Lotus Domino for Linux

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Lotus’s R5 version of Domino for Linux represents a major advancement for Linux. Domino is a Web-based application serer thatincorporates a sophisticated database and messaging system. While it can serve static Web pages and access database servers well enough, Domino’s forte is in providing a platform for custom applications. Its third-party support is second to none, and almost every Domino application will run on the various Domino platforms.

Lotus Domino for Linux R5

$1,795/application server, $695/mail server, $4,995/enterprise server

IBM Corp. http://www.lotus.com

Domino is also one of the premier collaboration platforms, besting Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise. Originally accessible only via Lotus’ proprietary Notes client, the Domino applications and database are now accessible via a Web browser. The Lotus Notes client, which runs on the Macintosh and Windows platforms, will work with the Domino for Linux server, but it has yet to be ported to Linux itself. Along with being a superior developer and user interface, the Notes client also has the advantage of being able to run standalone.

Setting up the Dominoes

Web Administration: Domino’s Web-based administration interface closely resembles the more familiar Notes administration interface.

Initially, you can set up Domino as a mail, application, or enterprise server. The mail server provides basic mail and calendar support, while the application server allows additional applications to be run on Domino. The enterprise server provides more sophisticated clustering support.

Setting up a single Domino server is relatively easy, although a Notes client streamlines mailbox setup. Domino administrators will want to have at least one Notes client available, as there are a few Domino features that are accessible only by the Notes client or a custom application.

We found that setting up the mail server for an intranet was a snap, and adding SMTP links to the Internet wasn’t difficult. The Web-based interface is via a Domino database that is actually an individual’s mailbox database. The impressive capabilities include S/MIME support, HTML content, security options, and a host of features of which any Web-based mail client would be jealous. Server-based mail rules provide easy-to-use filtering and message management.

Calendar support, also part of the mail server, includes features like alarms, task management, group calendar support, and resource management. There are even handy invitation forms for setting up meetings. The customization of the mail and calendar system is impressive.

Minimal user training and no client setup are definite pluses, but users who employ the Notes client will require additional training and client setup. The primary advantages of the Notes client are mobility and isolation for connectivity concerns. You can take the entire client and your work with you, work offline, then synchronize with Domino databases. Web-browser-based users are able to download mail, attachments, and calendars.

Setting up Domino as an application server was more difficult. The basic installation provides a mail server, a few databases, and lots of database templates, but these must then be configured to provide a more sophisticated environment. This customization is desirable in that only necessary services are provided to users, but it requires a concerted effort to design, imple-ment, and then support a sophisticated Web site. We found past experience with Domino invaluable and highly recommend training for anyone unfamiliar with it.

Database Navigation: Domino excels at presenting database information via a Web browser.

Configuration becomes more complex as services are added or additional features are utilized, such as digital-key certificate management and multilevel security, although some of these features are quite powerful. For example, Domino has the ability to encrypt or restrict access to each field in a database.

For an even higher level of complexity, we took a look at Domino’s multi-server support, including its highly touted replication feature. Domino can replicate part or all of a database throughout a network of Domino servers and can provide scalable services by distributing the workload across multiple Domino servers, which do not have to be the same platform.

All Domino platforms use the same database format, run the same applications, and are managed in the same fashion. These features are provided without the need for operating-system cluster support such as that provided by TurboLinux’s TurboCluster. Domino even handles load balancing as part of the core package and provides SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) support. While we tested only a pair of Domino for Linux servers, the performance and ease of management matched similar evaluations of Domino on Windows NT.

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