Thursday, December 13, 2007

No, thanks, Unify.

I was offered the most interesting whitepaper today. Entitled, "Efficiently Migrating Lotus Notes Applications to Modern Platforms " and sponsored by the Unify Corporation. The blurb goes like this:
"As businesses move into the era of highly scalable architectures, SOA, rich customer-facing applications, and mobile workforces, they are discovering that previously satisfactory workgroup and workflow systems no longer provide needed capabilities.

Lotus Notes, in particular, is quickly becoming viewed as a legacy platform that is difficult to shed as part of a move to modern, scalable, and non-proprietary architectures.
This white paper examines:
  • Options for rapidly migrating off of Lotus Notes to Microsoft's .NET platform
  • How organizations can better manage the transition
  • A solution for migration off the complex Lotus Notes applications to Microsoft's enterprise infrastructure"
Sadly, all Unify Corporation is attempting to sell is their own brand of hammer to replace the robust toolkit that is Notes/Domino. They start with false assumptions and base their sales pitch entirely on that. Here's what we have in this very short, very loaded, blurb.

Assumption: Lotus Notes/Domino is not "modern"
False. Notes/Domino 8 is re-engineered from the ground up. It's built on an Eclipse framework, supports XML, Java, is interoperable six ways from Sunday, and portable to more platforms than DotNet. The underlying language is Java, and you can use a choice of languages (or mix them) in development.

Assumption: Lotus Notes is not scalable.
False. Buried in here is that "Lotus Notes" is what we're talking about. It isn't Notes is a client for Lotus Domino server. And Domino is not only highly scalable, but is portable to many more high-end systems than the weak-by-comparison Dot-Net replacement to which Unify would have you downgrade.

Assumption: You can't do rich apps in Notes.
False. For the Notes developer, this is truly a case of "anything you can do I can do better".
Have a quick look at http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/lotus/library/domino-ajax/

Assumption: You can't support your mobile workforce in Notes.
False. I do that every day. Regardless of how you define mobility, this is old news where Notes/Domino is concerned. The Notes client is the standard for replication and off-line functionality. Notes applications are easily web-enabled, and can be made mobile-friendly as well. Data conduits connect Notes to PalmOS, Java, and WindowsCE. There's Lotus Expediter. There's Lotus Mobile Connect. There's Domino Unified Communications. I don't know what meth lab Unity frequents, but whatever they're smokin' is tainted.

Assumption: Previously satisfactory workgroup and workflow systems cannot be more cheaply modified to provide needed capabilities.
False. Some are being abandoned under the weight of ignorant, fact-bereft FUD like Unity's. Abandoned DotNet applications don't grow either. But if they don't provide needed capabilities, that's not a fault of the platform, but of the development team, and primarily their management. Now, modernizing the application is no chore where Notes development is involved. But Unity would have you not only build a completely new app, but change out the platform and the architecture, too. This is a Bizarro-world definition of "easy" that doesn't exist in any dictionary this side of Lewis Carroll's looking glass.

Assumption: DotNet is "Non-proprietary"
Not only false, but laughable. DotNet is a Microsoft proprietary technology. Yes, there is the Mono project for Linux, but be honest... when you're talking Mono, you're talking about reduced functionality. Almost all of DotNet's replacement value vis-a-vis Notes is dependent on other Microsoft technologies, such as SharePoint and the latest Microsoft Office suite (with recent additions such as OneNote). If you want to get the most out of DotNet, and most assuredly if you want to keep a straight face when discussing it as a replacement for Notes, you are talking about not only a single-vendor proprietary solution, but one which reduces your interoperability and platform choices as well. In terms of interoperability, Domino is far more open.

Assumption: Their paper fairly examines options to migrate Lotus Notes to DotNet.
False. One fair option is to not do it. Their premise is that you will reap ROI for a simple migration done for the sake of doing it. It is a false premise, for which you won't even need a calculator to do your own math.

Here's a fair comparison: you have a Domino app running on a Domino server. You used Notes Designer to build it, but as with most development these days, it's web-enabled. This one's also workflow enabled and sends email notifications. The entire app + data + access control is housed in a single NSF file on the server. To back it up or restore it, it's a matter of copying one file. One. To deploy it to production requires copying one file. One. It can be accessed via browser or Notes client. It can be accessed directly on the server or can be replicated for offline use (as required for use by the sales force).

The DotNet replacement for this system requires components split across the following technologies:
  • Visual Studio
  • DotNet
  • Active Directory
  • Sharepoint
  • SQL Server
  • Microsoft Office 2007
There is no such thing as a cohesive backup... you just hope you got all the parts. Support is scattered. Deploying it is practically a small project in itself. This is expensive, it's haphazard, it's sloppy in terms of development and architecture, and it sucks.

I'd say that Unity is marketing a "solution" in search of a problem if it weren't for the fact that the "problem" that they're "solving" is vastly better than the "solution" that they have! Notes/Domino is more scalable, more portable, built on a more open framework, more flexible, easier to deploy, easier to manage, and cheaper.

Let's look at what the Notes/Domino does provide you in a coherent, easily managed whole:
Domino:
  • rich-client server and web development platform in one. (iow, you get your choice of clients to support, either Notes or Browser, or both at the same time with the same apps).
  • web server and web services.
  • Eclipse framework
  • LDAP server
  • Application templates pre-constructed and ready to roll. Document management, team management, project management..
  • It also serves up email.
Notes:
  • Rich client application.
  • Development platform for web or rich client.
  • Browser.
  • Your choice of client/server, fat client, or thin client behavior, or all at once based on which apps it's accessing.
  • Absolutely unsurpassed off-line replication capabilities.
  • Built-in standards-compliant Office suite.
  • Integrated workgroup messaging.
  • And it also reads email, RSS feeds, Usenet groups, etc.
If you like, you can add a SameTime server for instant messaging (this is built into the Notes client, BTW... nothing extra there). If you're really looking to expand into enterprise-space, then look at Quickr, or Connections. These are seamlessly interoperable with Notes/Domino.

The number of Microsoft technologies required to replace Notes/Domino is staggering, and rather than being tightly interoperable as with the Lotus products, they are scattered to the four winds. That Unify unabashedly ignore this is more staggering. To think that they have so little respect for their potential client base that they distributed this pack of lies via SearchDomino earns them undying contempt. There are enough scary buzzwords here that some management types will read and believe it, but they don't subscribe to SearchDomino. To market their product through that channel is a boneheaded move of monumental proportions.

No thanks, Unify. You're too stupid to earn my business.

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