No overview of collaborative computing technologies is complete without a discussion of the latest developments in groupware. Groupware is software that helps individuals and teams work together by enhancing communications and information-sharing across organizations. Groupware is typically integrated with the operating system it runs on and provides capabilities such as email, document management, calendaring and scheduling, application development, workflow management, and centralized directory services. Many updated groupware products also provide capabilities for Web development and browsing.
A leader among groupware products is Lotus Development's enterprise-class system: Domino 4.5 Server and Notes 4.5 Client. This overview of Domino/Notes will provide background information about the products for readers who have never used Lotus Notes, readers who want to upgrade from an earlier version of Notes, and readers who want to migrate to the Lotus Domino/Notes system from other products that provide groupware capabilities. I'll describe the different versions of Domino 4.5 Server and Notes 4.5 Client that Lotus offers, and I'll delineate the differences between Domino 4.5 Server and Notes 4.5 Client.
At the end of last year, Lotus reorganized its trademark Notes product, which gives end-users a platform for communication, project collaboration, and workflow coordination, and gives systems administrators centralized systems management and administration. With version 4.5, Lotus has increased the functionality of the Notes server product with an integrated Web server for improved messaging, collaboration, and application development. Lotus calls the new Notes server product with extended services and solutions for the Internet Lotus Domino 4.5 Server, Powered by Notes. The client product in version 4.5 is Lotus Notes 4.5 Client.
The Domino/Notes software combination is an enterprise-level management tool that consolidates many of the functions available through Microsoft's Exchange Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Lotus promotes Domino/Notes as an alternative to these Microsoft server options by offering a rich set of functions in one package. Highlights of the Domino feature set include integration with Windows NT (e.g., you can run Domino as an NT service, monitor Domino statistics via Performance Monitor, direct Domino events to NT event logs, and give users a single logon) a secure Web server, services to build interactive applications for the Internet and intranets, a messaging service, database collaboration, flexible security, and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) management tools.
Domino Server's Three Flavors
You can choose among three flavors of Domino 4.5 Server: Domino 4.5 Server for single processor systems, Domino 4.5 Server for multiprocessor systems, and Domino Advanced Services. The first flavor targets single-processor machines in workgroups and departments. The multiprocessor version takes advantage of symmetric multiprocessing machines (SMP) for overall increased capability. Domino Advanced Services lets you add clustering for failover and load balancing, server partitioning for turning one server into six servers, and server usage tracking and billing for network information monitoring. Advanced Services requires an additional license agreement. You select Advanced Services when you install Domino 4.5 Server, as shown in Screen 1.
Available with each flavor of Domino 4.5 Server is Mail Access, which you license for each registered user. Mail Access lets Notes 4.5 Client users and non-Notes mail clients use mail services for sending and receiving mail from the Domino Server. Screen 2 shows a typical client address book with directories and toolbar options.
Planning for Domino/Notes
Because of Domino/Notes enterprise capabilities, planning for a first-time implementation of Domino/Notes or a migration to Domino/Notes from other groupware products is not simple. You must clearly define system usage, applications, databases, and network topology before implementing the Lotus groupware.
The Lotus interface is unique, and users unfamiliar with earlier Lotus releases may experience a long learning curve to master the product. The Domino 4.5 Server interface is a command prompt window. The Notes Client interface is a GUI.
New Domino/Notes users can expect to dive through a mountain of documentation: release notes, installation guides, a migration guide, a deployment guide, an administrator's guide, an application developer's guide, a programmer's guide, a database manager's guide, a network configuration guide, and an Internet guide. Clearly, unless you are upgrading from a previous version of Notes, the magnitude of the installation and configuration of Domino/Notes is equivalent to building an enterprise network from scratch.
Network in a Box
Lotus positions the Domino/Notes software combination as a system for developing and deploying both client and server applications that structure information flow in an enterprise. One box's label reads Lotus Notes: Groupware and E-Mail for the Net; the other box's label is Groupware and E-Mail for the Net: .domino, Powered by Notes. A closer look reveals Client on the former label, and Server on the latter.
Domino 4.5 Server
You can run Domino Server on both Intel and Alpha systems. You can also use Domino with IBM OS/2, AIX, HP-UX, Sun Solaris, Novell NetWare, and Windows 95.
Domino 4.5 Server and Notes 4.5 Client are on the same installation CD-ROM, which Lotus includes in each package. The Domino package includes an extra CD-ROM labeled SMTP/MIME MTA, release 1.05. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is used to transfer email between networks on the Internet. MIME supports mail messages that contain graphics, video, and audio attachments. Messaging Transfer Agent (MTA) is the software that lets Domino and workstations exchange mail over the Internet. You must purchase one copy of the Domino 4.5 Server software for each server you install it on.
Notes 4.5 Client
As with Domino Server, you can run Notes 4.5 Client on a variety of platforms: Intel and Alpha NT systems, Win95, Windows 3.x, IBM OS/2, AIX, HP-UX, Sun Solaris, and Mac OS.
Notes ships with more than a dozen templates that let you create personalized forms and databases. For example, the Approval Cycle template lets you route a document or customized form to a list of people. Another common template is the Discussion template, which you can use like an intranet bulletin board for informally storing and sharing information. The most commonly used template is the customizable Personal Address Book template.
Lotus provides client licensing options for Notes 4.5 Client, Notes 4.5 Desktop Client, and Notes 4.5 Mail Client. These licensing options differ in which databases and templates the user can access. The Notes 4.5 Client license lets the user access all built-in templates and databases, create blank templates, design custom applications, and register new Notes users. The Desktop license does not permit access to administrative and design features. The Mail license is more restrictive, but it allows the use of mail, communication, and documentation databases. Licensing requires one copy of the client software for each user.
Besides the installation CD-ROMs, the Notes 4.5 Client package also comes with CD-ROMs for Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). Lotus provides both Netscape and IE to let customers control the mix of browsers for accessing the Internet or intranets.
How does Domino 4.5 Server compare with Notes 4.5 Client? Each part needs the other to function fully. Domino 4.5 Server provides an integrated server platform for building and deploying interactive applications on corporate intranets and the Internet. Browsers, including non-Notes clients, can access server-based data and applications. Domino 4.5 Server features include editing, search engines, Web attachments, authentication, user and Web site directories, HTML service, and HTTP support. Domino 4.5 Server also boasts an advanced messaging service for a variety of mail clients (SMTP/MIME MTA), with a built-in calendar and scheduling capability. Domino 4.5 Server contains network administrative tools such as database management, directory assistance, NT logon and user management, custom installations, and automatic database replication and synchronization. Enhancements under the Advance Services option include clustering, billing, and partitioned servers.
Notes 4.5 Client provides integration with the Web, browser integration, information control and management, application capabilities, data encryption, the Personal Web browser for offline surfing, support for Netscape plug-ins, HTML 3.2 support, Java execution, and the calendar and scheduling feature. Lotus focuses the Notes 4.5 Client capabilities on improving group productivity and personal time management.
For an excellent description of product usability, read "Domino/Notes Release 4.5 Reviewer's Guide," at http://www2.lotus.com/domino.nsf?opendatabase. You access the guide by selecting product info, reviewer's guide. This guide includes excellent examples of the power of Lotus' groupware product.
In one example, an employee uses Domino/Notes' Internet capabilities to research a subject. Then, she uses the messaging functions to forward information to her coworkers, and she uses the scheduling resources for her presentation. With the Web tools, she adds graphics and links and constructs a corporate intranet Web page for all users, whether they have Notes clients or Web browsers.
In another example, an employee develops an interactive Web page so that a customer can query product shipments. Queries access backend databases with enabled security features. This example shows how a company can free employees from handling telephone inquiries.
The last example illustrates the Domino/Notes Internet applications, which let any Notes client or authorized Web browser create a site. The products includes application frameworks that let the user simply fill in the blanks for home pages, policies and procedures, discussions, document libraries, FAQ's, white paper databases, and so forth.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that Domino/Notes is an enterprise groupware package with numerous and powerful capabilities. I highly recommend that you gather as much information as possible and be prepared to redesign your system's network resources. As with any major project, implementing Domino/Notes requires you to complete the real work up front; the rest is just routine maintenance.