Untangling the Lotus Feature Set

by Jacqueline Emigh

The latest from Lotus is a study in crossplatform focus, but what you get varies from platform to platform. Jacqueline Emigh untangles the featurelist you can expect, depending on where you're running Domino/Notes.

In the ongoing battle between Domino/Notes and Exchange, crossplatform operation is one of Lotus's main claims to fame. In the new R6, Lotus's collaborative software no longer runs on Novell NetWare servers or Windows 3.1, IBM 0S/2 Warp, or UNIX clients. Lotus has added lots of new functionality across all of the remaining supported OS's. Administrators will find, though, that features aren't always consistent across Windows and Macintosh clients, or across Windows, UNIX and Linux servers.

As many analysts see it, Lotus's ability to support platforms such as Linux, AIX, Solaris, OS/390 and OS/400 stands Lotus in good stead versus Microsoft Exchange.

"IBM's ability to sell combinations of Lotus and other IBM software products - including WebSphere (which now includes K-Station for knowledge management), Tivoli, DB2 and Mindspan - along with its hardware and professional services, puts the vendor in the enviable position of being a one-stop shop for complex computing environments," according to a recent report from International Data Corp. (IDC).

When Daimler merged with Chrysler, for example, "half of the new firm (switched) off of Microsoft Exchange to join the other half of the firm that was using Domino/Notes," say the IDC analysts.

Notes 6 supports 32-bit Windows OS, along with Macintosh OS 9 and OS X. The Domino 6 server, on the other hand, runs on these OS: IBM iSeries (formerly AS/400) V5R1 and later; IBM zSeries (formerly S/390), z/OS V1R2 and later; Windows 2000; Windows NT4; AIX v4.3.3x and 5.1; Sun Solaris 2.8/SPARC; and two distributions of Linux: Red Hat 7.2 and SuSE 8.0.

Platforms do, however, vary in terms of supported capabilities. Lotus also faced a strict edict from IBM to get R6 out the door on time. For whatever reasons, there are a number of discrepancies in features offered across Lotus's various platforms.

IPv6 support - but only for Linux, AIX, Solaris
For example, you can now start to migrate from Ipv4 to IPv6 on three of Domino's supported platforms, but not on any of the others. Specifically, Lotus has enabled IPv6 support for SMTP, POP3, IMAP, LDAP and HTTP services -- but only for the Linux, AIX, and Solaris environments.

Fault recovery - but only for NT & UNIX
Conversely, Domino's new fault recovery feature is available for all UNIX systems, and for NT (but not for W2K)..

UNIX is the only environment that lets R6 administrators run more than one Domino server on a single machine.

Support for NETBIOS - but mainly in Windows
In contrast, Lotus's support for NETBIOS networking middleware is much heftier in Windows. Windows systems support NETBIOS over TCP/IP, Microsoft's NetBEUI, and Novell's IPX/SPX protocol.

"Although you can add some NetBIOS services to Linux and UNIX systems, NRPC communication does not use them," according to Lotus's Domino R6 installation guide.

Linux - new SNMP agent
Also in R6, Lotus debuts an SNMP Agent for Linux. You can only add SNMP support for Linux, however, by deploying a "properly configured SMUX protocol (RFFC 1227)."

SHM - but only for Solaris, Win32, W2K
A new capability called Server Health Monitoring (SHM) is supported across Solaris, Win32, and Windows 2000 platforms, albeit in different ways. SHM provides realtime analysis of the "health" of W2K servers, delivering "recommendations for higher performance."

On Solaris and Win32, on the other hand, SHM works with Activity Trend data -- available through the new Domino Network Platform -- for "data exploration and resource balancing."

Cross-selling with Tivoli?
With SHM, by the way, Lotus seems to be leveraging some cross-selling opportunities. "SHM will work with a separately available product from IBM Tivoli," says Tim Kounadis, senior market manager for IBM Lotus software at Big Blue. The Tivoli product is known as IBM Tivoli Analyzer for Domino.

UNIX - needs X Window for Console (but not for Controller)
Some of the differences are more subtle.To run Lotus's new Domino Console, UNIX systems must be operating X windows. Domino Controller, however, can be used without X windows.

All platforms - Vines and Appletalk go bye-bye
Also in R6, Domino has relinquished previous support for Novell's SPX network protocol on UNIX platforms. Support for the Vines and Appletalk protocols is now a thing of the past on all platforms.

Tough struggle
Despite its crossplatform strengths, Lotus faces a tough struggle against Microsoft, experts agree.

"Microsoft's ownership of the desktop, enterprise application server operating systems, and business productivity (a.k.a. Office) suite software (which includes the Outlook client) means that organizations looking to save time and money are increasingly likely to choose Microsoft as their primary supplier. Most collaborative applications vendors see Outlook as a universal client that must be supported, just like Internet Explorer," the IDC analysts observe.

Multi-pronged attack
Lotus's counterattack is multi-pronged. R6 integrates more easily with Windows environments. Lotus has also spiffed up the performance and usability of Notes, to make it more "Exchange-like."

At the same time, the (non-Microsoft) Macintosh client has gotten some new features. Moreover, the introduction of a Web client in R6 makes the use of Outlook, Notes or any other e-mail client almost completely unneccesary.

Windows - better integration
Domino 6 adds ADSync, a component meant to expand the functionality of Notes User Manager Extension for the Microsoft Active Directory in Windows 2000. ADSync lets administrators synchronize user adds and passwords, for example, between Active Directory and Lotus's Domino Directory

The Windows 2000 Event Viewer can now display error messages about Domino statistics generated within the Performance Monitor.

Windows - better usability
Installable applets are now supported, but only for Windows clients. Through this feature, a copy of the Domino applet is installed to the local file system, so as to cut down on Web traffic. When the Web browser needs a Domino applet it can use the locally stored applet, preventing the need for a remote call over the Web.

In another nicety for Windows clients, Lotus has enhanced the ability to drag-and-drop a file from the Windows desktop to a Notes document. (Before Notes 6, a straight drag-and-drop would produce an embedded OLE object in the Notes document, but only if you had that specific application installed. If you didn't have that application installed, the file would get attached instead.)

Macintosh client - new features
Mac users can now store their Notes passwords in the Macintosh OS keychain, a new feature of MacOS that lets a user store all security information, such as passwords and certificates, in a single place.

For the first time, Lotus is offering a Mac version of NotesMinder, an application that notifies users of new mail even when Notes isn't running.

Notes 6 supports Java agents on MacOS 9 (even though they aren't supported on Mac OS X).

» See All Articles by Columnist Jacqueline Emigh

This article was originally published on Tuesday Nov 19th 2002