Lotus Domino/Websphere version support – some constructive feedback

One of the most common questions I get from customers is regarding Lotus version support – i.e. ‘what release of Domino does Quickr 8.1 support?‘, or ‘what version of Websphere Application Server is needed for Connections 2.0.1?

This is often quickly followed by ‘but that’s not the same release of Domino as I need to run for Sametime 8.0.2!‘ or ‘how can I run Connections 2.0.1 and Quickr 8.1.1 on the same Websphere server if they need different releases?

IBM clearly has a tough job to keep up testing and support across all its products, as well as maintaining the dozens of languages it translates them into, multiple client and server platforms and also keeping up the quality and timeliness of the new releases – I don’t envy them this task at all.  I applaud IBM/Lotus for the wide level of support they do offer…

However, I think there are ways and means to ensure that:

  • There is one standard set of releases/fixpacks supported at any one time, across all the Lotus products (e.g. one version of WAS for Connections/Quickr J2EE/Sametime Advanced/Sametime Gateway/Portal, one version of Domino for Quickr Domino/Sametime Standard etc).
  • Whenever a major new release of the ‘framework’ products (i.e. WAS, Portal or Domino) is released the ‘extension’ products (Quickr, Sametime, Connections etc) are updated to support it ASAP.
  • That customers can (if the hardware/VM has enough capacity) run all the ‘extension’ products on one ‘framework’ server/image concurrently.

Now this post promised some ‘constructive feedback’ right?

Well how about this?

Twice a year, say 1st April and 1st October (in order to align with quarters but not conflict with end of IBM FY and holidays), IBM could:

  • (In the lead-up to that date) Decide internally what the recommended development/deployment levels for each of the major ‘framework’ products will be for the next 6 months.
  • Test all its major ‘extension’ products against that set of releases, and develop any fixes/workarounds/documentation updates required to ensure support.
  • On that date, publish a statement of its recommended development/deployment levels for each of the major ‘framework’ products, along with any updates to ensure that ALL current releases of Lotus products will work on these levels.
  • Maintain support for this set of ‘framework’ products throughout that 6 month period for all current products.
  • Any newly released releases that require newer versions of the ‘framework’ or ‘extension’ products would feed into the following set of standardised levels.

 
This would allow all customers (and ISVs) to develop their own standard builds/images that they can run all the current lotus products on, sharing the same infrastructure if required. It would make IBM’s and customers’ internal support much easier as more environments would be running the same recommended releases, and I believe it would significantly increase the rate of upgrades to new releases of both ‘framework’ and ‘extension’ products as they could be approached in a manageable and consistent way.

Now obviously, I don’t have access to IBM’s internal development processes or resources, so I don’t know if this is achievable or even feasible.  I also don’t know if 6 months is the right period, perhaps an annual review might work better?

However, I honestly believe that such an approach would have huge benefits for Lotus customers worldwide, and in the long-run, for IBM itself.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your feedback, even if you shoot the idea down in flames!!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!