Lotus J2EE Stance Sparks Controversy


Lotus developers are generally happy that the company embraced Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). But they're not sure about the company's tactics.

A controversy erupted at this week's Lotusphere about Lotus Software's decision to remove Java Server Pages/servlet support that shipped with a beta version of Domino 6 in the third quarter. Lotus said it will fill that gap with technology from WebSphere, IBM's application server.

It's a sensitive issue because partners have long seen IBM struggle to position Domino and WebSphere, both of which have application serving capabilities. IBM is Lotus' parent company.

The fear among developers is that a key capability they had expected to be in the final release of Domino will now exist only in a second product.

"So now I have to buy two servers instead of one? How is that helping me?" asked one IBM solution provider at the show.

"The conspiracy theory is they did this because once again Domino was getting too close to the WebSphere franchise," added a second developer who requested anonymity.

Constantine Photopoulos, COO of Eden Communications, a Saratoga, N.Y.-based developer said Lotus' decision to leverage J2EE and other IBM Software technologies makes sense since Lotus is part of IBM. "But in my view overall, Microsoft's .Net will be dominant," he said.

Lotus executives said people misunderstood the company's message, but they did not help clear up the mystery of how servlet support will be provided. The decision to use WebSphere code, the said, was practical because the WebSphere group had already prepared standard J2EE technology that will work.

The Lotus technology, code-named Garnet, was not standard, said Carl Kraenzel, technical strategist at Lotus Worldwide Development.

"It would have been a proprietary flavor of J2EE . . . and rather invest in a blind alley that was downright counter to our own strategy, we concluded it would be best to take out that stuff," Kraenzel said.

Lotus will make promised functionality available to Domino developers at no additional cost, he said. "What we didn't say this week was packaging and what offerings will be announced closer to release date. But it's never been our intent to step backwards but instead leverage WebSphere in some sort of bundle."

At the show, Lotus said the release candidate of Domino 6, code-named rNext, would be out in 30 days. The product has been under development for more than two years.

Lotus Software General Manager Al Zollar stressed the need to componentize Domino's collaborative talents so they can be embedded in other applications and that his group will continue to utilize bits and pieces of technologies from other IBM divisions. However, he also said there were no current plans for "hard bundle" of Domino and WebSphere.

Lotus executives positioned the servlet/JSP move as one of practicality. J2EE services will be delivered through WebSphere which is "really turning out to be a significant integration platform for tying together all the things that enterprises are trying to do," Zollar told CRN. "The model calls for JSPs, servlet engines and rather than embedding those capabilities into Domino 6, we'll be linking into those services as they're delivered through WebSphere."

Kraenzel said far from WebSphere technology being forced down Lotus' throat, that Lotus approached the WebSphere team. "It's absolutely the reverse of what people are saying. We went to the WebSphere guys and said, 'We need your help to make sure we do this right. It looks like we're building something that's kind of like a J2EE Frankenstein. . . . Can you help us work all the cross-integration issues?' "

Lotus executives scrambled to reassure Lotus developers and users that they will not be required to buy additional product. "It has never been our intent to step backward, but instead leverage WebSphere in some sort of bundle," Kraenzel said.

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