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Why the Cloud Needs an Automated Lotus Notes Migration capability

sme-cloudBack in the day, one of the most successful Client/Server solutions was ubdoubtedly Lotus Notes. Lotus Notes was one of the great situational applications of its time.

It emerged in the 1990s and became synonymous with collaborative computing and a new term was coined to describe it and other similar systems – Groupware. Estimates of the total number of copies of Notes that have shipped and been installed vary between 120 and 200 million copies (see below). However, it’s not all been plain sailing nor has Lotus Notes been universally praised. In fact many commentators have observed the only thing harder than using Notes is getting rid of it.

Why was Lotus Notes considered to be so good?

The following is an excellent example of why Notes was so popular.

In 1989 the national director of information and technology at Price Waterhouse (PW or PWC as it is today), Sheldon Laube was part of the firm’s top management committee, which planned to make technology its competitive edge. His charter was to impose order on the use of software by the firm’s 10,000 professionals, who had been using a variety of PC and Apple based applications at each of PW’s 100-odd US offices.

Precisely in order to decentralize and support the flow of information and activity throughout the firm it was necessary to install a common technology platform. By centralizing the technical decisions so that the content could be effectively decentralized — but shared.

Laube and his staff looked at a variety of E-mail packages to run over the LANs now installed in half the US offices (and counting). The mail systems they considered at first didn’t scale up and had insufficient security. What they he needed was neither point-to-point mail nor central broadcasting, but a medium where everyone could be both broadcaster and recipient, a cross between a bulletin board and a notification system — without creating total confusion and a surplus of unusable information as it scaled up.

Then Laube found Notes: “I showed it to real people. I’ve never seen a reaction like that!” He didn’t even test it for bugs or robustness, figuring he could trust Lotus. Instead, he says, the question was: How fast can we do it? “Most people start with a pilot, and spend time justifying and re-justifying. We knew we wanted it, and so we short-circuited that process. We also wanted to make a statement that we consider leading-edge technology important; it wasn’t like buying 10,000 copies of 1-2-3.”

What was truly brilliant about Notes was its development environment. It was elegantly simple and yet incredibly powerful. A design client was available to allow the rapid development of databases consisting of forms, which allow users to create documents; and views, which display selected document fields in columns. But it is this development environment, and the fact that users found it easy to develop specific applications to suit individual requirements that has made Notes incredibly difficult to displace it.

Gartner have estimated that there are world-wide, more than 200 million users of the Lotus Notes/Domino email platform. The majority of which (90%) run on multiple on-premise servers. With the rise and rise of Cloud and mobile technologies Gartner predict that around 1/3rd of those users will switch off these systems in the near future.

Gartner further estimate that those companies which switch have around 20 million applications developed in Notes, 20 million!! – 10% of which are business critical. So there are around 2 million applications that will have to be replaced, rewritten or simply prevent full uptake of cloud technology in many large organizations.


That’s a massive investment by any measure, and it’s no wonder that people say “the only thing harder than installing Lotus Notes, is uninstalling it”

This enormous installed base is arguably a major impediment to Cloud adoption and deployment. What can be done with the 20 million applications identified by Gartner in the short to medium term?

Today’s World

But times change. In the past 10 to 15 years the inextricable rise and take up of the internet that rendered Lotus Notes of less use than it once was. Seemingly overnight some of the real advantages of Notes such as email, bulletin boards, collaboration became all pervasive, easy to use and cheap.

However, one key capability of Notes that the Web didn’t render obsolete was the building of applications. The concepts of end user application development and Views onto the data were not easy to replicate in the world of the Web. One company has already exploited this market gap – that company is SalesForce.com (SFC). SFC were able to take what was, essentially, a Notes application comprising views and forms and turn it into a focused and discreet application. This one application is now a 1 billion $ software as a service organization. Demand for a Notes type capability, with all the flexibility it offered, exists across industry

Lotus Notes was an ideal way to empower users to build what are, today, called Situational Applications. However, things have changed – both from a technology basis and business environment. Consider also the dramatic change in tech savvy-ness of anyone coming out of school (the Millenials) these days! Their knowledge and familiarity with web technologies is going to be a major factor in driving the take up of “end user application development” and pushing the concept into the mainstream more than ever before.

So, the combination of (1) the Cloud (no deployment issues), (2) the tools (better than before), (3) the standardized integration methods (much easier to mashup), (4) pricing models which are based around “pay as you go” operational expenditure and (5) the Millenials (better understanding of system building) – taken together, enables us to reach the tipping point where everyday business users will want, and demand, access to technology that will enable them to assemble “applications” on demand. This will undoubtedly have a dramatic impact on the way applications are built and deployed.

As a result, Notes users, ultimately all Notes users, need a sure fire, fast and reliable way of migrating their applications to more modern, less proprietary, cost effective platforms – in short – the Cloud

The post Why the Cloud Needs an Automated Lotus Notes Migration capability appeared first on Cloud Computing Best Practices.

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