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Doug Wilson talks about IBM Workplace client Technology
Author/Michael o'connell, Tara Hall
Developerworks has the honor to interview Mr. Doug Wilson, CTO of Lotus software, to understand his views on the new IBM Workplace Client technology. Why is open standards so important to IBM, why do you need to pay attention to new things that are coming soon.
Let's get started! What do you think about starting IBM Workplace?
We are very excited by the announcement of the workplace Client technology. It represents the completion of our middleware-centric computing platform. It is a great improvement for the J2EE Middleware system. It extends it to a variety of customer devices and supports multiple programming models. As a technology provider, this is an important step for IBM and is also an important step for our customers and business partners. This is the prelude to technological development. One day it will combine us completely. The first practical product of the technology will be released this quarter.
The client technical product was originally planned to be launched later this year, but is now much ahead of schedule. What does this mean?
We have been planning to release two feature sets of the lotus workplace product line together with our 2.0 version (this is the first part of this year, that is, the rich client for Lotus workplace messaging and the rich client for Lotus workplace documents products.
The idea of bundling a group of technologies on the client is gradually taking shape and will become a real driving force, attracting business partners and ISVs to write applications for the workplace platform, and extend the foundation of applications on the platform to applications provided by Lotus or IBM. We have always wanted to launch these rich client functions on the market.
What do you want to emphasize on these new technologies for the growing entire developer community?
There are a lot of interesting things for developers. Of course they have already been emphasized in promotional materials. Now we can find these materials. The focus here is on two aspects: the flexibility of deployment, that is, easy deployment and low cost of ownership, which is required by the IT organization and can be implemented through web applications. At the same time, it also provides a wide range of user interaction and interfaces that people expect for installed client applications. Therefore, we try to establish a self-managed platform that can be automatically configured and maintained from the server. It is built on the server-side programming model, so as to keep the investment of our partners and customers on the server application as much as possible. The workplace platform now provides a high level of user interface experience. We use it for various devices, such as devices that are as small as sensors and receivers on the tap, and desktop applications. You may assume that this capability only comes from fully installed client applications.
What can developers do now with IBM Workplace?
We will release the first practical product in the first half of this year and a complete set of APIs in the second half of this year. Lotus workplace is basically a developer's platform version that allows any developer to get the capabilities we use when building an application suite.
Can the client plug-in be developed? Are there other important aspects that need to be mentioned?
The foundation of IBM Workplace is that it is a secure platform. Some important capabilities we have added to the customer platform include certificate-based verification. We have also established a replication data storage that can be used by our partners through standard protocols such as SyncML to communicate with the background. We have and will continue to expand the WebSphere Portal Application Deployment model. In this way, isV or the customer can deploy the application to the rich client platform, the method for deploying applications to the portal environment is exactly the same. They will use the page components and management tools of the portal to manage the presentation and configuration of rich clients. This configuration is based on user policies and verification and is an extension of the Portal Model on desktop applications.
I am not sure I fully understand it, but I heard that the initial name should be Lotus workplace, but now we have changed it to IBM Workplace. Can you tell me why?
We are building and declaring a series of technologies called IBM Workplace client technologies. These technologies will adopt different styles and scales, with a Micro version and a full version. The micro version is easier to split, more oem-oriented, and includes a set of platform-oriented functions. The full version is a self-configured version combined with WebSphere Portal. It is mainly used to provide supporting application functions.
There will be many practical products, some of which will come from Lotus. For the lotus workplace messaging and Lotus workplace documents client technologies, these specific product names refer to the practical version of the Client technology platform. You will see more IBM applications and application systems specifically named. We should regard them as a group of technologies and some practical products built on these technologies.
Thank you very much. In terms of practicality, does it mean to protect the results of third parties or partners? In the second half of the year, what is the schedule for the APIs to be released with another version?
Enhancing the capabilities of our partners and enabling them to create excellent client applications is a continuous process. The initial version will be released in spring, and the next version will be released in the second half of the year. We can expect multiple versions to be released in the next few years. This is not a short-term plan. What can developers get from the first version depends on what applications they write.
Our notes and Domino development community is already familiar with some services: client integration security, replicated data storage, unstructured documents, built-in editors for specific document types, and so on. For J2EE developers, we provide a set of new services and capabilities to expand the functions of applications, and provide a way to write offline applications, write applications that use security features and manage data stored on the client. They will eventually fully understand and utilize the J2EE programming model capabilities. This will greatly broaden the programming models of these customers.
I guess all of this is inseparable from the underlying eclipse framework, and everyone is concerned about moving some lotus product lines to the J2EE environment.
I want to clarify that moving the domino product line to J2EE is not our goal. We continue to invest in new technical libraries of the domino product line, but Domino, as an application platform, will never become a J2EE application platform, while Domino application platform is still a domino application platform. As for the Notes client, we have been adjusting or modernized our product technologies. We hope to improve the Notes client Technology Based on the future workplace Client technology version. The workplace client technical platform will eventually become the foundation of the Notes client in the future.
It is an important investment to push forward the functions and capabilities of the Notes client. According to the notes 7 plan, the customer will be able to run the Notes application on the workplace Client technology. In subsequent notes versions, we expect this client technology to fully accommodate the current Notes client capabilities. In this way, it becomes a technical transformation. However, this product line is not transformed into a different line of thought, nor is it a new way to create Domino on J2EE. It is just a technological change in the way we create the Notes client.
We must point out our purpose. Instead of converting the domino programming model into a J2EE programming model, we do not want to limit the life of the domino programming model in any way.
I know that there are quite a few people who want to confirm the situation.
No doubt. We have a very broad and solid user base in Domino technology. We will continue to support and develop this foundation, and we hope to ensure that users can understand our commitments at this point.
We want to predict the questions that developers may ask, for example, how to develop, test, and manage applications that use IBM Workplace?
You will use Java-based development tools to develop your applications. IBM has sold many of these products in the WebSphere Studio product family. However, you can also use eclipse's open source code development tool to build these capabilities for the server platform and client platform. You can use a unit test environment as part of WebSphere Studio to test these capabilities. There is at least one way to manage these solutions, especially for the workplace Client technology, which uses the portal application management technology. We try to make it a continuation of the portal application deployment and management model, so that you do not have to introduce new ways to manage these applications. Automatic Configuration and maintenance of the desktop view of these applications is one of the important capabilities of the Client technology. We strive to simplify management.
The entire set of rational products provides the ability to span the entire application development cycle, starting from modeling the business and application at a very high level, until the implementation, testing, verification, defect reporting and maintenance of source code control capabilities. This is an advanced combination of application development and management capabilities. It directly flows into the product and enterprise management, site management, and application management capabilities of the Tivoli product line. From the management of the development process to the management of the deployment, execution, and site management processes.
Do you need to add a combination of workplace applications and existing applications, such as J2EE or Web Services?
In my opinion, we may be doing some silly things to present a workplace application as something different from a J2EE application. If you want to make a difference, you will say that the workplace application is a component aggregation. You can set some content in an application: document library or form library for managing and coordinating the calendar of team activities, and its own J2EE components used to interact with the transaction processing system in the backend. IBM Workplace combines all of this in a combined or aggregated application.
Aggregation is composed of various components, some of which may be based on J2EE. Some components may be based on legacy systems or even existing user interface technologies such as ActiveX. The advantage of the workplace model is that it understands the components that represent customers who have invested in the past and new programming models that represent customers who can invest in the present and future. There are no rules or intent to require participation as part of the workplace combination application. You must start over and write everything from scratch. As ambuj [Goyal] has said in many occasions, there are no new or alternative cases. We did not replace any application system. We want to expand what existing application systems can achieve to provide new capabilities to integrate the capabilities of those systems and new systems to form the applications that customers tell us what they need.
Can you talk to us more about the IBM Client Strategy and how the two new workplace client technologies will be introduced in the next version adapt to this strategy?
IBM Client Strategy recognizes two important extensions. The device type continues from the RFID (radio frequency identification for business) sensor and faucet receiver, then to the phone and PDA, and continues to rise to the browser-based client that we care about today's desktop applications, finally, it provides complete and rich client capabilities. This is the range of devices that will be supported in our client technology. IBM enables all customers in this field from device manufacturers and mobile phone manufacturers to people who write custom applications for handheld devices such as blue Marini, and those who write very complex offline applications for notes and Domino. The client strategy must span all these devices. We also need to realize that the experience delivered by this group to users is different.
Another continuation is that some customers need browser-based applications. To deliver on some clients without the implementation of specific platforms, we need to support these capabilities in applications and programming models. Some customers want to deliver applications that use browsers to the maximum extent. Over the past year, we have released some of the capabilities of Lotus workplace and WebSphere Portal, which leverage the capabilities of browsers. We released the so-called Odyssey editors, which are part of WebSphere Portal document management capabilities. We have made a set of rich component functions available for processing the relationship between tables and graphs, as well as other features that provide rich functions in the browser environment. These are all points of the continuation.
The IBM Client Strategy is very broad. But what I want to emphasize is that in the client strategy, our strategy is not a server strategy. Our premise is that information, security, and management are maintained on the server, and the client operates on the server's behavior, so as to deliver an end user experience to the application. It originates from IBM's philosophy, strengths, and knowledge about server computing and extends the model to the client. Based on this model, we will build a large number of different applications to use this capability.
You mentioned earlier that the launch of IBM Workplace involves a considerable number of products from different IBM software brands. Which brands are involved and what do we expect from each brand?
As a general principle, the IBM software group has begun to implement a well-designed plan to extract the best technology from all brand branches and leverage it in a variety of different markets. The data management brand is dedicated to the workplace Client technology related to basic database management software and programming APIs for database management software. Pervasive division is dedicated to client technologies with the following basic capabilities: device management, device identification, and various device-level communications, and a micro version that supports the J2EE programming model on devices of different sizes and categories.
Tivoli also supports workplace Client technology by providing basic components and self-configuration and maintenance software for software configuration. You are building on the subject of autonomous and self-managed computing environments. Rational is committed to developing programming tools and capabilities that can identify portal-based application development models and popularize application development models. All brands are dedicated to IBM Workplace Client technology, which is not specific to any brand. This is what cross-brand capabilities bring to the market.
You mentioned the eclipse framework before. IBM solemnly promises to support open standards and open source code. How can we improve our products?
The basis of our software strategy is the idea that when we strictly implement open standards and the standards are recognized by the public, we will provide customers with real choices. It is important that standards-related issues can be publicly debated. There are various ways to complete this task; it may not always be organized by standard. However, the open source code movement is of course one of the best practices. In the industry, the Movement advances standards and fact standards. We can benefit from the collective skills of all people involved in these open source work, or from the collective skills of all people involved in standard work in the industry. It is difficult to provide standard definitions and implementations of interoperability, which is basically impossible to complete. A company can introduce new technologies, but a single company cannot make it a standard or be widely accepted. It must be a cooperative relationship. The communities we participate in play an important role in completing this task.
The benefits of the workplace Client technology are very practical. In the full version of workplace Client technology, the basic framework of component assembly, component aggregation, and platform distribution mechanism is directly from the Eclipse open source code project. During the development of eclipse 3rd, we have worked closely with the eclipse team. An important part of the workplace Client technology is based on Eclipse 3rd. We have worked with the device manufacturer Alliance to develop open system gateway interface specifications, which form the basis of Client technology. In terms of open standards, our cooperation with the SyncML team has formed a standard basis. With this foundation, we can complete client-to-server synchronization and data synchronization in the workplace Client technology. It has strongly influenced our work in the standard and open source communities.
Can you compare earlier implementations (such as standard Domino methods) with more and more interoperable standards today?
You need to remember the timetable for developing notes and making them the mainstream component platform. Before that, there were many standards that could handle many issues that notes could handle. At that time, you may not have built notes on open standards, because these open standards do not exist. That is, in the past few years, some standards (such as LDAP, security standards, and SyncML standards) have rapidly emerged and become mature. With these standards, you can actually develop software similar to Domino capabilities. Since Domino was initially designed for a few years, this industry has taken a big step forward. Domino has made some efforts to keep up with many public standards: HTTP, LDAP, IIOP, and so on. We will not fall behind when standards are adopted.
Now we can bring the same capabilities to the J2EE community, which we have proposed from the previous Domino proprietary infrastructure. We can do this based on standards, standards-based organizations, and open-source communities.
IBM Workplace is providing end-to-end Linux Solutions. What is the support for the latest Linux version?
If you look at the range of operating systems and operating system versions supported by IBM products, you will find that it is more extensive than any other company in the industry. In all systems, new patch levels and new versions appear very frequently, much more frequently than the new Code and new features we release along with these versions. This has always been a matter of time and version cycle, and it is most appropriate for the release of newer operating systems during the development cycle. We promise to keep up with the latest version, as long as it is reasonable and will not involve us in releasing a product every month.
We have core Lotus workplace products for messaging, team collaboration, and online learning. Then we have products specific to the industry: Lotus workplace for business controls and reporting and Lotus workplace for retail operations. Do you think IBM software group tends to build products for specific industries?
IBM will be involved in building solutions for specific industries. We have done this through our industry departments. You will see the software group brand, some of which do not essentially build a solution, but build horizontal capabilities. When you see another IBM Workplace for X-Y-Z, it indicates that this is a solution summarized by the industry solution group, these solutions are designed to meet specific needs or horizontal capabilities such as workplace for business controls and reporting. They are organized by brand to address specific horizontal requirements in the industry.
Today, workplace for business controls and reporting focuses on the Sarbanes-Oxley issue in front of many customers. However, the technical basis is certainly not limited to this. This is why the product is called workplace for business controls and reporting rather than Sox; it is a horizontal technical product. IBM is not in the business of enterprise applications. We work closely with our partners and ISVs and our customers to provide these solutions. Our Industry Department combines components contributed by partners and components contributed by IBM to form a solution provided by IBM.
One thing developerworks is concerned with is the software development platform. Can you draw a strategic picture of the relationship between IBM Workplace and the software development platform?
The development tool family representing the rational combination and WebSphere Studio Application Development Product Line targets professional programmers and professional IT organizations or development organizations. Generally, these people work in the team and on complex products and projects. They follow the IT programming rules. The idea is to write and test the code, and then deploy the code into the product environment. Workplace is part of the development methodology. Everything you need to do to build a workplace application can be accessed from a similar development environment. Although it is added to workplace, the idea of application assembly and application customization can be completed at runtime.
Once a group of application components and a group of application templates are deployed at runtime, workplace provides some tools, allows System Administrators, Users with high permissions, and other users to modify and customize those components for aggregation, so as to solve business problems according to their needs. Just as we provide tools for different roles in the development organization, we are now switching to include a strong user community in the architecture to allow IT organizations to exert corresponding control over the infrastructure.
If you review to a certain extent, or even when Lotus1-2-3, there are different user groups to complete different tasks. By writing custom functionality and extending the component model that was then used to build workbooks, professional developers can add certain capabilities to the Lotus1-2-3. Those developers use C to write programs. If it goes forward, someone will write extensions in languages like lotus script, and use new features to expand basic capabilities or platforms. Then, a large number of people are classified into various programmers according to their work functions, they develop applications by manipulating runtime in Lutos1-2-3, using templates, assembling features with more advanced capabilities, and building workbooks.
Similarly, it has now moved to the business capability areas that business components, business capabilities, and Web services can access. We target two groups of people, from building and expanding those platforms and services, who may want to aggregate advanced functions, you can view the function library and say "I can use one of those components and one of these components for this specific business needs" to the application assembler or user, and those who want to quickly and easily aggregate components based on the business results they are looking.
This is very helpful to us. Do you want to emphasize something for us at last?
One thing I want to say is: IBM now has a place in this field. We are responding to the needs from the development and user community to extend the programming model's goals. I believe that the purpose we follow is to be consistent with our development methodology and application model, without sacrificing end users to get
To any function.
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