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IBM offloads Notes and Domino to India's HCL Technologies

'Partnership' will see HCL run future development, starting with version 10 in 2018

IBM has struck a “strategic partnership” with HCL Technologies that will see the latter firm take over development of its Notes, Domino, Sametime and Verse collaboration tools.

IBM and India's HCL have done this before: Big Blue sent Rational and Tivoli products to HCL in 2016, along with some IBM staff. The Register understands that deal resulted in Stateside job losses.

Big Blue's announcement is light on details, and IBM told The Register that it can't offer anything else, as at the time of writing the US-based people in the know are enjoying their weekend. We've contacted HCL, too, and await its response on the details of the deal.

What we do know is that IBM's veep of product management and design for collaboration solutions Ed Brill said, in a video message, that the deal will see both parties “jointly invest in Notes, Verse, Domino and Sametime portfolio, and its clients.”

Brill said “the partnership will drive the future development” of the products, including a new version of Domino, the tenth, to appear in 2018. He also suggested the deal delivers the certainty about the products' future that users have craved.

IBM's also promised a new roadmap for the software devised in part after consultation with users at a “Domino Jam” event that will take place online and in meatspace. Registrations are open for the Jam, but there's no indication as yet of where and when they will take place. Brill said consultation will also include increased “lab advocacy” for users.

A Notes admin of The Register's acquaintance, who works for one of the largest remaining users of the product, told us the announcement of the HCL deal was made with no pre-briefing. Our source says that even IBM people were unaware of the deal the day before it was announced, denying that Domino 10 would ever happen.

The deal with HCL is therefore not unwelcome, as it means a future for a product our source assumed did not have one.

And that future includes the cloud, as IBM has pledged to make its collaborationware available in hybrid and public cloud configurations, and on premises.

Domino blogger and IBM Champion "Elfworld" was invited to a call about the deal and wrote that others on that call asked " Is this too little too late? Will we be able to get customers to invest in Notes/Domino? Will the platform be relevant?"

Elfworld also said "there will be constant development for the Domino platform, so that it will be easier to integrate with other platforms and solutions" and that "Domino will now support the Mail client for Mac as they already do for Outlook via Exchange ActiveSync."

IBM acquired Lotus Software, and with it Notes, in 1995 for a then-astounding US$3.5 billion. Your correspondent worked for PC Week Australia at the time and the transaction was a literal “hold the front page” moment, such was the size of the deal and the change it represented, as it took IBM onto the desktop and into the enterprise at the heigh of the client/server era.

22 years later, the Notes/Domino ecosystem is almost always legacy software, long since overrun by Exchange for messaging and myriad applications for collaboration. IBM didn't do much wrong with the product, but also didn't do much right: Notes/Domino worked well, but was complex, proprietary and lacked a simple client to generate end-user enthusiasm.

A proper obituary for the products is for another day, as they now appear further from death than they did a week ago! The outlook for the IBM staff developing it may not be able to say the same for their careers. ®

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