IBM pushes Workplace forward with aid of development tool

Big Blue is shipping Designer 2.5 to bridge the Notes-Workplace gap

IBM has released Workplace Designer 2.5, a development tool it hopes will help users bridge the gap between its legacy Lotus Notes/Domino architecture and the Workplace platform IBM has declared is the future when it comes to collaboration applications.

Workplace Designer is an Eclipse-based tool designed to allow programmers to build applications for IBM’s Workplace platform, which is based on a foundation of J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and web services standards. That’s a big architectural departure for developers accustomed to Domino.

To help ease the transition, IBM is keeping Workplace Designer’s look and feel as close as possible to that of Domino Designer. Workplace Designer can also import forms from existing Lotus applications for use in new Workplace applications. The software, priced at US$649 (NZ$938) per developer, is available for download from IBM’s Passport Advantage website.

Early user Rob Novak is enthusiastic about the software’s ability to link Lotus developers with IBM’s broader software stack. “This is making available something that has previously been a big black hole to us, WebSphere Server,” he says.

Novak is the president of Snapps, a consultancy with deep IBM ties and a long history with Lotus. Its staffers average more than a decade of Lotus development experience each. Novak began working with early versions of Workplace Designer right after IBM’s January Lotusphere conference.

“At this point we’re in the exploratory stage of seeing what we can do,” he says. “We’re looking at the features that allow us to migrate the design of Domino forms, for instance, so we can have a Domino developer mock up a form quickly and then move it over to Workplace.”

Novak sees a “heavy emphasis on coexistence” between Workplace and Domino. IBM’s Workplace push has spooked the Lotus faithful. Consequently, IBM has emphasised that customers can opt for a very gradual transition, assisted by tools aimed at making such a move as smooth as possible.

None of Snapps’ clients with legacy Lotus systems have rushed to embrace Workplace, though some are cautiously exploring it for new development, Novak says. So far, Snapps’ Workplace projects have been investigative rather than for production use.

“The customers we’ve been working with who have a Domino infrastructure are not going away from it, they’re adding on to it,” Novak says. “If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll be doing Domino development for another ten years.”

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