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HCL buys Notes from IBM (theregister.co.uk)
75 points by gadders 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

While Notes was justifiably hated, I had two somewhat good experiences with it.

1. The recurrence model for meetings and the like was way more featureful than anything I've seen since.

2. The CEO of my company at the time dictated that the Notes devs/admins change the email interface such that in order to click "reply-all", you had to navigate to a separate screen. This all but eliminated all stupid company wide email storms, and should be in every email client.

For that we paid a heavy price in CPU and Memory use, as is Notes wont.

Meanwhile I’ve had so many frustrating experiences of group conversations amongst a few people where reply all doesn’t get pressed, and then the conversation bifurcates. I’ve always thought reply all should be default.

It seems like the simple solution is to detect when there is more than one address that a reply could go to, and if so, on clicking reply have a sub-meny that asks whether you want to reply to all or one person (and maybe list recipients with the Sender at the top).

You still get a single click to reply for single senders, but any ambiguity needs to be dealt with, but usually only with a quick additional click.

I routinely experience this where I want to reply all in my work Gmail, but the default is reply to sender, and I end up having to re-send the email a few seconds later so everyone sees it (if I'm lucky and notice. Otherwise other people just never see what I intended them too).

When there is only a small number of people yes. When someone sends a message to the entire company no.

The ability to customize the mail application was a blessing and a curse. Notes applications had no real "source code", it was just one big binary blob. So if you forked one of the built-in applications it was extremely difficult to merge your changes back in after IBM released upgrades.

come on, who doesn't love a great email storm !

Domino had a NoSQL document database with reliable multi-master replication before they were cool. It could have been a great platform for cloud applications but IBM never saw the potential and let it languish.

That is an accurate, succinct summary of the story, but IBM also made it non-viable as a SaaS back-end because the license was paid per CPU core. There was literally no way to both scale an app and keep the cost competitive with other platforms.

I worked at a Lotus Notes shop that actually made a SaaS project management/collaboration tool in the late 90s that we hosted at USWest[1][2].

We spun off every tenant as a replica of a Lotus Notes database template (my lingo might be wrong, since 20 years has passed). People, at that time, however, hadn't quite warmed up to the concept of subscription software though.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/free-site-offered-with-groupware/

[2] https://books.google.ca/books?id=jlIEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA52&lpg=PA...

Sure that was one reason. I think the lack of support for multi-tenant applications was just as serious an obstacle for SaaS.

I worked on a team that built a SAAS around 1998 on Notes/Domino. IIRC, we had a Notes database template and created replicas of it for every tenant.

I believe we accomplished all of this using some crazy LotusScript. We pushed really hard to get our product out before Lotus could release Instant Team Room.

CouchDB was inspired by Lotus Notes, and created by an ex-Lotus Notes developer.


One critical thing CouchDB solved that (I heard) was an issue with Notes is availability during sync. CouchDB streams changes while you work, but Notes apps (used to?) have to pause to sync.

Source: I helped develop CouchDB, but haven't really used Notes.

I used to be a Notes Developer (i.e. wrote Notes applications, rather than wrote the code for Notes itself). From what I remember, replication used to take place in the background. You'd refresh your document view (or whatever) and new documents would appear.

If two people were editing the same document in different replicas of the same database, then you would get two copies of the document with one labelled as a "replication or save conflict".

Handling of replication conflicts is configurable. You can tell the database engine to automatically merge documents if the conflict didn't impact the same field, or to automatically delete the older change.

Fair point. Not sure if I ever turned it on though.

Domino databases have always been fully accessible to applications during replication.

+ IBM acquired Cloudant, which is fully CouchDB compatible, and is based off Couch.

Couchdb and Cloudant are awesome awesome databases, and I'm staggered that they have a legacy of any kind from Notes shocked

With backend code in java (Domino Java Agent) !

My recent experience is that there are still a lot more Notes deployments in the wild than I'd thought.

It could make a kind of perverted sense for HCL to own a product a huge amount of consulting/outsourcing money is being spent on. Either to ease the decline and capture more of that marketshare (e.g. 'we own it so you should hire us to get rid of it for you') or to try and reinvigorate that product and recapture some of those captured $$$s (e.g. 'it's already deployed for you and instead of paying us big bucks to remove it, pay us medium bucks to add Feature A you really need').

"We will get rid of it for you and migrate you onto our managed Exchange service for only $xxx,xxx/month."

The enterprise software world scares me.

Very few people know this, even inside of IBM:

Notes is literally an Eclipse plugin.

There. Now you can really hate it and feel totally justified.

Maybe it is now? Notes predates eclipse by quite a few years.

Notes used to be a native-ish desktop app. The UI had a native Windows implementation but Notes had a distinctive Notes UI look and feel. It wasn't that great, and pretty horrid on a Macintosh. The architecture was well-separated in that every Notes node was a UI layer and a Notes server, and would have supported truly native UIs. The Eclipsification of the Notes UI was not an improvement, and bloated the heck out of it.

Notes had an app development platform and runtime for forms, workflow and things like that. Adding Eclipse muddled that aspect of the architecture, too.

I was at Lotusphere the year Notes 4 was announced and we gave it a standing ovation.

If you'd ever worked with Notes 3 you would know why.

After switching from Mac to Windows 95 in the mid 90s, I always felt like the Notes desktop interface was a bad rip-off of Apple's At Ease interface. [1]

Having said that, I was always a big fan of Notes/Domino even though the UI sucked hard. This is probably because I was a huge fan of Filemaker Pro on the Mac, and Notes, more than anything else (including Access), felt like the closest thing on Windows.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_Ease

Front end or back end?

Front end. The back end architecture hasn't changed much in decades.

The sale is a lot more than just Notes. Includes a lot of IBM software. Seems to be more of a customer base acquisition than software acq.

Finally, this gives every one an excuses to move off Notes as it is no longer with IBM. My previous company use Notes since Lotus Notes era and email was a bloody mess for something that should have been very simple.

Who in their right mind will buy Notes ?

You'd be surprised. I know several defense contractors that continue to use Notes, just as they have for the 3 decades! These contractors make a lot of money.

Well, given the installed base and utter pain in the butt to move off the platform, a company can make a good living supporting it for a long while.

True, but one has to wonder if the business cases to just keep milking the existing user base, or if there will be any attempt at selling new installations.

New license seems like a hard sell, unless HCL invest heavily in both Notes and Domino.

It's probably a really hard sell unless they really can make a case for easier development and maintenance for internal applications over web technologies. I too don't see that happening without some investment. I really think its a "serve existing customers" play with some contract fulfillment potential for specced app projects.

Based on the shareholder reaction at HCL, nobody.

They bought a lot more than just Notes.

I quite liked notes, nice idea, did a few courses changed companies never looked at it again Damn it ja, open source the thing to get some relevance

Notes 4 launched my software development career, so I will be forever grateful to it.

A mediocre outsourcing company buys software from another mediocre outsourcing company? How exciting.

Mediocre software.

I see you've never had the chance to experience the glory that is lotus notes.

You'd wish it was mediocre.

Yes, calling Lotus Notes mediocre is a compliment of the highest order.

I know it's normally frowned upon, but I changed the headline from "HCL picks up Notes, spanks total of $1.8bn at Honest John's IBM software sale"

The Register often has fanciful headlines, so I would bet your not alone on rephrasing it.

They cover stories I don't often see elsewhere (especially UK-centric tech news) and go into great detail, but I hate the writing style. I know it has a popular following but I feel it gets in the way of otherwise fantastic content. Can anyone recommend any alternative sites with similar breadth and depth but a more professional style of writing?

I haven't found anyone. They do a really good job but with a cruddy writing style. Their sister site https://www.nextplatform.com/ has a bit less provocative style.

They are extremely professional and their technical content is excellent.

I suspect that those stuck in the IT trenches want some light-hearted relief?

It is peculiarly British (albeit with an office in Australia too), which doesn't suit everyone - you may get ribbed if you post a comment that is US centric.

The writing style and the headlines often comes across as childish, but some of the seemingly childish stuff is associated with gags that have been running for years, or reflecting current events in the UK, or just good old British humour!

I am a colonial - so my opinions matter didly squat.

I’m Scottish, so I do get the context and humour. I just feel it often gets in the way of the stories and the great journalism going on at the Reg. Sometimes the pun-filled headlines feel like a brain teaser to be deciphered or a page from Private Eye - great if you’re after some light comedy, not so great if you want to skim the industry headlines for the stories that really matter to you.

I remember all Amiga magazines having the same typical tone. It actually makes me a bit nostalgic.

I remember that writing style from Amiga magazines too! But back then I was reading them for fun as a young hobbyist. It grates a little, reading that style now when looking for industry news. Worse still when sharing their stories as a reliable source of tech news..

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