Definitely different – a few days looking into the future with HCL (and IBM)

If this blog is tl:dr then here’s your takeaway

I can’t thank everyone at HCL enough for throwing open the doors and leaving them open. Together we will continue to innovate great things for customers

Last week Tim and I were invited to the 1st CWP Factory tour held by HCL at their offices in Chelmsford.  “CWP” stands for “Collaboration Workflow Platform” and includes not only the products HCL took over from IBM late last year such as Domino, Traveler, Verse on Premises and Sametime but also new products that HCL are developing as extensions of those.  These (that I can talk a little bit about) such as HCL Nomad (Notes for iPad) and HCL Places (a new client runnvetaing against Domino 10 and providing integrated collaborative services such as chat, AV , web and Notes applications) will be leapfrogging Domino far over its competitors.

I want to start by thanking HCL for inviting us inside to see their process. We met and made our voices heard with more than 30 developers and executives, all of who wanted to know “do you like this?”  “what are we missing?”.  I came away from the two days with a to-do list of my own at the request of various people to send in more details of problems or requirements I had mentioned when there.  John Paganetti, who is also a customer advocate at HCL, hosted the “ask the developers” impromptu session (we had so many questions so they threw one into the agenda on day 2).  We were told to get to know and reach out directly to the teams with our feedback and questions.  If you don’t have a route to provide feedback and want one then please reach out.

Back in February I attended a Domino Jam hosted by Andrew Manby (@andrewmanby) from IBM in London.  These were held all over the world and attendees were pushed to brainstorm around features that were missing or needed.  That feedback was used to create priorities for v10 and many of the features requested at my session and others have appeared in the current beta and are committed to a v10 release.  At the end of the 2nd day of the factory tour we again had a Domino Jam hosted by Andrew Manby but this time for Domino 11 features – wheeeeeeee!   With the Jams and the Destination Domino blog as well as the #domino2025 hashtag activity, IBM are really stepping up to the products in a way they haven’t in several years.  I want to recognise the hard work being done by Andrew, by Uffe Sorensen, and by Mat Newman amongst others, to make this IBM/HCL relationship work.

So what was the factory tour? It was a 2 day conference held at HCL’s (still being built) offices. I am pleased to say it was put together very informally, we were split into groups of about 10 (hi Daniel, Francie, Julian, Richard, Paul, Nathan, Devin, Fabrice!) and one by one the development teams came and took our feedback on the work they are doing.  We worked with the Verse (on premises) team, the TCO team (looking at the Domino and Sametime servers), the Notes client team, the Nomad team and the Application Development team.  It was an intense day in a good way with so much information being shared with us and questions being asked of us.  It was also good to be told that the majority of what we saw and discussed could be shared publicly.

A few highlights (out of many) from the two days that were new to me:

  • The new database repair and folder sync features in Domino 10 (shame on me for not remembering what they are called). The database repair feature will detect when a database is corrupted and replace it whilst the server is running with a new instance from a working cluster mate (another good reason to cluster).  The folder sync feature will keep any  Domino database files or NLOs in any listed folders in sync.  This stuff is so cool and exactly what Domino clustering needed so we asked for them to extend the sync feature to include any files in the HTML directory such as HTML CSS and CGI scripts and they are considering that (v10 is a tight delivery timeline right now so no guarantees of anything).
  • Some very candid discussions (I think repeated multiple times by everyone there) about getting rid of WebSphere for Sametime in the future and how to better provide Sametime services purely under Domino.
  • HCL Places looking much evolved even in the few weeks since it was first shown at Engage – this is going to be a game changer client when it comes out.
  • The Domino General Query Facility (DGQF) available in Domino 10 is the biggest investment in Notes/Domino code in 10 years. A query language accessible outside Domino that doesn’t require any  knowledge of Domino design by a developer.  Using DGQF you can rapidly query collections of documents represented by any criteria not necessarily views or forms.  Using DGQF a regular web developer would be able to build a Node application, for instance, using back-end Domino data without ever having to learn the structure of the Domino database or touch Domino Designer.  Here’s a sneaky picture I took of the positioning for DGQF.John Curtis who is the lead designer behind DGQF has been very responsive on twitter to questions about how it will work (@john_d_curtis)IMG_0313
  • A lot of stuff Nomad and Node related which is still NDA but you’ll hear more about them at Collabsphere in Ann Arbor – HCL will be out in force as will IBM speaking, showing and listening so if you can you need to get yourself there.   Turn out and turn up – there’s still time to get your voice heard.

 

Are You Ready? System Requirements #Perfect10

In this 4th webcast in my #Perfect10 series I discuss system requirements for v10 of Domino, Sametime and Traveler.  Yes I know we don’t know those yet and we don’t even have the beta but we do know some things that are coming and more importantly this is something you should do before any major upgrade regardless.  If we want an upgrade to be successful we don’t want it dragged down by old or outdated architecture and operating systems.

It runs a little bit longer than I like at 19 minutes I had a lot of information to cram in. I’m sure you can speed me up to 1.5x if you want to save a few minutes 🙂 As always if you have any feedback or would like me to do a webcast on a specific aspect please let me know.

Destination Domino (yes, yes I’m late to the party) **

Well this is a lot of good news all at once.  IBM have launched the Destination Domino site – a one stop shop for all your Domino v10 and future strategy news.  If you doubt their commitment to the future development of Domino and the community that believes in it, well just look at all that yellow.

On Thursday 24th May (the day after Engage) I’ll be participating in a webcast on what’s new for Mail, Verse, and Chat for v10.  I will be joining Andrew Manby (Director of Product Management @ IBM) and Ram Krishnamurthy (Chief Architect, Notes, Designer and Xpages @ HCL) on the call.  Registration is here. I recommend you also sign up to the newsletter on the Destination Domino site to stay on top of the developments happening because those are coming at us pretty fast.

I was fortunate enough to visit HCL’s offices in Chelmsford, MA last week and met many of the development teams working on Domino, Verse, Traveler and Sametime.  Some I have known from their years at IBM before they moved to HCL and some were new to me – most of the day is under NDA and you’ll be hearing more about what they are going to deliver at some point if you attend Engage, DNUG, MWLUG and other conferences this summer. If you can’t attend just keep an eye on the Destination Domino site.

One thing I can share that isn’t under NDA is how impressed I was not just with the rapid development of features many of us have been waiting a long time for but also the innovative and open thinking behind Domino as a development platform and the energy and enthusiasm just about everyone I met that day (over 30 people) had.  We are going to see a lot more on the Notes client for iPad and the integration of Node.JS in the next few months and that’s all very exciting.

**I have a good excuse since I’m currently on holiday in St Lucia BUT we interrupt this pool / beach time because this is really important.

{blink}So THAT’S the future{blink}

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted here.  The end of last year was a juggle of many different pieces of work and learning new technologies but more on that later. I did however take my eye off the ICS (IBM Collaboration Solutions) ball waiting for the HCL deal to firm up and find out more what was going on.

As you may know from my previous post, at the end of October IBM entered a partnership with HCL whereby the latter took development ownership of all Domino products including Verse and Traveler as well as Sametime whilst IBM continued to own the license model, support and most importantly strategy.  As part of that announcement we were told of an upcoming series of workshops around the world called Domino Jam 2025  which were to determine the future path of both Domino and Sametime (so not just Domino and nothing to do with the year 2025!).

Last Friday I (along with about 50 other people) attended a London Domino Jam at IBM South Bank which was hosted by the senior development team at HCL (who transferred in from the same roles at IBM) and the product management team at IBM.  Up until a week or so ago I would say I was more curious and cautiously optimistic than excited.  I had been in coversation with someone in the development team at HCL who I have known from IBM days for 20 years and his introduction to HCL and his enthusiasm for the future sparked my own.  Let’s just say the HCL team seem to be people who have been long immersed in these products, believe in them and are now being let off the leash to develop for the future. During the day we were casually told that there would be new product releases guaranteed in 2018 including

Domino 10

Notes 10

Traveler 10

Verse (10?)

Sametime Instant Messaging 10

That was and is very encouraging news and IBM seemed bemused that several of us in the room kept asking for clarification and confirmation of a thing they thought we already knew.

As part of the Domino jam workshop we were split into groups and asked to brainstorm things like “your biggest pain points” and “what features would you like to see in the future” and then prioritise and present them.  These workshops are going on around the world right now (there’s one in Geneva I believe today) and you can register for them here https://www.ibm.com/collaboration/announcements/domino-jam2025.  In addition if you can’t attend in person IBM are hosting a Domino Jam Forum from Jan 16 – Jan 19 where you can provide your feedback directly online.  See this blog for more information https://www.ibm.com/blogs/collaboration-solutions/2018/01/11/announcing-domino2025-online-forum-january-16-18-2018/

the “#domino2025 Online Forum” will be active for fifty-five hours across the globe to gather your business and technical input and prioritization.” (I prefer “priorities” but I get what they mean :-).

If you are in any way invested in the future of ICS products either mail or instant messaging or conferencing then this is a serious effort to hear what you want and don’t want.  I can tell you there was some very honest and harsh feedback as well as some pretty extreme ideas thrown out by the teams last Friday and we were encouraged to do that.   I know for some of you it’s asking a lot but dig deep, find that kernel of optimism that’s still left, or just throw in your lot because it does no harm to do so and may do a lot of good.

This is an opportunity to help form the long term strategy and direction of products many of us love and believe in.  Take it.

Sametime Client Update Breaks Single Sign On

I recently built a new Sametime Complete environment for a customer that included an Advanced and Meeting server.  When I had completed the build I tested a new standalone Sametime client in a VM to confirm that I could login to the new Community server and it would log me into the Advanced and Meeting servers.   Having added the necessary lines to plugin_customization.ini to enable  Sametime Advanced* I was able to login to the Community server successfully and be automatically logged into the Meeting and Advanced servers.   However, when I handed over to the customer for testing I was surprised that they couldn’t actually login to the Meeting server at all through the Sametime client. They got a server unreachable error.

So I did further testing

  1. On my client I was configured to use SSL for both the Meeting server and Sametime Advanced. I could login to the Community server and that logged me in securely to Meetings and Advanced.  That same configuration on a test workstation of theirs failed to login to the Meeting server saying server not responding (although it did successfully log in to Advanced)
  2. If I removed the Sametime Advanced servers from the Sametime workstation client it could suddenly log in to the Meeting server
  3. If I changed the Meeting server configuration in the workstation client to use HTTP (80) instead of HTTP (443) I would be logged in to the Meeting and Advanced server
  4. On the test workstation I could always login to the Meeting server securely through a browser and open a tab to the Advanced server and be automatically logged in there even when the Sametime client claimed it couldn’t reach the server.

So why did it fail on every one of their workstations and not for me? It turns out they were using the latest Sametime client I had downloaded from Fix Central (20170402-0344) for them whereas I was using the 2016 build (20160624-0209).  I took a snapshot of my VM and upgraded my Sametime client to the April 2017 one and I immediately was unable to log in to the Meeting server. I rolled the snapshot back to the 2016 client and everything worked again.

One of the major updates in the 2017 client was SAML functionality and it does seem that the single sign on logic has been broken in some way by that 2017 update.  Everything is working with the 2016 client so for the time being (and whilst IBM investigate the PMR) we are rolling that out.  One to watch out for though – newer is not always better and you might want to avoid the latest 20170402-0344 update.

 

*for Sametime Advanced login to work at all in the client you must ensure “remember password” is checked and the following two lines are in the plugin_customization.ini

com.ibm.collaboration.realtime.bcs/useTokens=false
com.ibm.collaboration.realtime/enableAdvanced=true

A Sametime Chat Mystery

Today I was contacted urgently by a site I did an install for back in early September.  The install went well and I left them several months ago with working components, but apparently about a week ago people stopped being able to login to the Community server. In fact not even the SSC could access it.

.. and yet no-one had changed anything at all.  I do love a good mystery so I thought it would be useful to someone (or even just future Gab) to document what I did:

  • verified if port 1533 was listening using netstat -an |find /i “1533”.
  • verified there were no running AV services that could interfere with the ports.
  • checked if the ST services were running, in fact only about 6 were.
  • tried to start some of the services that weren’t running and they failed immediately.
  • since no-one touched Sametime my next guess was a Windows update that caused a problem.
  • checked the Windows networking settings hadn’t been overwritten (they had) . Although those settings shouldn’t cause the services to fail completely it was worth resetting them.
  • I then added vp_trace_all=1 to the [Debug] settings in the sametime.ini which creates detailed log files in the \ibm\domino\trace directory.
  • having added that I could see log files being created for every service, even the ones that wouldn’t stay started. In fact those ones recreated every couple of minutes.  So the services were trying to start and failing.
  • reviewing the log files I could see on things like STPlaces there was a JVM error, but I put that aside for the time being in case it was a dependency issue.
  • in other logs such as STDirectory I could see broken networking errors and just before that I could see a comment about switching to TLS.

    A-ha! Well, that’s new.

  • checking the sametime.ini I found:
    VPS_PORT=1516
    VPS_TLS_PORT=1516

    which I changed to:
    VPS_PORT=1516
    #VPS_TLS_PORT=1516

    My guess being an incomplete TLS configuration from the SSC.  Having done that the server restarted perfectly and all services started.  The SSC could then access the server with no problem.

Of course once I had spent 4hrs doing that I then found a technote on it which I never would have found before I saw the TLS entry.  Here’s the technote .

Sometimes it’s a rollercoaster but so long as I get things working  I’m calling that a good day.  Now back to building more Connections servers.