Novell announced yesterday that they are taking what was NIMS or NetMail and making it open source, calling the project "Hula".  They seem to be focused on Linux with this specifically.  At a high level, it seems like an interesting project, much like what IBM did with the Cloudscape database.
A couple of blogs have interesting insight into Novell's announcement.  First, let's hear from Nat Friedman, one of the top Linux guys at Novell:

This announcement has been several months in the making here at Novell, but the real work to build a community and interesting new functionality is just starting. Hula is new. It's young. If you want enterprise-class groupware functionality on Linux today, your only reasonable option is GroupWise.
Well, Linux is one of the top platforms for Lotus Domino today, both on Intel and zSeries, but maybe the market's #1 product escaped his radar.  If you put that comment aside, though, his blog entry is quite interesting, in that he and the Novell team are embracing all sorts of social software tools to kick-start Hula.  It seems like an interesting project.

One opinion on the Hula announcement was snagged in my blogdigger RSS feed for "Lotus Notes" articles.  Jamie Zawinski, who once worked at Netscape, takes us behind the scenes of Netscape's downfall (warning, like many livejournal sites, Jamie's writing is rather, uh, casual).

It's funny how the passage of time has faded a lot of this from memory, but he's absolutely right.  When Barksdale and Clark set out to make Netscape an "enterprise business", they thought the ticket was to get into the collaboration market.  They bought Collabra Share, and they used public appearances to declare that open standards-based products would kill proprietary ones like Lotus Notes.  Mike Zisman said it best at the time, something like "it's a lot easier to add open protocols to solid architecture than to build a solid solution starting from open protocols."  Zawinski recalls how this change hurt Netscape:
Somehow, Collabra managed to completely take control of Netscape: it was like Netscape had gotten acquired instead of the other way around.
I'm not going to quarrel with Zawkinski's opinion of groupware (" Nobody cares about that sh*t. Nobody you'd want to talk to, anyway."), since IBM (and others) seem to be making a pretty decent business out of it.  What I found most entertaining about his entry was the advice he gave to Nat Friedman about Hula:
But with a groupware product, nobody would ever work on it unless they were getting paid to, because it's just fundamentally not interesting to individuals.

So I said, narrow the focus. Your "use case" should be, there's a 22 year old college student living in the dorms. How will this software get him laid?
Again, Jamie is right -- I don't remember ever having a discussion about putting features in Notes that would help with a hook-up.  I think I'll just stick to a line I've used often, that in business, we often use different products, tools, services.  I usually use the analogy of ID badges/card readers vs. physical keys and locks, but I guess I've got a new one to work with now....

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  1. 1  Tim Leach  |

    "How will this software get him laid?"

    Is it too late to get this feature included with R7 ? :)

  1. 2  Richard Schwartz http://smokey.rhs.com/web/blog/poweroftheschwartz.nsf |

    This takes "social software" to a whole new level. Did you know that the iPod is "social hardware"? { Link }

    -rich

  1. 3  Carl http://www.iminstant.com |

    "it's a lot easier to add open protocols to solid architecture than to build a solid solution starting from open protocols."

    I hope this isn't true for Workplace...

  1. 4  Ed Brill www.edbrill.com |

    Carl, Carl, Carl....

    you know the architecture of Workplace is built atop WebSphere App Server and WebSphere Portal -- so why the dig?

  1. 5  Stu Mac  |

    Carl does have a point....

    Having just tried to install Workplace Serviuces Express on Linux, I have to say the combination of open standards involved scares me to death. I can just about cope with telling customers that Domino 6.5.4 (say) is supported on SUSE Linux v9 with Kernel version XX or whatever. Try to certify, test and then support Workplace on the same platform is going to be a nightmare (WAS vX.XX, WP vX.XX, Cloudscape vX.XX, Directory Server v X.XX on SUSE X.XX etc etc.).

    I guess I'm kinda off topic, but I'm beginning to yearn for the cosy Domino environment we know and love all over again...

    Stu

  1. 6  Ed Brill www.edbrill.com |

    Tim Bray from Sun also had comments on Zawinksi's story...

    { Link }

    Stu, interesting point. The challenge is a set of test/support cases, not the openness in and of itself. Very interesting set of issues raised.

  1. 7  Luke Kolin  |

    He's right on two really good fronts:

    First, software tools need to be written for people to code to. Notes prospered and thrived because it was a great workflow solution that people liked and was easy to work with and hack. People do have collaborative needs, but what they want is not a "dedicated groupware product(tm)" but something that's got a high level of abstraction that can easily reflect the organization's complicated workflow and procedures. It needs to be easy to hack because when the org discovers that there are people supporting a 15-step change control process and the numbers are bad this month, they'll be gone.

    I'm porting a 4 year old web app from Domino to Tomcat; it's got workflow, discussion and all the good stuff. There's nothing inherent in Domino that made it a great workflow product - I can integrate mail, access control and all that in what I have. The secret is that Domino was able to abstract stuff to a high level to dramatically increase my productivity to allow me to quickly develop the app. It's like what Paul Graham says about Lisp - it's a powerful, high-level language that is a great productivity leverager.

    Combine that with the fact that Domino was a light resource, and that's a great workgroup combination. Based on the comments here, I seem to need a dual Opteron with around 3TB of RAM to get Workplace to run effectively, and deal with licensing.

    He's right - a product for managers and the "enterprise" will always lose compared to the next thing that bubbles up organically.

    Cheers!

    Luke

  1. 8  Pants  |

    I'm kind of tickled by his use case. Wonder what clauses we'll see in EULAs in the future...

    "The vendor accepts no liability for social diseases caught as a result of the licencee's use of this software"

    The mind boggles.

  1. 9  Carl http://www.iminstant.com |

    Wasn't a dig, my understanding was that Workplace was being created around open standards, J2EE, SIP, POP3, SMTP etc. etc.

  1. 10  Carl http://www.iminstant.com |

    More documentation to understand my post:

    "IBM Lotus Workplace V2.0 for Multiplatforms is an innovative platform using an integrated family of collaborative products based on open standards that provides multiple collaborative capabilities in a single, reliable, easily managed platform with robust security features. Lotus Workplace currently includes the following products which are designed to be used in combination or separately to provide a unified collaborative environment to meet changing business needs"

    { Link }

    "Workplace isn't about leaving the Notes/Domino base behind, he said, but about leveraging open standards to move that base of users into the future."

    { Link }

    "Because Workplace is built on open standards, companies can adopt it without changing their environment. ■We run on top of the operating systems and databases and security models and directories they already have,■ says Brill

    { Link }

  1. 11  Justin Freeman http://blog.agileware.net |

    re: Ed - "Well, Linux is one of the top platforms for Lotus Domino today, both on Intel and zSeries, but maybe the market's #1 product escaped his radar."

    I believe what Nat Friedman means by this statement - "If you want enterprise-class groupware functionality on Linux today, your only reasonable option is GroupWise"

    Is that Groupwise is the ONLY enterprise collaboration suite out of MS Exchange, Lotus Notes and Groupwise which suppports client software on ALL major end-user platforms, today. These being (in order of importance) - Linux, Macintosh, Web Browser and Windows.

    See:

    { Link }

    Unfortunately, we will all have to wait till Workplace until we get a similiar range of platform support. IMHO IBM missed a really good opportunity to lead the way with a world-class collaboration suite for Linux. I hope it's not too late.

  1. 12  Ed Brill www.edbrill.com |

    well, to be technical, you have to wait until Workplace and Notes 7.x, but then there will be full Notes client support on Linux via the plug-in.

    And that might be YOUR order of importance... I am not sure it maps to the overall market buying pattern of the moment. IBM has made the commitment -- this seems to be factoring into long-range plans at several organizations.

  1. 13  Stu Mac  |

    Ed, I agree its an interesting order to choose, but one that all Unix bigots out there (me being one) would probably agree with. We HAVE to give the visible groundswell of anti-MS users and companies out there serious alternatives to Windows, not just to further IBM's software marketshare, but to fight the battle with the Dells and HPs of this world too.

    Mac is now a serious contender again (hurrah) for the non-techie users, whilst Linux is now the clear platform of choice for the technical or power desktop user. We need all IBM software client platforms to support Linux and Mac ASAP - its chicken and egg - without the app support people cant choose the Windoze alternatives, without users having made these choices IBM cant justify the investment.

    As an aside Ed, the Notes plug-in demos at Lotusphere were at the same time both the most exciting and most upsetting of the week. Its fabulous that you can demo such full Notes functioinality in the IWCT on Linux now, but that also shows the Linux Notes code has always existed within the labs, else you wouldnt have been able to get it working so quickly with such parity to the Windows version. C'est la vie I guess ;-(

    Stu

  1. 14  Brian Benz http://www.softwaresoapbox.com |

    I wasn't so much a technical issue as a business issue IMHO.

    "So what did Barksdale do? He bought a small company in the Valley named Collabra that made groupware software. In one fell swoop, Netscape was now competing with IBM."

    The rest:

    { Link }

  1. 15  Ed Brill www.edbrill.com |

    @13 - Stu, the assertion that "Linux Notes code has always existed within the labs" is incorrect. There is a lot of benefit that the Linux implementation is drawing from the Eclipse base, notably the SWT. It wasn't a matter of some skunkworks project needing to see the light of day -- trust me, if that had existed, we would have been going on it a lot sooner. After all, DOMINO was the first IBM server product to run on Linux!

  1. 16  Chris Reckling www.lotus.com |

    That "use case", as it were, brings a whole new meaning to @IsAvailable, if you know what I mean...

    Other than that, I remember going to some trade show back then and seeing all the Netscape signs that roared, "Communicate! Collaborate! Coordinate!" Netscape probably figured that their messaging market was also about to go away and wanted to branch out into something with higher value.

    Chris

  1. 17  Richard Schwartz http://smokey.rhs.com/web/blog/poweroftheschwartz.nsf |

    Chris, you're barely scratching the surface! There's @IsExpandable(@Member), and some of those @Commands! I'm not even going to go there :-)

    -rich

  1. 18  Duffbert http://www.twduff.com |

    So, Richard... If I understand what you're saying, we could have an @Do, which coupled with an @Failure, could lead to @DocChildren, which could definitely have an @Implode on your future plans....

  1. 19  Joe Peffer http://thepef.blogs.com |

    I guess I am fortunate enough to have been party to the collabra stuff at Netscape, and now a user of Notes at my present company.

    One thing I have to say about Notes as it stands right now, it is totally unusable as a "mail" client. The GUI is way off on its construction, and ease of use. That being said, some items on Collabra.

    Collabra was actually a favorite application of mine within the Suite. The problem is that people did not really understand it, and what threaded discussions bring to the table. Too often it was merely implemented as a newsgroup local aggregator and was not properly incorporated into the organizations infrastructure. Also, it really did require buy in to the entire suite of Netscape products.

    Groupware, and its proper use never really took off, probably because we are as a whole quite lazy and not willing to take that step away from the quickness of email to do something else. So in theory products like Collabra and Notes should be widely accepted, but in practice they fall short.

    Quite frankly, I see some of the benefits that were derived in Collabra, and in Notes coming through in Blogging.

  1. 20  Ed Brill www.edbrill.com |

    @19 Thanks for the comments.

    The last thought is one I can definitely agree with -- blogging, wikis, del.icio.us, furl, flickr -- all this stuff does some element of what Notes can be really good at. But it is the advanced applications that are built on Notes that remain its biggest differentiator.

    In my product's defense, the Notes mail client isn't "totally unusable". IBM do usability testing every release, and take Outlook users and ask them to do stuff in Notes. For the 6.0 cycle, of the 14 tasks tested, it was basically a tie. Some were faster in Outlook, some were faster in Notes. There are still,um, some quirks - but every product has 'em.

  1. 21  Alan Lepofsky http://www.alanlepofsky.net |

    @19, While I'll admit Notes has some quirks (just like every product) it quite easily allows me to read the dozens/hundreds of emails I get each day. It has mail folders on the left, documents on the right, a preview pane, color coding of messages, reply/forward, etc. and they all work just fine. So I'd (and I think several million other users) would have to argue against your "totally unusable" comment.