back to article IBM offloads Notes and Domino to India's HCL Technologies

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 …

  1. jake Silver badge

    I can't think of a better place to put them.

    Except perhaps the local tip/dump.

  2. Bob Vistakin
    Facepalm

    Jesus, is Notes still going?

    That's the one IBM knew was so full of bugs they wouldn't touch it with a bargepole for their own internal use, but were happy to sell it to customers whilst charging them for fixing it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

      That's just not true. All internal email was Notes based, we had several hundred thousand IBMers using it.

      You can tell people who know Lotus Notes well. When asked "How well do you know Lotus Notes" they deny ALL knowledge and apologise for no apparent reason.

      Yours, an ex-IBM ex-Domino-architect.

      1. egbegb

        Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

        Yes, we all used it, but few were happy with it. I don't recall any of my newsletter readers shouting its accolades. Notes wasn't bad, but it wasn't in any way innovative. I am a former IBM-er Notes user too.

      2. egbegb

        Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

        Yes, we all used it, but few liked/loved it. I don't recall any of my Programmer's newsletter readers shouting the accolades of Notes. It was good, but not great and the Notes team never did innovate sufficiently to interest the Internet world. Some of the technical folks in Notes-land were brilliant, but IBM's conservative product views on introducing innovation stymied success in every product that had a human interface. IBM was and continues to be incompetent when it comes to dealing with individual customers -- the public.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

      IBM is using Notes (too much, of course, because they shouldn't be using it at all).

      Great news for the long suffering Notes users, maybe this will put an end to their ordeal...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

      When the startup I worked at in previous life got borged by big blue they transitioned us from our old Outlook licences to Notes.

      I only enjoyed using Notes because it felt retro, like a Windows 3.1 application. The screen that listed all of the Notes applications felt like Program Manager from the early 90s. It's like they never looked at a UI design for the past 20+ years.

      And truth be told I thought that the tabbed interface of their Word/Excel/PPT replacement, Symphony - an OpenOffice fork, was nice.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

      As others have stated, IBM is a Notes house. We also had to use the assorted office products too, when I left IBM they were still under the 'Symphony' label, but who cares what they were called, they were all inferior to MS Office products.

    5. nerdbert
      Stop

      Re: Jesus, is Notes still going?

      Oh IBM used Notes, and even had it ported to their POWER machines in the 90s.

      I have to say, Notes got me my first laptop. The POWER workstation port was so bloated it made the PC version look svelte and quick in comparison (and it was slow on the PC, but that's another story). Even though we were R&D we were expected to use it, but it was so big and slow that I loaded it up twice a day: once when I first got in and once before I left. I the usual course of events, my 3rd line needed something right away and asked me for it, but I didn't see it until well after he wanted it. When asked why, I explained how I couldn't do both my work and run Blotus Notes at the same time. It wasn't a week later when my manager dropped by with a laptop so that I wouldn't miss another management meltdown. And this was a time when laptops were nearly unheard of outside of sales and management.

  3. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Devil

    I always wondered where software went to die

    Now I know it is sent to HCL. Helping Code Lapse

  4. gz3zbz
    FAIL

    Interface Hall of Shame

    Used to support Lotus Notes back in the '90s and enjoyed reading the entry for Notes in the Interface Hall of Shame: Link

    One example:

    "Judging from the number of visitors who have mentioned it, the process of copying messages in Notes is perhaps its worst interface "feature". Apparently, when mail messages are copied from one folder to another, the message itself is not copied; Notes creates a "reference" to the message. Unbeknownst to the user, if you delete the reference, Notes will in turn delete the message itself. Similarly, deleting the message will cause all references to it to also be deleted.

    A number of visitors described the loss of valuable information through this process."

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Interface Hall of Shame

      There was another web site which listed its many many failures. People from IBM read it and some bugs even got fixed.

      Unfortunately the banner at the top made from stock photos of people facepalming has not survived the transition to archive.org.

  5. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: Interface Hall of Shame

    Putting this in perspective Notes was pitched as a heavyweight global all-singing all-dancing application, and sure, the biggest corporations in the world took it on-board and used it as a customisable off-the-shelf alternative to bespoke.

    Designing (and using) a product that has such things as distributed/global referential integrity is, of course, a lot more difficult to do than any single group of designers could imagine - IMHO Novell were the masters of such insight, but I'm sure that even they stumbled occasionally.

    We criticise the product now for its defects, but why didn't said global corporations do their research prior to embracing it? Methinks that it is the sheep mentality: Such & Such Megacorp is using Notes, it must be ok to use it. [In reality, enlightened users would skirt around the shortcomings, building code in to glue between incompatibilities that they find].

    That last paragraph: Copy and paste it and stick it on your wall. In ten year's time, ask yourself. Did history repeat itself?

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Interface Hall of Shame

      "We criticise the product now for its defects, but why didn't said global corporations do their research prior to embracing it? Methinks that it is the sheep mentality: Such & Such Megacorp is using Notes, it must be ok to use it."

      IBM salespeople were the highest paid in the industry. They could sell ice to eskimos.

      VPs of Finance and VPs of IT of the day (themselves mostly enthusiastic non-tech ex-sales yesmen) didn't stand a chance of making a good decision for their companies.

    2. nijam

      Re: Interface Hall of Shame

      > heavyweight global all-singing all-dancing application, and ... used it as a customisable off-the-shelf alternative to bespoke.

      Like many all-singing all-dancing applications, it requires so much customisation work to achieve usability that writing a bespoke system would be easier and more maintainable.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Notes wasn't a bad idea.

    Notes itself was not a bad idea. As it is an application platform based on a document database not a mail system. In fact, the mail and calendar parts simply are applications. Hard-core Notes shops (including IBM itself) has myriads of Notes based applications. So in that sense, it it much more than Exchange for example. It is a very powerful tool indeed.

    IMHO what Notes lacks is a good interface. It should have followed current GUI trends much earlier, as quirks in its usability really alienated people. This was sort of OK, when it was supposed to be multiplatform, but it is now basically Windows/Linux/MacOS but does not really have the look and feel, integration, and UX as current apps.

    Anon for being a Notes user.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Notes wasn't a bad idea.

      As soon as RDBMS became available on cheaper servers, Notes and its non-relational database were doomed, especially since better tools to build database frontends became available also.

      In the late 1990s I have seen many companies migrating away from Notes applications to ones written in Visual Basic (or even Access) and Delphi (and later web ones). There were also far more commercial applications that used an RDBMS backed instead of Notes. Sure, IBM shops went the painful route (I worked for one, but it too switched to Exchange and RDBMSes, my group was the Exchange/Outlook pilot group - and we didn't looked back). With Exchange, MS understood there was really no need to put too many eggs in one basket, especially since it has also Access and SQL Server to sell.

      The UI modeled after some ancient Egyptian design was also a reason why most users hated it. Multi-platform doesn't mean necessarily an ugly UI on each platform.

      Yet, I don't understand what companies like IBM, or MS, want to sell now. Just rent hardware with some software they don't develop? I can see them easily wiped out by cheaper Chinese or even Indian cloud companies in the near future. When you no longer have any competitive advantage, and just resell someone's else stuff, the cheapest one wins.

      1. An0n C0w4rd

        Re: Notes wasn't a bad idea.

        I suspect the Notes Applications is the one reason Notes still exists. Companies built their business processes around Notes Apps and it's too expensive to move off so they're stuck on the platform. It was certainly one of the big blockers to migrations off Notes in the companies I dealt with.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Notes wasn't a bad idea.

        The availability of RDBMS's on cheaper servers was NOT what doomed Notes. Lotus Notes is not a RDBMS and never has been. It was a multitude of things but it was never an RDBMS.

        It provided (for the time) a reasonably flexible way to manage data and documents that didn't require knowledge of SQL (or low level set oriented languages), it allowed people to build quite simple looking but complex document and data flow systems that worked pretty well (for the time).

        The reason for the Egyptian interface was that the developers wanted to avoid anybody learning anything about the password whatsoever, including the length of the password. It was a simple and clever way to make things difficult. It never took off and annoyed users.

        The main thing that I disliked about it was that it was single threaded, the interface rewrite in Java was dog slow and it didn't do anything that well, though it was adequate (for the time) for what it did do. It tried to be too many things to too many people and failed on all accounts.

        I used it for nearly 20 years on and off and I had a soft spot for it, sometimes the soft spot was a swamp at the bottom of the garden, but I wrote a number of applications that were quick to write and did what they needed to do and only took a few hours. Were they pretty? No, Did they do the job? Yes.

        I'll be slightly sorry to see it go, but I won't shed a tear.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "Lotus Notes is not a RDBMS and never has been."

          Exactly. It was a poor man implementation of a database, and was barely OK for some simple applications. The fact you had to use LotusScript and very poor development tools didn't help.

          The company I was working for in the 1990s did Notes development - but most customer soon asked for RDBMS and far better frontends - the same fate applications built on dBase, Clipper, FoxPro and Access suffered too - it was far easier to consolidate data inside an RDBMS and access them from different tools.

          That's why the RDBMS market thrived, and Notes went down the hill. Nobody went the same path, and for very good reasons.

          I'm just surprised the Wizard of Ozzie got so much credit, and got MS money too for delivering nothing again...

    2. El-Ape

      Re: Notes wasn't a bad idea.

      It lacks a decent interface and more bugs than a rainforest. Most of which have been around for years and IBM just didnt seem to care. Good idea, poorly implemented backed up by piss poor support.

  7. pyrasanth

    Notes is just horrible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. That's all that needs to be said. The sooner people move on, the better.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Notes is just horrible.

      Succinct.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      MSFT is bad too though. That was what always bothered me about Lotus hate. I think I just have encountered too many people with "Exchange" in their job title who think that Outlook is just amazing... Yeah, if anyone outside of corp IT departments liked that stuff then Gmail wouldn't have over a billion active users.

  8. Shoot Them Later
    Windows

    Postcard from the land that time forgot

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

    If it means a future for a product that many of us wish would just crawl into a corner and die, then it's surely an unwelcome deal?

    Let's also not forget IBM Verse - a mediocre cloud mail UI stuck on top of a seriously defective back end. Sure, I recognise that some people really do like Notes/Domino - predominently those who are paid to administer/develop or indeed sell it - but the users? Not so much.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Notes confused IBM staffers

    I once worked on a project with IBM GS where we supplied some functionality to protect a Notes backend. We were explicitly told in the kick-off meeting that they wanted to see our bit working ASAP as they knew they could get Notes working. Our bit was stood up and fully working in under an hour. Took the architects from IBMs Notes/Domino group 2 days to get Notes working to the point we could do integration testing.

    I think that pretty much says it all.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aw come on - give Notes a break

    I think Notes has a bad reputation primarily from users having bad experiences in the past and a legacy of poorly written applications by users who had no right to be near a development client.

    If its past is ignored and you take a look at what it is now, it's pretty impressive. The mail & calendar application has been ejected into it's own browser-based client (Verse), which I'd argue could compete on good terms with anything Google or Microsoft have on offer in terms of look and feel. IBM themselves pretty much dismiss traditional Notes client apps as legacy now, instead concentrating on browser-based apps. Domino development itself is light-years ahead of the legacy stuff, with back-end code in Java (with a SSJS layer if you're happier with that) and the UI in JavaServer Faces-based XPages (or whatever technology you want - jQuery, Angular, etc.), and great extensibility into all the enterprise stuff - all developed in the Eclipse-based designer.

    Unfortunately it seems to be hamstrung by this 'Notes is crap' reputation from outdated experiences though, which means any take-up of it is always going to be an uphill struggle. Good that IBM's at least making a bit more than its usual token effort to show its commitment though.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Aw come on - give Notes a break

      Do you still need 'ZapNotes' these days?

      We all had it installed so we could restart Notes after it crashed, ... for those that never suffered Notes, 'ZapNotes' was a utility that would close down lock files etc, so you could restart Notes without rebooting your PC. Notes did fail fairly often, and this would also lock up Sametime, so ZapNotes came to the rescue.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Aw come on - give Notes a break

      No. Notes has a poor reputation because it's a shitty piece of software that should've been decommissioned two decades ago.

      It's shit. It's utter shit. It's shittier than a shit filled shithole full of shitty shit.

      I do not like Notes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aw come on - give Notes a break

        "I do not like Notes." Yes, I did manage to tease that meaning out of your post.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aw come on - give Notes a break

      Forced to use this ever day at IBM right now and it’s still crap.

      Verse is a good idea. But what’s the point if you can’t get your team room stuff, you still need the client for that.

    4. nijam

      Re: Aw come on - give Notes a break

      > If its past is ignored and you take a look at what it is now, it's pretty impressive.

      The Notes expert on our team (who has to maintain some legacy stuff) says things like that too. I don't believe him either.

  11. FuzzyWuzzys
    Facepalm

    Lotus Notes as a web proxy.

    I seem to recall way back around 1995 using Lotus Notes as a proxy server for web browsing. It was bloody awful, even then when web pages were very basic but considering we used Notes for the usual business apps like travel, expenses, etc, using it as a web proxy too was quite novel.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Lotus Notes as a web proxy.

      Using it as an interface to SMTP mail was also a nightmare. As an IBMer I had to run two mail user agents, Notes for corporate stuff and something that worked (Netscape Mail I think it was called then) for external collaboration. Some very senior people tried to use Notes for external email and boy did they get ridiculed for the formatting and other errors that the gateway introduced. That was mainly because Notes started out as a sort of X.400ish thing running over the Domino distributed database mechanism. Sadly, it never recovered from that difficult infancy and childhood.

      Notes and Domino came from Iris which was owned by Lotus which was bought by IBM. For a while, Iris was a great place to visit, Silicon Valley in Massachussets, until the IBM Mind Control System discovered it and spoilt it.

  12. HmmmYes

    Oh good.

    Looks like the org that inherit my long list of Rational tickets will also get my long list of Note tickets.

    Im still waiting by the way.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lotus Notes

    I worked on a Notes project back in 1996. Surprised it's still going but some credit has to be given to it for being the first properly integrated office suite - well before Microsoft Office.

    A lot of companies integrated and developed extensions for it so I can understand it's still around.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The good old days

    I remember when I went straight from a COBOL analyst / programmer job to take on the admin and development of a Lotus Notes domain covering three countries. I was literally the only member of staff doing everything - admin, development, installs, user support, etc.

    Went on to a major consultancy which had embraced notes, and used it as the backbone of business critical apps that their thousands of consultants could use on the road.

    Eventually ended up at an insurer where we wrote a leading edge commercial insurance system that could do on-cover and MTA's all in a browser including all policy documentation. That was around 2000. The system was so good that when the insurer went bust, another one bought the system for £1m. Not bad for a few notes databases and some Java code.

    In the right hands it could do amazing things. Sadly, there weren't many of the right hands around.

    1. netmouser

      Re: The good old days

      Absolutely right, Notes is super in the right hands. It gave me a very long career beginning about 1992, good pay, and a nice retirement from IBM in 2009.

      More than once, next to a consultant who boasted about his ability with Notes, I asked if they took any courses, were certified. Way too many said no and insisted they did not need it. Just ask in interviewing someone to explain Notes security. You will quickly find the people who are truly clueless, on something so basic. People see how to do a few simple things and think they know Notes, but no way, it offers so much more.

      I worked at a huge bank in NYC. IBM sent experts to present the Lotus desktop apps and could make a deal to entice the bank to switch from MS ro Lotus products. But the bank said no because they did not want the time and expense to train everyone, who were comfortable with MS. Lotus/IBM had the better products that also integrated with Notes apps and email, but they could not market them.

      Likewise those of us who attended Lotusphere - and later the IBM Lotus forums in Boston for IBMers (which I attended when I joined IBM) - had the impossible job of trying to explain to management and other non-attendees what Lotus presented. Again, a problem with education and marketing to those outside the Lotus products. Yet, I know the apps and systems turned out by those who really do know Notes development were outstanding. Very quick to develop, easy to clone code, impressive complex systems that can expand with other languages, and no problem in support.

      And other technologies never did get the coveted replication into their apps. A win for Lotus that lasted.

  15. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    IBM

    HCL

    I thought Intel got done over for a bunch of off-by-one bugs........

  16. tmz

    As a Notes consultant

    there sound like there are plenty of AC commentators here that I have worked with over the years.

    Notes could do some things well and lots of other things not well at all. You just had to select the right project.

    But, at the end of the day, it did at least allow me to pay my mortgage off 10 years early.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a Notes consultant

      As a drug dealer, I know my products may contribute to the demise of some of my customers.

      But at the end of the day, I paid off my mortgage early and at least I don't have a guilty conscious about making people use Notes or Domino .

      1. tmz

        Re: As a Notes consultant

        I was just making sure they were using clean needles.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hindsight is a dangerous thing

    It's unfair to judge the programs of yesterday by the standards of today.

    In 1995 we looked at Excel for Windows and looked back at 1-2-3 and shuddered: who would use such a thing? Who would pick "/" as the menu key? Same thing.

    Notes was immensely ambitious and powerful for its time, and allowed you to do things that no other system could do. Circa-1999 Exchange Server could barely stay up, let alone provide a basis for complex workflows and custom apps.

    Today Notes needs to be quietly put down, but you can't blame it for being bad back in the day. The interface was not great - you might even say poor - but the alternatives from that era were not exactly fabulous either.

    If you want a prediction, in 2040 the Reg readers will be pointing at our Metro/Material Design UIs, and our unsecured cloud assets and scoffing "what were those jokers thinking?!" But we do our best today.

  18. hellwig

    Last time I used Notes

    It took something like four or five mouse clicks to mark emails as Read. And of course, the action wasn't called "Mark As Read".

    A failure to understand what your application is doing is a big way to look like a fool. If you offer an email client, maybe do some research on what an email client actually is.

    If Notes did anything else, we never used it.

    1. Morzel

      Re: Last time I used Notes

      You could've just hit insert to toggle the unread marks :-P.

      Lotus Notes mail was pretty bad at a lot of things, but selecting multiple messages (toggle selection using space-bar) and unread marks (toggle on-of using insert) was way easier in Notes than in Outlook, which required multiple mouse interactions. Notes was far nicer to work with for a keyboard-centric user.

      15 years ago, you could administer a Domino/Notes "groupware" environment with mail and applications for a sizable company with a team of 3 admins, while you would need three departments to keep a functionally comparable Microsoft-environment running... It was pretty BOFH friendly, and did a lot of things right when it came down to security, including encrypted communication and local storage (if enabled), workable offline synchronization, active-active clustering, as well as cryptographic key management. And you could just recover that single mail the CEO deleted from backup without having to set up a separate server on which to restore the complete mail store, which was the only way to get it done in some versions of exchange... A lot of high-profile targets (banks etc.) were using it for good reason.

      So yeah, its mail implementation sucked golf balls through a garden hose and the cross-platform UI wasn't at home on any of the operating systems it supported. But it shined in places where the alternatives were a big pile of steaming crap.

      That was 15 years ago, the rest of the world has caught up (thankfully), and Notes never really got away from all that legacy. Like COBOL, the companies using it right now won't be moving away from it easily as it means redeveloping a whole lot of stuff that works for them, while all the new stuff gets a different environment to live in.

      Disclaimer: I've used Notes for more than just mail at the time, and it deserves more than the bad rap it gets for the mail app. Also: I've long moved on, and so should pretty much everyone else ;-).

      1. nijam
        Happy

        Re: Last time I used Notes

        > You could've just hit insert to toggle the unread marks

        D'oh! That's so obvious! How could anyone overlook it?

        </sarcasm>

        Insert. What were they thinking?

        Or should I say "What? Were they thinking?"

  19. petef

    I like to be objective rather than just saying that Notes sucks. (Others may find different labels for my attention to detail.) I have my own list of annoyances through major defects that runs to over 100 items. Many of those are actions which are unintuitive, the list started as a crib sheet. That compares with Outlook at 21 and Gmail with 4.

  20. WatAWorld

    No price? HCL was smart enough to not pay for this old stuff.

    The article mentions no prices?

    So, at least HCL was smart enough to not pay for this old IBM stuff.

    I think IBM is like Apple: primarily a sales & marketing organization.

    The difference being that Apple makes easy to use products that are sometimes up-to-date with the times.

  21. martdj

    Bunch of uninformed comments here

    I see people comparing Notes to RDBMS and say it was bad. The market is now going to NoSQL databases like CouchDB. Guess what, Notes databases are also NoSQL databases and actually not bad at that

    I see complaints about the user interface. Many people in companies that moved from Notes to Outlook actually still prefer the Notes interface over the bloated Outlook interface. Also, Microsoft never got their Outlook Web Access really right. iNotes beats OWA hands down on usability (not saying iNotes is the best web mail app. Just saying Outlook Web Access is probably the worst in the market).

    What people also don't seem to understand is that companies still build new applications on Domino as there's simply no platform that so easy to build mail-related workflow applications on than Domino. For these small simple applications, Domino to date is still a very valid platform.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bunch of uninformed comments here

      I agree with your comments. I would also add that IBM did try and use their own RDBMS (DB2) as a backend to Notes rather than the native NSF format in the past. I heard that the reason this tanked was largley due to the honoring of Readers and Authors fields on Notes documents. IBM did get this working for DB2 but the performance wasn't any where near as good as the NSF db store.

  22. adam payne Silver badge

    Oh Notes it's been a long time but certainly not long enough for me.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ..delivers the certainty about the products' future that users have craved.

    So it's gonna be dead for sure? That's a relief - it's been smelling like a corpse for a long time.

  24. Eduard Coli

    Must be bonus time

    Ever since the Neo cons hijacked the company in the 90's IBM has been in a death spiral.

    This is just more outsourcing, laying off anyone who still knows anything about the product and selling a license to some overseas firm.

  25. lancashirelad

    IBM didn't like Notes either

    Just out of curiosity what is the Microsoft equivalent for low code departmental apps ? It's not SharePoint, It's probably not Power Apps ( yet ? ) , Flow is just one component ( albeit becoming very impressive ).

    I run a business using "Notes" and if there were an easy to use Microsoft alternative I would be using it.

    Notes obviously has issues and was a 2nd class mail experience at times but as an application platform for "gap filling" around ERP systems and for departmental and site solutions it was exceptionally good - to the point where it really didn't have any obvious competitors.

    The ironic bit is that Notes lost to Microsoft in a battle about mail clients when it was so much more than just a mail client - and Microsoft didn't have anything to offer its new customers for applications when they "migrated". That says something about IBM's marketing team.

    Notes was way ahead of its time for NoSQL and "Low Code" but it undermined IBMs bigger ( more expensive ) products and wasn't valued by IBM.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019