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26 points of interest from Engage in Bruges

All I can say is “Wow” what a few days in Bruges. I’ve been trying to break my thoughts out into something coherent and really I can do is set out a set of bullet points.

  1. The event itself. It’s hard to overstate how well run an event Engage is. Theo and his wife Hilde, and everyone else involved should really get medals every year this goes on. From the venue/events around the conference, the quality of sessions and speakers, the layout, the food (and beverages). Everything here is top class. Every event I’ve been to I’ve thought, “that might be the best one yet”. Thank you.
  2. Bruges the city. I think Engage should probably get sponsorship from the Bruges tourism board. I’d never been to the city before but fell in love and will come back. Every morning early I went out for a run around the city, and there are a couple of very accessible paths along the canals that loop the city. It’s just a beautiful city. On Monday night there was a parade for FC Bruges winning the league. The atmosphere was family friendly and jovial. There was zero chance of trouble.

3. New people. At Theo’s opening address he asked anyone who has at Engage for the first time to standup. I couldn’t believe the amount of people who stood up. I don’t expect many of these were absolutely new customers. But I do expect that most of them had been invigorated by what HCL have done with the portfolio the last couple of years, as evidenced by numbers of returning numbers to Domino at the OGS. (plus the cynic in me thinks after 2 years of lockdowns people are desperate to go to these type of events!)

4. We asked for roadmaps, we got a 3 year commitment in Domino. Without getting in individual features – At a high level this is the thing I’m happiest about. HCL have committed to releasing Danube (essentially 12.0.2) in Autumn 2022 (I caught myself saying “Fall” at one point, and got a kick) of this year, Thames (not sure about this name to be honest, but that might be the Irishman in me, this is essentially 12.0.3) in 2023, and Rio Grande (Major release, dubbed as version next as opposed to v.13) in 2024. The logic behind not having major releases every year (yet, there will be one from 2024) was transparent. They need to drop support for version 9 and 10 first. And they need to give people warning of this. All of this makes sense to me.

5. Danube (Domino 12.0.2). The next release of Domino is coming this year. The three focus points for this release

-Better-looking apps
-Enhanced mail security
-Easy meeting scheduling

More on all of these later. I like that there’s a three coherent themes to the release and that it’s easy to get these across (there is more than that in the release too).

(apologies Barry Rosen, it’s not the greatest picture of you, but it was a great session with Scott Favreau)

6. Really Early Access Danube drop 1 early access is already out. You can get it on flexnet. Last year HCL did three completely open betas for Domino 12.0. Prior to that there was an invite only early access program with deployment via containers for a couple of Domino 12 features. Similar was done with drops for 12.0.1 on a smaller scale. All of this was a complete departure from went before and was brilliant. You could see iterative improvements in each Beta, based on “our” feedback. Well HCL have gone few steps beyond that for Danube. Earlier than ever access for every licensed customer! And not limited to containers, full releases. Five different full betas, earlier than ever Here’s what’s in the first drop –

Here’s how you sign up to the beta forum.

(hint to anyone who previously had forum access via a Notes client, if you snoop around the same servers, you’ll find you may have access to the forum on your Notes client. You can work out the name of the DB from the URL).

I will blog more on this when I’ve had a chance to test myself.

7. KEEP is back. In many ways KEEP should never have gone away. But it does show that HCL listen. A Domino REST API is what people have wanted. Early access to KEEP is now available. This is really great news.

8. Project Restyle. This is the “Better-Looking Apps” mentioned earlier Some of the Ambassadors had seen a preview of an earlier version of this a few months ago (under NDA), it was still amazing to see the live demo. In literally a few clicks and outdated UI can be updated to something clean and modern. The ease of use to update the look and feel of a Domino Database so easily was probably the biggest “wow” moment from the OGS.

We have many customers that this will work wonders on, and reinvigorate end users impressions on modern HCL Notes. The important thing to note here is it doesn’t touch background logic, it’s cosmetic updates that can be done easily and quickly without having to understand any code.

9. Nomad web without Safelinx. Nomad Web will be deployable without Safelinx. This is another one, where I’m encouraged that HCL really listen. Safelinx installation has been a barrier to adoption of Nomad Web (even just to test on some customer sites). There will still be the option to deploy with Safelinx. Safelinx does provide some functionality that won’t be there in that deployment model, but options are great. Next item for Nomad Web would be optimising the once off process for web assembly initialization per user. (i.e. if a company has either citrix, or identical hardware, maybe profiles for nomad web could be prebuilt to a point? I sound like I know what I’m talking about here, where really it just comes from discussions with Panagenda at engage).

10. Enhanced Mail Security. I’ve blogged multiple times about the strength Domino mail security (as opposed to Exchange), and I’m delighted multiple new standards are coming to Domino natively. That’s not to say you couldn’t already do this with a mail gateway, but it is really great to see these standards being adopted by Domino natively. I was expecting DKIM immintely, but hadn’t heard ICAP support was coming. HCL are delivering on mail security.

The headline items for Danube are

  • DKIM inbound (we already have for outbound)
  • ICAP Support
  • SPF

11. Every version of Domino has iterative security improvements beyond headline items.  I think it’s important to state that like Domino 12.0 (and 12.0.1), Domino always contains multiple iterative improvements.  Danube will be no different.  These are not just about higher levels of security, but also about ease of deployment and faster protocols.  This delivers for the security compliance officer, the admin, and probably most importantly the end user experience.  Here’s the “extras” (non headline items on security for Danube):

  • OpenSSL being upgraded to 3.0.x
  • FIPS 140-2 Compliance
  • Improvements to Web only ID Vault users (recertification without a client)
  • Support for ECDSA based client certificates.
  • DAOS encryption Manager (consistent encryption keys).
  • 256 bit AES encryption for databases as default

12. HCL Ambassadors are great people.  I did know this already, but as this was my first in person event as a HCL Ambassador (I first became an ambassador in 2021) I was somewhat apprehensive about meeting some of colleagues in person for the first time.  I shouldn’t have been.   At the Ambassador event on Monday people were so welcoming and it continued for the conference.  I didn’t get to speak to everyone I wanted to, for as long as I wanted to, and this is surely a sign that things went well. 

13.  Volt MX Go. This is another bolt out of the blue from HCL.  I’m intrigued.  A new language VoltScript, which will have try/catch.  It’ll have compatibility with LotusScript.  Learn more here.

14.  Open client is closed.  This will disappoint many people waiting on Project Quattro/Open Client access to Domino.  Here at the bottom of a blog around strategy we get a statement

Recently, Microsoft announced an initiative to consolidate its Outlook clients and mail protocols. In addition, they announced the deprecation of the Exchange Web Services (EWS) protocol and API and its M365-based replacement that even Exchange on-premises customers will need to use.  

Due to the change in Microsoft’s protocol, and since most of the Domino customer base are Windows users, HCL has decided to invest in HCL Microsoft for Outlook (HTMO) to provide the open mail experience rather than continuing to develop EWS support

This really shows the importance of technology companies having transparent APIs to to their technology. (another reason to welcome KEEP).  This will mean HTMO will get more concentrated resources, and be THE way to access Outlook on a Domino server.  I can only applaud HCL for their cross technology investment to date. (DOMI is something that has gone relatively under the radar for example), and the next point below is another one.

15. Freetime Lookups for calendars in Office365. I haven’t seen this getting too many headlines but this is great.  Danube will provide bidirectional freetime lookups to/from Domino/Office365 There are reasons that there are multiple products on the market to enable freetime lookups between the platforms.  Note initially this will initially be only for Office365, not on premise Exchange.  This level of interoperability is most welcome.

16. Discover for Domino.  If my colleague Steven Vaughan did not give you a pitch on our new GDPR/Compliance/Searching app at Engage, you missed out.  This was so well received. I can’t understate how easy this is deploy, and how much of a no-brainer it is for any organisation that wants easy GDPR compliance on ALL their Domino Data. Please contact us if want to know more.

17.  Partners.  It was so great to reconnect with partners who attended Engage(I mentioned Panagenda for one earlier).  We all have so much in common, and at the same time it’s great to get different perspective on each others markets.  We must connect more often.  The partner community are doing some amazing things.  One example is marketing E-Office have recently produced around Sametime –

It would be great to see more of this type of thing from HCL.

18. Leap.  Domino Volt, will become Domino Leap.  Given we have Volt MX and Volt MX Go, I think a different title makes sense here.  My only worry here, is the brand may already been confused in people’s minds over what does what.  Sometimes you do have to pivot though, and I think this name change makes sense.

19.  Domino North Star.  One thing that had zero ambiguity at Engage was the importance HCL has stressed on Domino.  From the OGS with Richard Jefts emphasizing Domino being the number one platform in the portfolio for returning customers, to the commitment on releases, to statements around 40 per cent of fortune 500 companies running Domino.  There is zero doubt how much HCL appreciate Domino and are investing here.

20. VSS shadow copy.

It was covered in multiple sessions, and indeed in Daniel Nashed’s own session.  Domino now provides a native Windows VSS writer for Snapshot backups.  The native backup service in Domino is getting significant iterative improvements in every release.

21. Jams are back.

When HCL came onboard the Domino train, one of the most positive aspects were the original virtual and in person jams. People can give feedback.  So I’m delighted these are back. And I’d encourage anyone with interest to attend.

22. HCL people are incredibly approachable.  One of the key messages from Engage I’ve re-learned is that HCL do listen.  They had a very good on the ground presence, and listen to every good/bad/indifferent comment made.   The accessibility to people in HCL who make decisions should not be taken for granted.  It’s a real plus point of the portfolio.

23. Verse 3.0.  Verse 3.0 is coming and will include overdue items, like UI parity with contacts, and freetime lookups.

24.  DCT rules are updated.  I loved Domino Configuration Tuner when it was first released.  I didn’t love the previous incumbent’s lack of updates to the DCT rules.  Honestly I’d stopped using it.  Until Gab Davis session, which informed us, HCL have been updating the rules you can get the new template here.  I didn’t know this and it’s enough to get me to use DCT again. 

25 The Certification Program returns.  This is very welcome.  Luis Guirigay has been heading this, and I’m delighted to see we will imminently have certification/training program back.

26. It’s good to get away and re-invigorated.  Virtual events have a place, but it’s so good to get back to in person events.  Whether it’s the interactions in sessions or just being able to meet people with a similar technological interests, in a different City and for it all just to feel normal. There’s more events coming up in Europe, I’d encourage anyone to go these. Including DNUG and SUTOL (which is on this week).

Ok, if you’ve got this far, fair play to you. It’s been a long read, I think I better wrap up. Until next time.

Cormac McCarthy – Domino People Ltd

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