IBM: Domino to support only enterprise Linux distros

Enterprises are feeling the pain of impending, expensive Microsoft Exchange upgrades. As an alternative, IBM Lotus has been offering Domino-based products for Red Hat Inc. and SuSE Linux AG and says its commitment to Linux is going to grow. In this interview, Lotus' Linux strategist Ken Brunsen and messaging and collaboration senior manager John Woods talk about the viability of Linux as a messaging platform, the headaches associated with Exchange and whether Notes will soon run on Linux.

We're not seeing demand for Notes on Linux, but are seeing demand for Domino on Linux on the server side.
Ken Brunsen
Linux strategistIBM Lotus
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We're not seeing demand for Notes on Linux, but are seeing demand for Domino on Linux on the server side.
Ken Brunsen
Linux strategistIBM Lotus
IBM has put out two Linux-friendly products, Lotus Domino Web Access and Lotus Workplace. What about Notes on Linux?
There is no real intention to put Notes on Linux. What we are working on is a rich client in the Workplace environment that is very lightweight in terms of installation and administration. This client-side messaging software -- [IBM Workplace Client Technology], which is based on the Eclipse framework -- has collaboration capabilities that maintain the ability to access and execute existing Domino applications on Linux [and Windows, too]. The vision is to enable collaboration capabilities and access to Domino applications in a rich-client experience running on a Linux client platform. @1944 IBM has put out two Linux-friendly products, Lotus Domino Web Access and Lotus Workplace. What about Notes on Linux?
We haven't heard a lot about Notes on Linux from customers, and that is one of the reasons why you don't see it being available on Linux. We're not seeing demand for Notes on Linux, but are seeing demand for Domino on Linux on the server side. How does Lotus Domino Web Access' functionality on Linux and Windows compare?
Domino Web Access 6.5 runs identically on Linux as Windows in the same configuration. We continue to work on improving the integration and messaging sides. How does Lotus Domino Web Access' functionality on Linux and Windows compare?
I was part of the usability testing for this product. On both operating systems, I found the experience to be pretty much identical.

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Many IT pros have told us that their companies want to get off Microsoft Exchange, and they're interested in Linux as a messaging platform. How does Lotus messaging offer an alternative to Exchange?
We have seen that a lot, especially with the pain points around [Exchange] 5.5 and [Windows] NT4. Domino Web Access for the Outlook client allows customers that are in the Exchange 5.5 upgrade predicament to move their back end to a Domino server.

That allows the users to still use their existing Outlook client at the client interface, so you don't have to do a touch on every one of your desktops to get off of Exchange. Also, you can consolidate your servers on the back end to a Linux server with Domino. You could even have Exchange 2000 or Exchange XP running out on the client. What you get is a full-fidelity Outlook experience for the client, plus the consolidation of the Domino server on the back end.

Now, thinking of those Domino databases on the back end, you can access them from any other Domino-supported client. So, you can move to an Outlook experience on the client, to a Notes experience or a Domino Web Access experience, and all of that can happen concurrently. In short, we have a very quick way to consolidate on the back end, and then you can approach the desktop situation in a more leisurely fashion.

Ken Brunsen
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Ken Brunsen
What is the biggest beef you hear about Linux from Domino users?
I think that everybody wins by being on the enterprise versions [of Linux]. That allows us to make investments in products that really move Linux forward. For example, we have invested heavily in the scalability of Domino on Linux, particularly [IBM] zSeries. You will see that work manifest itself in large increases in scalability of the Domino server for Linux on Intel in the future. @1945 What is the biggest beef you hear about Linux from Domino users?
For the most part, the people who have an issue with Linux are those who don't want to move up from professional versions to the enterprise level of the operating system. They're mostly just dabblers and enthusiasts for both Linux and Domino.

We won't be supporting any other versions than the enterprise levels of Red Hat and SuSE, exactly for the reasons we spoke of previously -- lifecycle and support of the enterprise versus professional levels. Why has enterprise Linux become an appealing platform for corporate messaging?
The fact that some professional versions of Linux product lifecycles are a year or less is frustrating. [But] with the emergence enterprise versions of Linux -- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) -- customers are comforted knowing that they will have support for a minimum of five years.

As an application provider, it is a lot easier to provide support when we know that the operating system provider is going to support it for five years. If we target new testing for a release of an operating system that has a lifespan of only 9-to-12 months, it is really difficult to get a return on the investment.

John Woods
Are IBM customers interested in Linux messaging? If so, how is IBM responding?
We have been involved with more and more enterprise-class customers who have expressed an interest in enterprise messaging on Linux. We've had Domino-based Linux products for SuSE and Red Hat on the server for some time. We are working to build a reference portfolio around enterprise-class messaging, and I hope to see some progress on that in the next year.

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