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Software Complexity Peaking Again

By Andrew Pollack on 08/24/2007 at 11:00 AM EDT

Lotus Notes 8 is a huge step forward in what developers will be able to do. I’m already seeing the first posts in partner forums and on blogs showing simple side bar applications that make use of some of the extensibility. These remind me of the first wiz-bang buttons and actions in Notes 4 that used Lotuscript. In those days, that kind of work was considered very high end development for Notes. Today of course, most Notes developers think in LS and forget how easy formula language is to work with.

In a year or two we’ll look back at these first few widgets that are so exciting and not give them a second glance. Customized add on products for the Notes client will become commonplace and increasingly cool to look at. I’m predicting that someone will even re-skin the client fairly early on.

The downside though, is complexity. The Notes 8 success depends on a whole new layer. The Eclipse Framework, which itself depends on another layer, the JVM, which is itself built to run on the operating system’s UI framework, which is layered on top of the operating system driver model, that ties into the operating system kernel, which provides access to the services of the hardware by way of the bios layer. Whew.

The days when you could write software that could talk directly to the hardware with a simple interrupt 0x21 call are long gone.

Each of these layers has individually proven reliable, but each also has to be very flexible. The success of the x86 based PC – now called the “WinTel” model – is that the driver model has always been open. Ironic, isn’t it? Regardless of which of the models you’re using though – Wintel, Linux, Mac OSX, BSD, or whatever – a similar stack does exist and the increasing flexibility of each layer means that there are more and rougher edges at the boundaries where these layers meet.

Notes 8 no longer installs with just one application (or three if you include Designer and Admin). It has to install and manage the eclipse framework – even if there is already another eclipse framework on the machine for something else. Compare the complexity of your Notes 8 directory tree with your Notes 7 one some time. Look at the stuff in notes/data/framework and you’ll see Eclipse installed there.

Installation issues and configuration control is going to be a tricky problem for a while as all these new layers gain tighter and tighter integration. I suspect some patience will be needed.

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re: Software Complexity Peaking AgainBy Bob Balfe on 08/28/2007 at 11:09 AM EDT
Nice write up Andrew. We (the Lotus Expeditor team) already have customers
that are completely re-doing the workbench look and feel (called Personalities
in the Expeditor API's). I think once the community grasps Expeditor and
Eclipse by the horns you will see exactly what you describe here.


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