The State of Domino App Dev Post-Connect-2017
Feb 24, 2017, 4:28 PM
I'm en route back from this year's IBM Connect in San Francisco, and this plane ride is giving me a good chance to chew over the implications for Domino developers.
First off, I'll put my bias in this matter right up front: Darwino, which I've been working on and discussing quite a bit, is one of the three "chosen" vendors for app enhancement/modernization/what-have-you. So, while this post isn't going to be about Darwino specifically, it's certainly pertinent for me. In any case, I'm aiming to speak exclusively as me personally here.
This event was the fated hour for the "app modernization" story promised over the course of the last year. In general, I'd summarize the pieces we have to pick up as (put as neutrally as possible):
- The promised feature packs are coming along apace. The big-ticket items for the next two remain Java 8 (and a full refresh of the surrounding Java infrastructure following), exposing ID Vault and user-specific doc encryption to the lsxbe classes and XPages, an expansion of the ExtLib's DAS to support more PIM actions, and then misc. improvements (doc-level summary limit increase, some new @functions, and so forth).
- A current version of the 9.0.1 ExtLib will be folded in to the main product in FP8, with the implication that that sort of thing may continue to happen. This brings some long-existing features like the Bootstrap renderkit and JDBC data sources into official support.
- The implication is that Feature Packs will bring features more rapidly than a normal release schedule would.
- Open-sourcing the UI components of XPages is still on the table.
- The recently-released OpenNTF project SmartNSF is an encouraged way to write REST services in an NSF and is a candidate for inclusion in FP9 and, sooner, ExtLibX.
- For modernization/mobile needs, IBM is providing a tool from Panagenda to analyze your existing apps and recommends the products from Aveedo, Sapho, and Darwino.
So... okay. Aside from Java 8 (which is a "rising tide lifts all boats" improvement), it seems like the focus on the additions to Domino is to encourage apps that use Domino rather than run on Domino. The additions to DAS are useful if you use Domino as your mail/calendar/RnR platform and want to integrate it with your other activities. SmartNSF smoothes the process of writing customized services to deal with NSF data in a more structured way than the raw DAS data service. The three encouraged "modernization" vendors each connect to or replicate data from (presumably old) Notes apps to expose it in a new UI, in two cases in order to use a "form builder"-type tool to make an easy app.
I see this as a codifying of the message from MWLUG: "learn something other than XPages". The improvements to the Java stack and various smaller changes will keep XPages apps running, but the focus is clearly not there. Nor is there an implication that there's a big "apps on Domino" revamp beyond the secondary effects of the OSGi update. So I think it's reasonable to consider XPages supported primarily in the "maintenance mode" sense. That stings, but it is what it is.
If you're currently working in XPages, there's no need to stop immediately or anything. You should, hoever, guide your development in the direction of being more adaptable elsewhere: heavier focus on writing REST services, much ligher focus on "Domino/XPages-isms" like embedding business logic right on a page with SSJS, and, if possible, getting used to toolchains like building OSGi libraries. Additionally, even if it's not immediately useful, I implore you: try out other environments. Spend a weekend with an Android or iOS tutorial, give Angular/Vue.js/React a shot in a test app, and so forth. The more you can learn another toolkit - any toolkit - the more you'll be comfortable with what's different elsewhere and what's the same.
It's always been important to do these things, but now it's required. No excuses - get out of your comfort zone.
As I have a chance, I'll be expanding on what Darwino's role is in all this, and shortly I'll be posting the slides from the sessions Philippe and I presented, one of which covered this topic. In the mean time, we're heading towards the weekend - this could be a perfect time to kick back and learn about something new. Maybe take a look at Swift if you haven't before. You don't have to form all of your future strategies right now - just learn a bit more every day.