How I Want To Use Domino

Mar 7, 2012 12:43 PM

Tags: domino
  1. How I Want To Use Domino
  2. How I Want To Use Domino, Take 2

From my perspective, there are three main problems with Domino: the limits, the client, and the server. Now, that's a lot of stuff... most of the product, in fact. However, the facts that I'm still programming for it and that my company's 16GB project-tracking database is as snappy as it was when it was empty attest to the core quality of the product. Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of things that make Domino salvageable:

  • Reader fields. These are hard to beat and hard to find elsewhere. While you can do everything without them that you can do with them, you'd likely spend a lot of time worrying about edge cases or limiting yourself to coarse security. If a user doesn't have Reader access to a document, it doesn't exist (well, except for some shadows in view indexes).
  • Solid, straightforward directory integration. Going along with reader fields, it's very helpful that the directory system is part of the overall product and works well enough with LDAP that you don't have to worry too much about it. User names, group memberships, and roles all make sense.
  • Full-text searching. It works and it's quick.
  • View indexing, more or less. As long as you don't rock the boat too much and don't think about what you used to do with SQL tables and views, Domino does a fine job of maintaining views for you.
  • File attachments. They work well and can even be full-text searched if they're the right type.
  • ID files. I used to hate these, and they're often more hassle than they're worth (as my C API programming is demonstrating), but they have some distinct advantages. If you squint, you can see them as really long password that may themselves have another level of password. They're also essentially the same concept as SSH keys. They also tie into handy encryption and certificate abilities that I don't usually have much use for.
  • Potential capability as a blob store. I saw a great post a while ago talking about the ability to just cram arbitrary data into a Domino document, and I think this is a very valuable line of thinking. If your data fits into the model of "a couple queryable bits and then a block of arbitrary data" or the "upside-down" method of memory-storage-first from the post, such a setup could work extraordinarily well.
  • Replication and clustering. Sync is not hard... unless you let your deletion stubs expire.
  • Agents, more or less. The language choices and lack of immediacy make agents kind of a pain sometimes, but it's still handy to have code directly associated with the database with schedule and event triggers.
  • Read marks. It's nice to have the option to let the server handle this for you when it fits your needs.

That's on top of the various benefits you get from document databases generally, like multi-value fields and the lack of schemas. Note, though, that none of these are (directly) related to Domino's chops as a mail platform, web server, or GUI app environment, its choice in programming languages, the value of its standard array of templates (though they can be handy), or pretty much any virtue extolled by its marketing materials. The guy writing on the invisible whiteboard on IBM's page doesn't care about reader fields or blob storage.

Though most of my Domino work is for the web and XPages are a better way to do that than the legacy elements, it's still a drag. Java as a language is a hassle (the platform has its charms), Server JavaScript isn't a full replacement in the way that Groovy and JRuby can be, and working on top of a giant Jenga tower of Java classes and abstractions can be hazardous to your health.

I really just want to treat Domino like MongoDB, CouchDB/Couchbase, and the rest: an environment-independent document database. This is probably not worth the effort, particularly since IBM seems passively hostile to the notion, but I find it to be a compelling idea. It doesn't have to fit into, say, Rails, but grinding Domino down to its solid NoSQL core could open up a lot of possibilities.

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Jesper Kiaer - Jezzper Consulting - Mar 7, 2012 4:03 PM

I very much agree with your views. On a similar note 2 years ago I wrote a blog entry describing why Notes has survived all these years:

http://nevermind.dk/nevermind/blog.nsf/subject/lotus-notes-and-domino-have-been-able-to-survive-for-20-years-how---2-reasons-why

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