Saturday, August 19, 2017

All Good Things Must Come to an End and the New Hope and Direction

MWLUG 2017 was our most successful MWLUG conference we have ever had. With over 232 registered and a small number of cancellations, MWLUG 2017 was the most attended and largest conference. We had over 60 sessions, workshops and round tables with speakers from all over the United States and Europe. Over a third of the sessions were non-IBM specific and included sessions covering new topics like MongoDB and GDPR.

In tuned with our theme this year, Moving Collaboration Forward, our goal was to expand our conference this year forward towards a new direction and not just cover the usual. The world of collaboration is changing. No longer does a solution stand by itself nor does a solution just involve components from a single vendor. Companies need to chose the best of breed and integrate solutions together. Sometimes it involves solutions from many vendors. This is a direction that IBM is moving towards with Cisco and Box. At the same time we see customers moving away from the IBM stack towards competitive solutions or augmenting their IBM solutions with competitive solutions. We can not live with our head in the sand.

One of the frustrating parts of this years conference was trying to cover the many directions that IBM is going. As a small conference it is difficult to have the resources to effectively cover all the areas. Regardless, a vase majority of this year's attendees and always have been from the Domino space which has gotten smaller and smaller caused by the lack of clear direction and support for this product. This leads to the question what should we cover in the future. Should it be even more general and we evolve MWLUG to become a conference about many types of collaboration? Collaboration is not email and social communities. Collaboration as we have shown this year involves machines, processes and people. 

At the same time we heard from IBM that our favorite collaboration platform Domino may be a renewed area of focus. As we all know, many of us have been extremely frustrated over the past 5 years regarding the future of Domino.There is New Hope. 

So should we be more focused? In either case, we have decided that being a LUG conference is not appropriate and also confusing.Therefore, MWLUG 2017 was the last MWLUG conference. It has had a great run of nine years, but time has come to end MWLUG and consider starting something new. 

However, I see the same high quality sessions in the future that we all have come to expect, with great and wonderful community support from IBM Business Partners, IBM Customers, and IBM and of course BEER !!! 

Therefore, we would like to announce that MWLUG is now CollabSphere.  

CollabSphere 2018 will be in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late July early August 2018 and our local host will be Ray Bylik. So expect good and new technologies, people, and beer for next year.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Highlights of MWLUG 2017

This year the MWLUG conference was held at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. The theme for MWLUG 2017 was "Moving Collaboration Forward."  There are numerous changes to the IBM Collaboration landscape and we wanted to cover these changes, but at the same time augment our normal ICS specific sessions with sessions focused on the greater landscape of collaboration. We had sessions on non-ICS specific topics like MongoDB, IoT, and Sharepoint.

MWLUG 2017 this year comprised of 60 sessions, workshops, and round tables. We had 232 registered attendees with 211 showing up making this the largest conference we had ever had. The conference covered IBM Bluemix, IBM Cloud, IBM Connections, IBM Notes/Domino, IBM Verse, Watson Workspace, IBM/Cisco Collaboration and Connections Pink.

The IBM Domino Application development round tables were most enlightening and dynamic to put it.

Our two Platinum sponsors, panagenda and Red Pill Now both had free workshops for the attendees.  panagenda's workshop cover ApplicationInsights and Red Pill Now's workshop covered UI/UX Design.

Our social event was at the New District Brewing Company in Arlington, VA. If you left early, you would have misses one of the highlights of MWLUG 2017, the wager between Justin Hill of Prominic and Darren Duke of Simplified Technology Solutions. This wager helped raise almost $300.00 for our Community Outreach Program. The beneficiary this year was Hands on DC which help schools in the DC area. We raised a total of $1740.00 for this charity.

Thanks to our local organizer, Dave Navarre, we were fortunate to have Gale Garriott as our OSG Guest Speaker. Gale was Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery for 15 months. Gale was followed by Ed Brill and Warp Speed Sponsoring something that we borrowed from Theo and Engage.

This year attendees drank a staggering 59 gallons of coffee, 2 kegs of craft beer from two local breweries, over 300 pints of beer at the New District Brewing company, dried out the tap (of good beer)  at the bar at the Hilton Mark Center twice.

It was great a conference and seeing everyone in person again. As our community seems to be changing and this might been the last time we would see some of them in person.

Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers and sponsors for making MWLUG 2017 possible. It is a community event and it is our community that keeps this going.

MWLUG 2017 sponsors

Unfortunately, this is the last of MWLUG conference. Next year there will be a new name that better reflects on how we see the industry going. The format will be different but the people will hopefully be the same and more.  So for this new and tenth collaboration user group conference we are heading back to the Midwest region of the United States in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  So hopefully we will see you next year in Ann Arbor !!!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Phora Group Announces iPhora® integration with DocuSign

Posted August 9, 2017 By Louise Burton - Communication

Phora Group, a DocuSign Partner is pleased to announce that its iPhora application platform now integrates directly with DocuSign, the leading cloud-based provider of electronic signature services with over 200 million users in 188 countries. With the integration of DocuSign, complex document workflows and business processes requiring electronic signatures can be instantly signed, anywhere in the world, using a process that is secure and legally binding. The new integration with DocuSign utilizes iPhora Async, a secure, asynchronous, event-driven, add-on to iPhora Foundation.  iPhora Foundation's ability to manage and strictly control access to documents - or parts of documents - enables businesses to confidently sign critical and time-sensitive forms.

Phora Group will be demonstrating this new DocuSign integration capability with iPhora Foundation at the MWLUG 2017 conference, booth #8 at Alexandria, VA , August 8-10, 2017.

About DocuSign
DocuSign® is changing how business gets done by empowering more than 300,000 companies and 200 million users in 188 countries to sign, send and manage documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, with confidence.

DocuSign replaces printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting documents with the easiest, fastest, most trusted way to make every approval and decision digital.

Organizations of all sizes and industries are accelerating contracts, approvals and workflows with DocuSign’s Digital Transaction Management (DTM) platform and eSignature solution. DocuSign keeps life and business moving forward.

About Phora Group
Phora Group is a provider of secure business solutions for small to enterprise organizations.

Your company data and processes are critical to the operation of your business. Whether your organization is looking to share sensitive and proprietary information among your staff and partners or seeking to automate complex business processes, Phora Group's solutions are designed to provide your organization with a highly secure, flexible, and scalable business platform.

Our iPhora family of products and services incorporates easy to use interfaces, along with administrator administrator-friendly installation and management. iPhora solutions are designed to harmonize with your existing business operations and can be delivered as either a hosted/cloud, on-premises, or hybrid solution.

With iPhora's scalable BPM technology, extensive API, and integration tools, your solution can securely interact with third-party services and have them become an integral part of your business processes.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Phora Group Announces iPhora® Async

Posted August 4, 2017 - By Louise Burton - Communication

Phora Group is pleased to announce iPhora Async, a secure, asynchronous, event-driven add-on to iPhora Foundation, Phora Group's primary application platform for collaboration and business process management (BPM). iPhora Async allows organizations to integrate external cloud-based services into their core business processes in a secure and controlled environment. iPhora Async extends Phora Group's commitment to providing highly secure solutions combined with efficient and innovative user interface design.

About Phora Group
Phora Group is a provider of secure business solutions for small to enterprise organizations.

Your company data and processes are critical to the operation of your business. Whether your organization is looking to share sensitive and proprietary information among your staff and partners or seeking to automate complex business processes, Phora Group's solutions are designed to provide your organization with a highly secure, flexible, and scalable business platform.

Our iPhora family of products and services incorporates easy to use interfaces, along with administrator administrator-friendly installation and management. iPhora solutions are designed to harmonize with your existing business operations and can be delivered as either a hosted/cloud, on-premises, or hybrid solution.

With iPhora's scalable BPM technology, extensive API, and integration tools, your solution can securely interact with third-party services and have them become an integral part of your business processes.

Learn More

MWLUG 2017 - Announcing MWLUG Community Outreach Program Beneficiary

As members of the IT community, we are also an important part of our local community. Through the MWLUG 2017 Community Outreach Program, we are raising money for organizations that help the local community. Each year we identify an organization in which our contribution would have the greatest impact on the local community of the host city.

Thanks to the generosity of the Hilton Mark Center, we will be raffling off a weekend stay at the Hilton Mark Center as the grand prize. Please take the opportunity to help the local community. Each raffle ticket is $10 and you can buy them at the registration desk starting Tuesday afternoon. We will announce the winners during lunch on Thursday.

Over the years we have raised over $12,000 for a number of local food banks, the Salvation Army, and Swan Song. We are pleased to announce the MWLUG 2017 Community Outreach Beneficiary is Hands on DC, a non-profit organization that organizes projects to improve the physical condition of Washington, DC public schools.

Hands on DC is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that organizes projects to improve the physical condition of Washington, DC public schools. We also raise funds to support local college scholarship programs and encourage greater community involvement in the public schools. Hands on DC is volunteer-founded and volunteer-led; we have no paid staff. Instead, two main bodies undertake the group's work:

The Executive Committee focuses on planning, developing, and executing the year-round events and the annual work-a-thon. To accomplish that task, the group works in committees responsible for volunteer recruitment, community outreach, public relations, fundraising and sponsorship development, information technology, special events, and coordination of school projects. Please click here for a list of Executive Committee members.

Hands on DC's governing body, the Board of Directors, provides long-term stability and policy guidance by focusing on strategic issues and organizational relationships. The Board is composed of previous event directors and other selected individuals with a long history of participation in Hands on DC. The Hands on DC Co-Directors and the Treasurer are also ex officio Board members and form the link between the Board and the Executive Committee.

MWLUG 2017 Transportation from Airport and Parking

If you are traveling to the Reagan International Airport  to the Hilton Mark Center remember there is a free shuttle.  Here is the shuttle schedule:
National Airport/Pentagon City Mall & Metro
The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center offers a complimentary shuttle service 7 days a week from 6:00 am. to 10:30 pm. The vans depart from the front of the Hotel on the hour and half hour, arrive at Pentagon City Mall/Metro (blue and yellow line) at approximately 10 minutes and 40 minutes after the hourand continue on to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Our last pick up at Pentagon City at approximately 10:40 pm. The van arrives at the airport at approximately 20 minutes and 50 minutes after the hour. We pick up at Terminal A, Terminal B door 5 and Terminal C door 9. Our last pick up at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is at approximately 10:50 pm.

King Street King Street Metro Station
The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center offers complimentary shuttle service to King Street in Old Town Alexandria 5 days a week from 3:15 pm. until 9:15 pm. The van departs from the front of the Hotel at 15 minutes past the hour. We pick up at the shelter at the King Street Metro Taxi Stand. Our last pick up is at approximately 9:30 pm.Arrival times are approximate and are affected by traffic levels.
Daily Parking at the Hilton Mark Center for MWLUG Attendees
Parking for MWLUG attendees is $14/day. If you are staying at the hotel and driving in, the discount will be applied to your hotel bill. If you are not staying at the hotel, you will be given a discount voucher and can get them at the registration desk.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

When your Tool is a Hammer, Everything is a Nail, App Modernization - Part 1

I wrote this blog post about 9 months ago and never got around to finishing it. I felt this would be a good time to post this since MWLUG 2017 is coming up and with the Domino Application Development Roundtables at MWLUG 2017 both customers and partners have the opportunity to voice their desires on how they want IBM to move forward with IBM Domino.

As an long time IBM Business Partner and ISV focused on the IBM Domino platform, we have been quite disappointed with the progress and improvements made to IBM Domino over the past 7 years.  As other platforms improved and grew there was not much progress with our favorite platform. However, we were committed in staying with the IBM Domino platform for NOW because it provided a number of unique features that was important to us. So we ventured out to see if we could modernize IBM Domino to match what we were seeing in other platforms and create a modern application development platform but at the same time maintain and exceed the secure environment we have come to know in IBM Domino. Data security is the up-most of importance for us. 

Please Note: The blog entry is not about taking a Notes application and making it into a Web application.

Created on: 10/24/2016

Recently, Sean Cull wrote a blog entitled "ICONUK and the State of Domino Web Development" discussing his concerns and his future with Domino as a platform. I agree with many of the things that he said. He also mentioned what new features that he wants to see in Domino for him to continue supporting Domino as platform for his business.  

According to the latest information, IBM will be announcing a new application modernization strategy in the near future. I have no idea what that is and when this will happen. Only time to tell on whether IBM addresses Sean's requests.

This blog entry is not about what IBM is doing or not doing. I hope IBM finally starts adding the support and features that they promised and will seriously improve and support Domino. It is not just the platform at stake, but for many ICS community members their livelihood. 

Rather than laboring on this point, I wanted to address the mindset of developing a Domino application and how that needs to change regardless of whether you are planning to continue working with Domino or move on to a different platform.

Many will disagree with what I am going to say, but please hear me out. One of the things that Sean mention was moving the NSF to a Cloudant/CouchDB style database.
A Cloudant / CouchDB style database in the XPages Core product ( on premises ) that leverages the existing Java APIs ( @dblookup etc ) and has new ones so that we could develop performance applications with larger data sets, faceted filtering and dynamic charts ( instead of cached ones ).

In my opinion, even if IBM does switch the XPages core to use a NoSQL database like Cloudant or CouchDB, there will still be issues.  It is not the NSF that is the issue. The heart of one of my biggest issues with Domino is the tightly integration between form and data in processing and storing data. This integration was a huge advantage when Notes started.  It allowed developers and power users to quickly create applications. However, the integration of form and data creates a real problem with a significant number of drawbacks. 

This fundamental design approach is wrong for modern applications forcing fit into the format, you need to take a pragmatic view and take a look on how other platforms are delivering Web applications.

For example, sortable view columns. This drastically increases view indices and slows down searches and the operation of Domino. It totally unnecessary for Web applications, but yet in XPages it is there. If you followed how IBM wanted you to use XPages, you will have the same issues and you are limiting yourself. Therefore, you have a hammer and you are force fitting it as a catch all tool.

This leads to the title of this blog.  I am a big fan of bucking the trend and thinking out of the box.

More than 5 years ago we stepped back and looked at how things were progressing in XPages, and we decided that it was not for us. It bounded the form with the data and then embedded Dojo in a way that made it difficult to update and utilize the newer tools that Dojo had to offer. Thus in eyes of Domino developers, Dojo was crappy and unmanageable. Rather than a simple replacement of Dojo with a newer version, the update process is extremely difficult. This tightly coupled approach does not allow easy updates or improvements. We had already experimented with separating the data with the form when we were developing Notes applications using our Integrated Business Framework.

Regardless if you are dedicated to a full-stack approach or a RESTful API/Javascript MVC approach you need to remove yourself away from the form/data paradigm. It is important to totally separate the data and form to make the components of your application as flexible as possible.  We decided upon a RESTful JSON API framework with a client-based MVC framework. This allowed the back-end code to be client independent. The client could be a Web, mobile, or even headless. This front-end and back-end separation allows each developer to focus on their specialty and skills with front-end issues not affecting the back-end code and vice versus.

Using Domino with a JavaScript MVC framework is nothing new. Many are currently creating applications using JavaScript frameworks like Angular and React with Domino. However, the data structure of a Domino document though extremely powerful and secure was designed for the Notes client not for a web client.

Most newer NoSQL databases utilize JSON as the data structure for storage.  By storing your data as JSON, the data can be delivered to the JavaScript MVC framework that it easily understand. We decide that a JSON-based data store was the way to go.

We could have abandoned Domino and go with newer JSON document NoSQL databases like CouchDB or MongoDB, but then we would lose many features and functionalities that are not found in other technologies.

So how can we transform the NSF database from a form/data document container to become a JSON-based document container similar to CouchDB / MongoDB while taking advantage of NSF features including replication, clustering, record and field security, and many other things.

First, we had to review the advantages and disadvantages of Domino/NSF and determine how we would utilize the advantages while mitigating the disadvantages. Yes, there are limitations to the NSF format like the 32K field, but that can easily be resolved. Tim Tripcony addressed this many years ago, NSF field size limits no longer matter.  Yes, the indexing is not the fastest. and yes there are a host of other issues, but we were able to get around the issues by taking a stepping back and identifying the strengths and weakness of Domino and determine the best approach in utilizing NSF as a JSON document NoSQL data store.

So we started with the following design criteria for our new database structure:

General Requirements

  • JSON key/value document data storage
  • Master-Master Replication
  • Clustering
  • High performance JSON parse.
  • ACL and permission management all the way from document records to sub-field level control
  • Total separation between form and data, datastore (NSF Database) only stores data
  • Like CouchDB and other modern NoSQL database there should only be one standard data container type that holds the record of any document regardless of its functionality or purpose.
  • All data stored for any record needs to be stored as JSON objects and portable to other platforms like CouchDB and MongoDB
  • Absolutely no user regardless of their role have any direct access to any data record
  • All data request is controlled by a gatekeeper that determines dynamically your access rights and what information you have access to

Domino Specific Requirements

  • Automatic management of reader/author fields to control data access to individual records and individual key/value
  • From the developers POV, a NSF database must be a blackbox.
  • A datastore contains a fixed number of views used to access data, developers can not add additional views without a significant reason to do so
  • Absolutely, no sorted views are allowed. (Sorted view kills performance by significantly increase view indexes and serves no purpose)

So based on these requirements, we decided to transform Domino into a JSON-based document database which forms the basis of our iPhora platform.  

Next time, Part 2.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

MWLUG 2017 - Domino Application Development Roundtable

IBM Domino is nearing its 30th anniversary and yet it is still one of the most innovative software products on the market with features still not found in other solutions. Want to discuss with IBM your thoughts on how we can continue to make Domino one of the most relevant product for the next 30 years? We are please to announce that MWLUG 2017 will be hosting two Domino Application Development Roundtables on Wednesday August 9, 2017. 

Each roundtable session will be 45 minutes. There is one for IBM customers and one for IBM Business Partners.

Share your thoughts regarding the future directions of IBM Domino with Gary Kearney and Barry Rosen and their IBM Domino team at these interactive sessions.

Registration for MWLUG 2017 is open. With all the new innovations that IBM and IBM Business Partners are creating with our favorite technologies, our theme for MWLUG 2017 is "Moving Collaboration Forward."

Meet Ytria, our Gold Sponsor for MWLUG 2017. Stop by their booth #19 when you are at MWLUG 2017


We are committed to providing software tools that facilitate the job of IBM Notes and Domino administrators and developers to create and support a productive and collaborative environment. 

Improve how you manage everything from servers to documents, ACLs, agents, application design elements, etc. Our suite of powerful tools offers you global views, mass modification, analytics and reporting functions, and numerous other built-in features to give you complete control over all the elements of your domain.

Whether you are an individual consultant or a team member in a global organization, contact us today to learn how you can accomplish your tasks faster and better. Founded in 1999, Ytria is an IBM Advanced Business Partner and has a client base in over 70 countries worldwide.