-column list box) and keyboard control (enter key to move from field to field).

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8 - John Mackey    http://www.jmackey.net    11/16/2009 2:44:12 PM

Great post! I totally agree...obviously :-)

As soon as SQL is mentioned as a requirement for a project, even if it's only a small part of the project such as a lookup to a table, it becomes an uphill battle to sell mgmt. on using Domino Designer as the tool.

I hear what Tom (@5) is saying, so perhaps they can give us drag and drop "data gimmicks" just like Microsoft markets and domino developers will need to do the heavy lifting and code the backend db interface. At least then we can also say Domino Designer does SQL out of the box too. Of course this is not what I really want but it would at least level the playing field.


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9 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    11/16/2009 2:55:23 PM

@5, I'm glad to hear the worm has turned for your organization. I wish I would hear it more often. All too often I hear something like, "we'll do it in Notes until our .NET guys get free/get trained/get up to speed/finish the current project". I want it to be "We'll do it in Notes". Period. For all organizations.

@5 & @7, while I agree that sometimes Notes is just better (indeed at STS there is a joe that I always answer, "Notes can do that"), I feel that we'd get a lot more traction with XPages if, as Notes developers, we are able to surface other systems' data with the speed with which we can do with Notes data.

I always makes me smirk when I hear other "enterprise developers" bitching about security and ORM. As I have always said, Notes developers can get a project out of the door before the others have done the MS Project. Now, wouldn't it be a stellar kick in the balls if we could do that with their data too? I can hear their jaws dropping now! I would seem that with more "promotes" today for John's original idea that I'm not alone.

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10 - Seng Chye       11/19/2009 2:35:26 AM

Can't agree better with you guys.

Lotus please get this done ASAP. There nothing for IBM Lotus to lose if NSF can access data outside Notes via XPage, QV, DataGrid, etc. In fact, this is going to create a big upper hand & market advantage to the competitors.

To add the inability of Embedded Views to access other NSF views using @Formula or Scripts is also very demoting to Lotus Notes Domino.

These has been left unattended by IBM Lotus for far too long.