Lotus Notes refuses to die, again, as HCL debuts Domino 12

It’s now a cloud-native, low-code product that’s growing and offers a viable Exchange alternative, apparently


HCL has launched version 12 of Domino, the groupware server it inherited from IBM, which in turn acquired it along with Lotus Software in 1995.

“Notes and Domino have been transformed”, HCL proclaimed in a launch video. That’s strictly true, even if many of the “transformations” are, in truth, merely attempts at catching up.

The new HCL Nomad, for example, enables Domino apps to run in a browser. It also allows Domino developers to write for the web and an app without altering any code, which will be welcome. Nomad is also billed as meaning an end to client application updates, reflecting Notes/Domino's mid-90s roots and the enormous fun to be had in those days before automation made PC management and software distribution less onerous.

The new Domino Volt is billed as a low-code development environment that allows business users to create apps and forms without needing to know much about Domino’s workings. HCL talked it up using examples that included its own marketing department creating forms, and law firm providing its staff with access to documents and workflow facilities.

Domino is now also able to run in clouds. AWS, Azure and Google are all available as hosts, deployment on Kubernetes is possible, and the software has been certified for RedHat’s OpenShift platform.

And that’s all the stuff that Richard Jefts, HCL’s Senior Vice President and General Manager for Digital Solutions, deemed worthy of listing as a “wow” in what he termed a “breakaway release” for Domino.

The title of Jefts’ keynote address in the virtual launch of Domino V12 was “The World Is (Still) Powered By Domino”. He then revealed that the platform has 15,000 customers, that 42 per cent run 2020’s version 11, and some (such as LG) are expanding their use of Domino.

That’s evidence that Domino may still be a profitable business, and HCL’s virtual launch event includes a testimonial from a new customer who migrated away from Microsoft Exchange.

The Domino 12 virtual launch event’s production values were rather less slick than almost any other virtual event your correspondent has attended in the last year - it was basically just Jefts standing in an office, with poor audio production and some slideware.

Long story short: HCL appears not to be throwing megabucks at marketing this release, and its new bits are nice catchups — not Exchange killers. HCL seems to know this, as it is also making generous upgrade offers. Free licenses for Volt and HCL's no-cost assistance developing a Nomad app are on offer for those willing to move to version 12 in the next 12 weeks.

Domino users can, however, take comfort from the fact that HCL has created three major releases since acquiring Domino in 2018. Users stuck with Novell’s GroupWise, which tussled with Domino in the 1990s, haven’t had a major release since 2017’s version 18. ®


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