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Book Review: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1

February 2nd, 2010 by Corey Davis

IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1 The Upgrader's Guide“IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1, The Upgrader’s Guide” is the latest Domino related title to come out of Packt Publishing. The book promises to be your guide enabling you to quickly upgrade your existing Domino infrastructure and to assist you in leveraging the newest features of Notes and Domino 8.5.1. For the most part this promise is kept, but there are caveats.

The book begins with an overview of features in the Notes client. Though the title would lead you to believe that the book focuses on version 8.5.1, in fact the book is riddled with references to 8.0 and 8.5. I assume it was the authors intent to help the reader mentally segregate the features into a timeline of their inclusion into the product, however a simple table in an appendix would have conveyed this information just as well while providing the dual purpose of serving as a quick lookup reference. Given that the title of the book is specific to the 8.5.1 release it would have been a smoother read if all features were discussed in aggregate.

The discussion of feature segregation aside, the overview of the client provided in the first chapter should be provided to all Notes end-users and seems to have been written with them in mind.

Chapter Two jumps right into a discussion of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). It provides a very nice overview of SOA explaining how Notes and its new composite applications fit in. The chapter also provides a good walkthrough on how to create a composite application, but ends with an oddly placed brief discussion on open-technologies related to Notes 8.5 such as Eclipse and Open Document Format (ODF).

Shifting the book’s focus back to the end-user, Chapter Three is all about Lotus Symphony. Though a very short chapter, only a few pages, it reads like a sales pitch for the free productivity suite with exception to one oddly placed section on Domino policy settings as they relate to the productivity tools.

We then move into the poorly named Chapter Four: Lotus Domino 8.5 Server Features. The chapter actually covers Domino 8.0, 8.5, and 8.5.1. That aside, the chapter reads like a pocket-guide for Domino administrators looking for a quick reference to Domino’s newest features. Rather then delve head-long into a deep-dive on each subject, the authors wisely chose to simply provide a concise overview of the features providing administrators a jumpstart into Domino’s latest feature set. In what may be one of the most useful aspects of this entire book from an administrator’s point-of-view, the combination of Notes client, mail template (when applicable), and Domino server version required to make each feature work is carefully noted.

The fifth chapter, Deployment Enhancement in Notes/Domino 8.5, provides a very basic summary of client provisioning before moving into a detailed discussion of policies. While the policies section has some good information, there is no step-by-step guide or even discussion of best practices for client deployment.

Chapter six begins by providing a detailed upgrade guide from a process standpoint. If you are in a longtime Domino shop this is unlikely to be new information, but it provides a good review. For those new to enterprise deployments this can be a very good starting point in your education on how to deploy software. It then moves into a nice checklist of sorts detailing which databases to be concerned with prior to kicking off your upgrade. A bonus LotusScript agent is provided that will allow you to export reports from the Domino Configuration Tuner, but be warned that you will need to make some modifications to the code if you are not running Domino in a Windows environment. Finally, the chapter details the actual upgrade process in a short list that will be old hat for seasoned Domino administrators, but required reading for those new to Domino.

Chapter seven, Coexistence Between Notes/Domino Releases, started with, to my surprise, a step-by-step guide to running multiple versions of the Notes client on the same machine while sharing a single data directory. I have no qualms with running multiple versions of Notes on a single workstation, but to share the data directory between them? Any Notes professional that cannot already make this work is unlikely to understand the complications that can arise by doing this and therefore I feel that this should have been left out of this book. The chapter then moves on to lightly touch on the new Domino features and what will and will not work with older Notes/Domino releases without really getting into any of the details or any of the real issues that administrators face during the coexistence phase of deployment.

The eighth chapter moves on to a topic close to my heart: application development. Even though composite applications were covered in Chapter Two, the topic is covered here again but this time in much more detail and is a must read for any developer considering composite applications who may not have looked into them in the past couple of years since Notes 8 was released. The next section of the chapter is the Designer 8 client but the text sticks with composite applications and the property broker editor before moving on to WSDL and then view, form, and agent enhancements. Some formula and LotusScript language enhancements are next before moving into the Designer 8.5 client. The Designer 8.5 discussion is largely superficial covering Eclipse views and perspectives without ever mentioning the single biggest change that the Designer client has seen since it was first introduced: the new LotusScript editor and class browser. This is followed-up with a page on each of XPages, CSS, HTML, and JavaScript controls. They round out the chapter with an overview of Lotus Component Designer, RSS, ATOM, the blog template, and some information on Lotus Expeditor.

Chapter Nine moves into integration with other IBM and Lotus products such as Quickr, Sametime, and Connections. This chapter also provides a nice walkthrough on installing the Quickr Connector.

The final chapter, chapter ten, takes you back around yet again to the Domino server, this time focusing on Domino 8.5 enhancements. A short run-through detailing how to get Domino Attachment and Object Service (DAOS) is offered. I found this to be a very concise bit of text offering just enough information to get an administrator who is comfortable with Domino up to be speed without getting bogged down in larger considerations such as the need for transaction logging. This chapter also provides a nice peek into ID Vault, auto-populate groups, and Domino Configuration Tuner (DCT). The chapter is concluded with quite a bit of information on iNotes.

There is only one appendix to this book and it is dedicated to a small subset of third-party products.

To conclude, this book has its fair share of problems. It is disjointed and returns to subjects over and over again in different parts of the text rather than providing one-stop shopping for readers. To be fair, the task of covering Notes and Domino in a book can be daunting. Notes and Domino are complex and offer such a wide array of features and configuration options that overlap is to be expected. However, I believe that this book would have read easier if all features of a specific topic were grouped together and not spread throughout the book. If nothing else this will prove to be a point of consternation for administrators if they attempt to use this book as reference materiel since they will have to flip through different chapters in order to put all of the pieces of a specific feature or topic together.

The book also has some technical issues. Some of the screenshots were of older versions of Notes and some of the diagrams were absolutely useless. For some inexplicable reason the authors felt compelled to mention DB2NSF even though this feature is deprecated. The chapter on Lotus Symphony provides little benefit except maybe to those who have never heard of the suite before. Finally, the appendix on third-party solutions was laser focused on a couple of vendor’s products without offering so much as a mention to readers that there may be other solutions available.

But it’s not all bad. There are some topics that are covered very well in this text, better than I have seen elsewhere. iNotes is covered in great depth as is the Quickr Connector. More importantly, most seasoned Domino administrators and developers do not need yet another 800+ page tome on Domino. This book provides bite-sized nuggets of information and will leave it to the reader to hunt down more in-depth materiel if they so need. Do understand that this book is not for newcomers to Notes and Domino. A depth of knowledge is expected by the reader, without which they will become lost, confused, or misguided. If you are looking for a starting point this book can be it, but beyond that you will need to look elsewhere such as the free IBM Lotus Redbooks.

Disclaimer: Packt Publishing provided a free review copy of the book for the purpose of this review.

Links:

Packt Publishing: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1, The Upgrader’s Guide

Amazon: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1, The Upgrader’s Guide

Other books on this topic:

IBM: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8 Deployment Guide

IBM: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5 Deployment Guide

IBM: Upgrade Cookbook: Upgrading to Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1


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