Monday, November 13, 2017

When your Tool is a Hammer, Everything is a Nail, Transformation of Domino - Part 2

The recent announcement by IBM to continue the development and support for the IBM Domino platform indefinitely was great timing for part 2 of this series. This series is about the direction that we are taking Domino. This journey has taken more than five years with many different designs and experiments to get to where we are in our iPhora technology. You can find Part 1 of this series here

There are many tools and solutions out there from many vendors for "Modernizing" a Notes application. But what does that really mean?  In most cases, that means replacing the Notes application interface with a Web interface and making a better UI experience for the user.

But for us application modernization is not just about the front-end but also but how the data is collected, managed, stored and processed. How it integrates with outside third-party services. Most Domino application modernization leaves the data untouched in the same structure. XPages mimics the Notes application environment for a Web client versus a Notes client. This approach allows data to remain in place as it was defined.  But as we all know, it also leaves a lot of useless code, views and wasted resources. 

We wanted a defined framework, that allowed us to create applications more consistent with how the majority of modern Web applications are built but at the same time utilize the best parts of Domino. We are not just interested in "Modernizing a current Notes/Domino application" but building new enterprise applications that utilizes the key advantages that Domino uniquely has.  Before we go any further lets look at what a Web server environment normally consist of. It may include:
  • Web server
  • Identity/Authenication server
  • Load balancer
  • Cluster manager
  • Mail server ( for notifications )
  • API server
  • Integration server
  • Application server
  • Database server
One of the best things about IBM Domino is that all these different type of server components that you need is all bundled into one single server package. This is great for many, but it is also its Achilles heel. This tight integration also creates problems. Any changes to the design of one these server components require changes in the other server components. As a result, each of the server components may not be optimal. That means that IBM Domino is a jack of all trades but not the best of anything. For many that is more than enough. However, for scalability, extensibility and future competitiveness this is bad. If IBM Domino is to be competitive, you need to reevaluate the approach on how applications are built on Domino, but at the same time understand how to utilize the best features found in Domino but not in other platforms.  

Majority of Notes applications have a one to one database relationship with each having different views,  forms and etc. Over time they all have different design approaches. Some developers break out the application to multiple databases some not. The design varies from application to application. A typical Domino application has all the business logic and data wrapped into a single database regardless of whether you are using XPages, traditional Web application, Notes Application, and whether we are using REST API with JavaScript or generating the Web application using XPages. 

We wanted to separate out the different server components and depending on our need replace those components will newer components that may utilize different technologies not found currently in Domino. This would allow us to Dockerize Domino easier in the future. By breaking up the server components, we can now look into replacing these components with other technologies that have better performance. For example, Nginx as a Web server has much higher performance than what Domino could ever be, the API server could be replaced with a form of Node/Loopback.io.

So in a typical iPhora installation there is a fix number of designated Domino databases each serving as an individual server component that makes up the iPhora server.  A base installation includes:
  • Web Server (Generates the UI interface) 
  • API server ( generates all the RESTFul APIs)
  • Database server (JSON-based data store)
  • File Database Manager (Manages all the files stored on the installation)
  • Application server (contains all the business logic)
  • Identity Server ( contains all the profiles and users info and works with the Domino Directory)
So regardless of the type of application or how many applications you have, you have the same number of databases, unless you exceed the limits of a Domino database which we have not encountered yet. So an application is no longer represented as a single database, but a collection of business logic, UI components, and APIs. It may seem to be a waste initially, but as you build more and more applications, you do not need to allocate more and more databases.  The individual databases collectively provides the framework for your application to draw from. Our typical application is now a series of MVC views, JavaScript/CSS files, additional APIs, if needed, and business logic files.  All applications must follow a strict design pattern for both front-end and back-end which also allow us to have different developers working on the front-end and the back-end.

Security is our top priority not shear speed like other platforms. Regardless of who you are, users only have read access to the Web server database and the API database when access any application. All the rest of the databases, users have no access include administrators. CRUD is a definite NO NO. Users regardless whether they are only readers or administrators should NEVER have direct access to the data. Strict access control of data is done through a gateway with low level administration only done using our Notes-based client application.

One of our biggest challenges was transforming the Notes document database into a JSON-based data store similarity found in MongoDB or CouchDB. We used CouchDB as our design model, but discovered that we needed our own approach. We will discuss this is part 3.










Friday, November 3, 2017

Domino X and Beyond, What Does this Mean?

On October 25, 2017, IBM announced their strategic partnership with HCL with Domino, Sametime, Traveler, Verse and other products. As many have blogged and tweeted, IBM is turning over the development of these products for the forseeable future to HCL. Also, Ed Brill announced that IBM will be releasing Domino X in 2018 and #Domino2025 Jam to help determine the future of the Domino technology. I am not going to dwell on the details. You can find it yourself.  I am going to discuss what this means for Phora Group and myself.

There are many naysayers who have stated that this announcement is too late. I would say it is NEVER too late.

So what does this announcement mean for Phora Group and myself. Am I super excited, NO.  Am I happy, YES. Was the moving of development to HCL surprising, NO. And, it will not surprise me if the relationship with HCL go beyond just development, think Lenovo. We have been partners with IBM/Lotus for a very long time, and know that things just does not move fast at IBM. With Domino development moving to HCL, hopefully will move faster. However, it is really not about the technology but about the marketing and the application of the technology and this is where IBM's competitor have excelled at. With movement to hosting and the cloud, all users see is the application that they are using. Users does not know anything about the technology nor they care. We are in the world where someone throws up a cool application in the cloud, everyone starts using it and assumed it is trust worthy with their information being safe without any second thoughts until a breach. Users see marketing. So it is all about marketing and the applications that are available on the platform that will drive the future of Domino. No longer can you stay in a Business to Business mode. Regardless of what you are doing you are in the Business to Consumer mode.

Many people talk about Domino being a legacy technology. If that was the case, why are so many companies trying to duplicate its architecture including MongoDB, Couchbase, and SharePoint.  Some say that Domino do not use "modern techniques.  Well that depends on the development approach and techniques. Yes, there are features that I would like to see built into Domino. However, the flexibility of Domino allows you to use modern techniques not just for the front-end but the back-end. If you push old techniques as the way to do things, you get applications that are not modern. In our iPhora products, we have a modern JavaScript MVC front-end with a modern secure JSON-based datastore and architecture. And in our opinion of course being biased, superior to other solutions out there. It is fast and scalable. It allows us to integrate with other best of breed enterprise solutions. I will talk about that in part 2 is my current blog series next week.

Here is my technology wish list for the future of Domino:

  • 2-factor authentication, a must have.
  • Create Node C++ add-on integration into the Domino core C API.
  • Strip the Notes client down to the C API core (Notes Core) and integrate Node C++ API to allow it to connect to Electron and others front end tools.
  • Make sure the Notes Core runs on Linux.
  • Make the existing Notes Mail client and Notes application client add-ons to the Notes Core, this allows existing Notes Mail and application to continue working
  • No matter what, keep replication as part of the Notes Core, this is one of the most powerful features of Notes and Domino
  • Create a Verse add-on to the Notes Core so that we have true offline capabilities with Verse
  • Get rid of Eclipse and do not make it an option.
  • Strip Domino to the core components and let developers determine what components they want to use (Domino Core).
  • Make Java an optional add-on to the Domino Core so when new versions of Java comes along it is not a major operation to upgrade it and if you do not want Java, you do not have to install it.
  • Keep LotusScript, it has better security and control along with scheduled agents.
  • Remove Websphere from Sametime and bring it back to a Domino/Node solution.
  • Create a Domino Designer as an add-on to other development tools like Microsoft Visual Studio
  • Get rid of sorted views (it slows things down and not needed)

I figure that I will be working with Domino even when I am in my 70s.  It is the most unappreciated technology that I know of.  It is not the cool kid on the block, but it is a technology that I know is secure, scalable, flexible and reliable and yes it is modern.  It just need more love.

With this announcement, we can say we have NO plans to migrate off the Domino technology.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

All Good Things Must Come to an End and the New Hope and Direction

MWLUG 2017 was our most successful MWLUG conference we have ever had. With over 232 registered and a small number of cancellations, MWLUG 2017 was the most attended and largest conference. We had over 60 sessions, workshops and round tables with speakers from all over the United States and Europe. Over a third of the sessions were non-IBM specific and included sessions covering new topics like MongoDB and GDPR.

In tuned with our theme this year, Moving Collaboration Forward, our goal was to expand our conference this year forward towards a new direction and not just cover the usual. The world of collaboration is changing. No longer does a solution stand by itself nor does a solution just involve components from a single vendor. Companies need to chose the best of breed and integrate solutions together. Sometimes it involves solutions from many vendors. This is a direction that IBM is moving towards with Cisco and Box. At the same time we see customers moving away from the IBM stack towards competitive solutions or augmenting their IBM solutions with competitive solutions. We can not live with our head in the sand.

One of the frustrating parts of this years conference was trying to cover the many directions that IBM is going. As a small conference it is difficult to have the resources to effectively cover all the areas. Regardless, a vase majority of this year's attendees and always have been from the Domino space which has gotten smaller and smaller caused by the lack of clear direction and support for this product. This leads to the question what should we cover in the future. Should it be even more general and we evolve MWLUG to become a conference about many types of collaboration? Collaboration is not email and social communities. Collaboration as we have shown this year involves machines, processes and people. 

At the same time we heard from IBM that our favorite collaboration platform Domino may be a renewed area of focus. As we all know, many of us have been extremely frustrated over the past 5 years regarding the future of Domino.There is New Hope. 

So should we be more focused? In either case, we have decided that being a LUG conference is not appropriate and also confusing.Therefore, MWLUG 2017 was the last MWLUG conference. It has had a great run of nine years, but time has come to end MWLUG and consider starting something new. 

However, I see the same high quality sessions in the future that we all have come to expect, with great and wonderful community support from IBM Business Partners, IBM Customers, and IBM and of course BEER !!! 

Therefore, we would like to announce that MWLUG is now CollabSphere.  

CollabSphere 2018 will be in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late July early August 2018 and our local host will be Ray Bylik. So expect good and new technologies, people, and beer for next year.




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Highlights of MWLUG 2017

This year the MWLUG conference was held at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. The theme for MWLUG 2017 was "Moving Collaboration Forward."  There are numerous changes to the IBM Collaboration landscape and we wanted to cover these changes, but at the same time augment our normal ICS specific sessions with sessions focused on the greater landscape of collaboration. We had sessions on non-ICS specific topics like MongoDB, IoT, and Sharepoint.

MWLUG 2017 this year comprised of 60 sessions, workshops, and round tables. We had 232 registered attendees with 211 showing up making this the largest conference we had ever had. The conference covered IBM Bluemix, IBM Cloud, IBM Connections, IBM Notes/Domino, IBM Verse, Watson Workspace, IBM/Cisco Collaboration and Connections Pink.

The IBM Domino Application development round tables were most enlightening and dynamic to put it.

Our two Platinum sponsors, panagenda and Red Pill Now both had free workshops for the attendees.  panagenda's workshop cover ApplicationInsights and Red Pill Now's workshop covered UI/UX Design.

Our social event was at the New District Brewing Company in Arlington, VA. If you left early, you would have misses one of the highlights of MWLUG 2017, the wager between Justin Hill of Prominic and Darren Duke of Simplified Technology Solutions. This wager helped raise almost $300.00 for our Community Outreach Program. The beneficiary this year was Hands on DC which help schools in the DC area. We raised a total of $1740.00 for this charity.

Thanks to our local organizer, Dave Navarre, we were fortunate to have Gale Garriott as our OSG Guest Speaker. Gale was Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery for 15 months. Gale was followed by Ed Brill and Warp Speed Sponsoring something that we borrowed from Theo and Engage.

This year attendees drank a staggering 59 gallons of coffee, 2 kegs of craft beer from two local breweries, over 300 pints of beer at the New District Brewing company, dried out the tap (of good beer)  at the bar at the Hilton Mark Center twice.

It was great a conference and seeing everyone in person again. As our community seems to be changing and this might been the last time we would see some of them in person.

Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers and sponsors for making MWLUG 2017 possible. It is a community event and it is our community that keeps this going.

MWLUG 2017 sponsors



Unfortunately, this is the last of MWLUG conference. Next year there will be a new name that better reflects on how we see the industry going. The format will be different but the people will hopefully be the same and more.  So for this new and tenth collaboration user group conference we are heading back to the Midwest region of the United States in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  So hopefully we will see you next year in Ann Arbor !!!





Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Phora Group Announces iPhora® integration with DocuSign

Posted August 9, 2017 By Louise Burton - Communication

Phora Group, a DocuSign Partner is pleased to announce that its iPhora application platform now integrates directly with DocuSign, the leading cloud-based provider of electronic signature services with over 200 million users in 188 countries. With the integration of DocuSign, complex document workflows and business processes requiring electronic signatures can be instantly signed, anywhere in the world, using a process that is secure and legally binding. The new integration with DocuSign utilizes iPhora Async, a secure, asynchronous, event-driven, add-on to iPhora Foundation.  iPhora Foundation's ability to manage and strictly control access to documents - or parts of documents - enables businesses to confidently sign critical and time-sensitive forms.

Phora Group will be demonstrating this new DocuSign integration capability with iPhora Foundation at the MWLUG 2017 conference, booth #8 at Alexandria, VA , August 8-10, 2017.


About DocuSign
DocuSign® is changing how business gets done by empowering more than 300,000 companies and 200 million users in 188 countries to sign, send and manage documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, with confidence.

DocuSign replaces printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting documents with the easiest, fastest, most trusted way to make every approval and decision digital.

Organizations of all sizes and industries are accelerating contracts, approvals and workflows with DocuSign’s Digital Transaction Management (DTM) platform and eSignature solution. DocuSign keeps life and business moving forward.


About Phora Group
Phora Group is a provider of secure business solutions for small to enterprise organizations.

Your company data and processes are critical to the operation of your business. Whether your organization is looking to share sensitive and proprietary information among your staff and partners or seeking to automate complex business processes, Phora Group's solutions are designed to provide your organization with a highly secure, flexible, and scalable business platform.

Our iPhora family of products and services incorporates easy to use interfaces, along with administrator administrator-friendly installation and management. iPhora solutions are designed to harmonize with your existing business operations and can be delivered as either a hosted/cloud, on-premises, or hybrid solution.

With iPhora's scalable BPM technology, extensive API, and integration tools, your solution can securely interact with third-party services and have them become an integral part of your business processes.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Phora Group Announces iPhora® Async

Posted August 4, 2017 - By Louise Burton - Communication

Phora Group is pleased to announce iPhora Async, a secure, asynchronous, event-driven add-on to iPhora Foundation, Phora Group's primary application platform for collaboration and business process management (BPM). iPhora Async allows organizations to integrate external cloud-based services into their core business processes in a secure and controlled environment. iPhora Async extends Phora Group's commitment to providing highly secure solutions combined with efficient and innovative user interface design.

About Phora Group
Phora Group is a provider of secure business solutions for small to enterprise organizations.

Your company data and processes are critical to the operation of your business. Whether your organization is looking to share sensitive and proprietary information among your staff and partners or seeking to automate complex business processes, Phora Group's solutions are designed to provide your organization with a highly secure, flexible, and scalable business platform.

Our iPhora family of products and services incorporates easy to use interfaces, along with administrator administrator-friendly installation and management. iPhora solutions are designed to harmonize with your existing business operations and can be delivered as either a hosted/cloud, on-premises, or hybrid solution.

With iPhora's scalable BPM technology, extensive API, and integration tools, your solution can securely interact with third-party services and have them become an integral part of your business processes.

Learn More

MWLUG 2017 - Announcing MWLUG Community Outreach Program Beneficiary

As members of the IT community, we are also an important part of our local community. Through the MWLUG 2017 Community Outreach Program, we are raising money for organizations that help the local community. Each year we identify an organization in which our contribution would have the greatest impact on the local community of the host city.

Thanks to the generosity of the Hilton Mark Center, we will be raffling off a weekend stay at the Hilton Mark Center as the grand prize. Please take the opportunity to help the local community. Each raffle ticket is $10 and you can buy them at the registration desk starting Tuesday afternoon. We will announce the winners during lunch on Thursday.

Over the years we have raised over $12,000 for a number of local food banks, the Salvation Army, and Swan Song. We are pleased to announce the MWLUG 2017 Community Outreach Beneficiary is Hands on DC, a non-profit organization that organizes projects to improve the physical condition of Washington, DC public schools.




Hands on DC is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that organizes projects to improve the physical condition of Washington, DC public schools. We also raise funds to support local college scholarship programs and encourage greater community involvement in the public schools. Hands on DC is volunteer-founded and volunteer-led; we have no paid staff. Instead, two main bodies undertake the group's work:

The Executive Committee focuses on planning, developing, and executing the year-round events and the annual work-a-thon. To accomplish that task, the group works in committees responsible for volunteer recruitment, community outreach, public relations, fundraising and sponsorship development, information technology, special events, and coordination of school projects. Please click here for a list of Executive Committee members.

Hands on DC's governing body, the Board of Directors, provides long-term stability and policy guidance by focusing on strategic issues and organizational relationships. The Board is composed of previous event directors and other selected individuals with a long history of participation in Hands on DC. The Hands on DC Co-Directors and the Treasurer are also ex officio Board members and form the link between the Board and the Executive Committee.

MWLUG 2017 Transportation from Airport and Parking

If you are traveling to the Reagan International Airport  to the Hilton Mark Center remember there is a free shuttle.  Here is the shuttle schedule:
National Airport/Pentagon City Mall & Metro
The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center offers a complimentary shuttle service 7 days a week from 6:00 am. to 10:30 pm. The vans depart from the front of the Hotel on the hour and half hour, arrive at Pentagon City Mall/Metro (blue and yellow line) at approximately 10 minutes and 40 minutes after the hourand continue on to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Our last pick up at Pentagon City at approximately 10:40 pm. The van arrives at the airport at approximately 20 minutes and 50 minutes after the hour. We pick up at Terminal A, Terminal B door 5 and Terminal C door 9. Our last pick up at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is at approximately 10:50 pm.

King Street King Street Metro Station
The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center offers complimentary shuttle service to King Street in Old Town Alexandria 5 days a week from 3:15 pm. until 9:15 pm. The van departs from the front of the Hotel at 15 minutes past the hour. We pick up at the shelter at the King Street Metro Taxi Stand. Our last pick up is at approximately 9:30 pm.Arrival times are approximate and are affected by traffic levels.
Daily Parking at the Hilton Mark Center for MWLUG Attendees
Parking for MWLUG attendees is $14/day. If you are staying at the hotel and driving in, the discount will be applied to your hotel bill. If you are not staying at the hotel, you will be given a discount voucher and can get them at the registration desk.