Maintaining such deeply entrenched middleware such as IBM® Domino has a rep for a reason. But it gets easier.
If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably in search of legacy HCL® Domino – previously known as IBM® Domino – support. And if you’re in search of that kind of help, let’s be frank. Your IT estate probably has some kind of trouble on its hands.
Maybe you inherited the implementation in the middle of a three-year migration plan that kicked off five or more years ago. Maybe your company officially thinks it’s done moving away from Domino, but unofficially, certain divisions are still highly dependent on apps built closer to 2010 than 2020. Or maybe your employer is still perfectly happy using a legacy implementation in its current unsupported capacity, and you would be too, except configuration errors made three employee cycles back are now coming home to roost.
These outcomes are common with older or unsupported versions of Notes and Domino, but not because the solutions are bad at what they do. In its heyday, the platform was well ahead of the curve in many important regards and had features like offline updating that many modern apps still fail to fully replicate. Products under the banner have historically offered cutting-edge capabilities that punch above the price tag (including database and secure data replication functionalities that would cost a lot more in other formats), and apps companies that develop with them are known to outlast official maintenance dates by five- and ten-year stretches.
It’s a product family with a high stickiness factor. At least, until something goes wrong — at which point, the whole dam tends to burst.
But Domino and Notes problems don’t have to stop the show, even if you aren’t sure where to secure support for the software. Here’s what you might want to know about the process of finding IBM® Domino support when IBM® Domino no longer really exists.
Moving away from IBM® Domino?
Big Blue bought Lotus in 1995. Today, Domino, Notes, and their support sit under the control of HCL, the IT services company that acquired the two as part of a major 2018 deal with IBM. In 2022, HCL publicly announced their decision to put versions 9.0.x and 10.0.x of both products on End of Support (EOS) and End of Marketing status in June 2024; that means users of 10.0.x, which was released in 2018, might have only had a scant few years of official support.
Many large companies still use Domino and Notes despite the lack of official support or, in the case of 9.x and 10.x users, a looming EOS date. At the enterprise level, using the software almost always equates to supporting custom business apps at the client and server side, which themselves support highly specific roles and workloads within the company. In one company, switching over might mean retraining a division. In another, the same change could require a difficult search for multiple tools that can offer the same functionality without throwing the whole estate into disarray.
Some companies have decided moving away from Domino and Notes needs to happen in the near future, but not all of them have come to that determination.
In a lot of cases, the software has the capability to run many more years into the future with no disruption. And whatever the long-term plan, companies need to know the next steps when problems, security issues, or unintended changes, such as interoperability chain reactions, occur.
IBM® Domino support: Common needs and considerations
There are several reasons why a company might need IBM®/HCL® Domino or Notes support beyond the OEM lifecycle whether or not they plan on moving away from Domino/Notes in the near future.
One you tend to see more as time goes on is evolving compliance needs. Whether due to a change in software compliance requirements or a misunderstanding of existing rules, companies can and do often discover that a legacy Domino implementation they’ve been using doesn’t store or utilize data in a way that suits industry or legal mandates.
For instance, malware scanning or encryption rules might apply to data the software holds or transmits even though the software itself doesn’t support that level of security on its face. In situations like these, finding like-for-like support that understands how to achieve compliance from software that was built before measures were put in place is essential, and so is a quick cadence.
Issues stemming from configuration errors made years in the past are also extremely common with legacy Domino and Notes implementations. Even a well-maintained configuration running years past the service date can encounter sudden showstopping issues that technically began before the first users were trained.
Then there’s the ongoing and urgent need for digital security measures. Legacy software in general remains a point of concern for companies, including those with otherwise strong security practices and track records. Domino’s typical space behind IBM® products like WebSphere Application Server in the average IT estate gives it several distinct information security advantages, but it also opens unique points of ingress for attackers and the tools they use to commit cybercrime.
IBM® software security should always be front-of-mind when making technical decisions, but it’s especially important when trying to support or maintain a legacy product developed for a different era of computing. EOS software by definition isn’t likely to receive a patch from the OEM when new attack methods show up, and a high percentage of potential issues come from the aforementioned configuration issues or errors within-source components – both of which can often be handled locally anyway.
Third-party software maintenance for HCL® Domino and Notes
Third-party software maintenance (TPSM) providers help companies maintain and support legacy software without forcing the need for a software update or other disruptive measures, such as unwanted or untimely software modernization projects.
In the specific case of Domino, the original developer might provide support in name only. HCL’s support staff, which operates on a smaller footprint globally, are the ones a Domino and Notes user ends up interacting with. And with relatively new (circa 2018) versions of the product going EOS in 2024, the window of available support is smaller for what are perfectly viable use cases.
Many current Domino and Notes implementations can be supported years into the future with a TPSM provider.
Customers are rarely happy to hear the OEM has dropped support, but with a product that’s seen so many handoffs, there’s a good chance TPSM experts have been working with legacy versions of the software longer than anyone else.
Even among other IBM products, Notes and Domino tend to have unique use cases that lead to extremely challenging maintenance and support issues. Unclear chains of support ownership and what some would call stingy EOS date placement only make the relationship with the platform more difficult. A TPSM provider’s clear advice and objective-based support can be a great help in figuring out what to do with this highly useful, but uniquely troublesome, bit of software, and the apps that come out of it.