Intranet rivals not convinced by Notes Domino theory

Lotus' announcement last month of its Domino II Web server has sparked predictably strong criticism from its rivals in the fiercely competitive Web market.

Lotus' announcement last month of its Domino II Web server has sparked predictably strong criticism from its rivals in the fiercely competitive Web market.

The new Domino II line of Web servers will be built entirely on Internet-only standards and protocols, including TCP/IP, HTTP, SMTP, POP3, IMAP4, LDAP, SSL, X.509 and HTML. The first in this line will feature the Notes-based object store. The open programming interface will be provided through support for CORBA, and distributed access to CORBA services will be provided through the Internet Inter-Orb Protocol.

Web vendors -- from established Internet companies such as Netscape Communications to small start-ups such as RadNet -- are dismissing the Lotus offering, due for its first beta by year's end, as too proprietary, too expensive, and too late.

"All the stuff Lotus is doing, even the cryptography, is proprietary," says Netscape founder Jim Clark. "There's not an application that can work interoperably with Notes except Notes."

Even if Domino II is based on open standards to get to technology such as replication, the technology is proprietary, Clark maintains.

However, some analysts argue that Netscape's and other vendors' software have proprietary components, too. "If we look at a Netscape server or an Oracle server, a small amount is pure Web and the rest is whatever they are using for local data storage," says David Marshak, an analyst with Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston. "All internal data stores are proprietary. That's why Netscape releases APIs."

Netscape also criticises Notes for the familiar argument that it costs more than Web-based technology. "It's a lot more expensive per seat," Clark says. "Worse when you consider training, consulting and maintenance. Netscape is an open system, based on the Internet, so that is not an issue."

Lotus has not released pricing information for its Domino II server, which is due for commercial release in the first half of 1997. Lotus recently commissioned a cost-of-ownership study on the deployment of intranets, which compares Notes to other applications. Not surprisingly, the study -- due out this month from the Business Research Group (BRG), in Newton, Massachusetts -- concludes that deployment of Notes intranets is quicker and cheaper than rival solutions.

"Notes demonstrated the lowest cost of ownership among intranet solutions," says Joyce Becknell, a senior analyst at BRG. However, intranet rivals disagree. "We're shipping," says Darlene Ressler, COO of RadNet, the intranet groupware start-up founded by former Lotus employees. "And we're more open. We go through ODBC, not proprietary databases."

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