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Linux messaging and the Domino effect

IBM's decision to fully support Linux on the Lotus Notes/Domino platform could mean Linux has finally put its mark on the messaging scene.

While the migration from proprietary to open source applications has not been a massive one, IBM's decision to fully support Linux on the Lotus Notes/Domino platform could mean Linux has finally put its mark on the messaging scene. spoke with Art Fontaine, IBM's manager of Notes/Domino as part of an in-depth look into the world of messaging and collaboration on the Linux platform. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

Essentially, users will have a full Notes client for Linux, not by this year, but certainly by 2006.
Art Fontaine,
manager, Lotus Notes/DominoIBM

Can you give some insight as to how Linux has fit into the messaging landscape over the past few months and/or years? Where has Linux excelled? Where do you see an opportunity to improve?

Art Fontaine: When you look historically at where the Linux workload has been, [you'll see] that it has gone from a file porting thing and then through to databases and the applications server. Other than those people who run POP (Post Office Protocol) e-mail, you didn't get many people using it for messaging.

Linux has become a nice fit because of its reliability in the eyes of users. It is now the kind of investment that runs the Exxon/Mobil's of the world and does it well. There also a number of ISVs who make a nice living selling applications on Domino platform and those have embraced Linux well.

How are you pursuing the larger customers, those who may be seeing their support for older versions of Exchange and Windows NT come to an end?

Fontaine: In truth, there are a number of us in the industry who have been attacking that issue over the past year. That opportunity is still relevant, but now we're also hearing the same echo from [Exchange] 2003 users that are saying they're considering a move with their e-mail to a Linux workload. We've also started taking advantage of some migration away from Unix-based platforms, with a number of competitors actually getting ahead of us in number of ways. Domino in '98 was already working simple ports from Unix, and it has always supported Solaris and AIX from the days when it was just a couple guys screwing around with code a couple of days a week.

Should a customer explore other Linux-based applications to build some kind of base or familiarity before choosing to migrate to a messaging client? Why or why not?

Fontaine: I would say that any Linux administrator out there would recognize [Linux-based messaging] as a natural addition to what they're developing on. I actually have partners who are able to put it in Windows shops. To their system, a Domino application performs the same way on Linux as it does on Windows.

A lot of our partners sell migration services, where they go in for a certain amount of dollars for the software and process and convert the mailbox; because whether you're going from Exchange 5.5 to anything Domino you going to have some conversion process.

An early criticism of messaging on Linux servers is that it has certain limitations in the way that it offers user only the basics and not much else. Lotus certainly has been around long enough to be considered full-featured, so how do you see things?

Fontaine: Whether you're talking about Domino or J2EE, the use of Linux is exactly the same as on any other platform. IBM's software policy is to have broad support on pSeries, and as matter fact that it still runs a majority of IBM e-mail.

How is working with Linux on the mainframe a different ballgame? More specifically, how are you pitching Linux messaging to mainframe customers?

Fontaine: We [ported Domino on Linux to the mainframe] last summer with Domino 6.5 and have found that some of biggest deployments of Domino are on Linux for that platform.

Everything's relative, but on Linux there is a growing amount of business in Red Hat and SuSE on the Intel platform as well. Once the Domino 7 code is rewritten we are going to have support a Novell SuSE as well as Red Hat releases, and thus take advantage with the suite in the new 2.6 kernel.

Also of note for the mainframe, on the client side we have Domino Web access, with support for Mozilla since version 6.5, while Firefox support is pending. Also pending are plans to implement the ability to run Linux on Intel on back end against a totally Linux-based front end.

Some other activity of interest to users is that we've done work in our new Manage Client Pro, our workplace manager product to support Notes. Essentially, users will have a full Notes client for Linux, not by this year but certainly by 2006.

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