My thoughts on 2018

We are now a few weeks into 2018. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I grew up, if anyone talked about 2018 it was in a science fiction book or movie. Even the movie Back to The Future II took place in what’s now the past. But now we are here, so let’s talk about what I think we can expect for this year.

I see virtualization and containerization become even more wide spread. Not only will IBM develop the next generation of its Connections product using containers and microservices, but IBM Domino will support Docker containers as of the next feature pack.

The idea of packaging services in easy-to-deploy containers is an evaluation of traditional virtualization, and I think we will see this much more in the next year. A number of companies already use Docker as one of the components in their cloud offerings. Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft are just some of those companies, and I think we will see even more of Docker in 2018.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to grow and develop, together with voice control of devices. The other day I visited the home improvement store Lowe’s and when I passed the thermostat section I noticed that several of them now integrates directly with Alexa. At home we have a number of IoT devices connected through a home automation hub. This morning when I woke up I just had to say “Alexa, turn on good morning”, and several different lights in different rooms throughout the house came on, at a preset strengths. I got into the shower, pressed a preset button on the control panel and the shower turned on my preferred showerhead at the temperature I have preprogrammed. The shower controller is a few years old, and it happens that I get irritated over the fact I can’t control it through Alexsa. That is how spoiled I have been from that convenience.

There are way for developers to create their own solutions for Alexa, as well as for other IoT devices. My SmartThings home automation hub uses Grovy as the language for apps running directly on the hub. I have also been experimenting some with the IoT functionality through IBM Cloud (formerly Bluemix). But you still need to be a developer to create applications for these solutions.

Amazon has however a low-code/no-code option in Alexa Skills Kit, and recently my wife built a custom Alexa skill. In the coming year I see low-code/no-code become more of a focus. Microsoft PowerApps, SalesForce App Cloud and Quickbase are just some. IBM is developing their LiveGrid, which looks very promising. If we look back a little over 20 years, we have Lotus Notes 3.0 and 4.0 as early examples of this concept. The term citizen developer is often used today for non-programmers developing business solutions outside the IT department.

For many years the IT department have been trying to prevent this, but I think we will see a return of users who quickly develop solutions for their own or their departments use, without involving IT. With services available in the cloud, the IT department don’t have to worry about the maintenance of servers, install and licensing of servers, etc. Instead they can focus on teaching the citizen developers best practices and how to secure their applications. IT will go from running the backend to supporting the users in their development. In addition they can develop more advanced solutions, beyond the skills of the end-users. I don’t see the IT departments going away, just shifting their focus somewhat.




IBM Bluemix is now IBM Cloud

IBM recently renamed IBM Bluemix, their PaaS (Platform as a Service) offering, to IBM Cloud. This new name makes more sense, and much better describes what it is. From a marketing view, this is a good change.

From a technical point, nothing changes. You still have a huge amount of different services and API:s to pout together in any way you like. At MWLUG 2017 in Washington, DC I demonstrated how to build a translation tool and a text-to-speech tool in a few minutes using IBM Cloud (back then still called Bluemix) and then use that functionality in your web applications or even in the IBM Notes client.

I was just scratching the surface on IBM Cloud, using Node-RED and IBM Watson to make this possible. If you haven’t signed up for a free IBM Cloud account, go ahead and do it. Spend a few hours looking around, and I am sure you will find several useful tools.

Why not use IBM Cloud to host your Mongo DB or SQL database? Or take advantage of the powerful Watson API? You can focus on developing your applications, instead of having to build the infrastructure yourself. I see this modular approach as a good way to build applications in the future.



IBM Watson Workspace is available – and it is free

Yesterday IBM formally launched Watson Workspace as a general availability product. Anyone can now sign up for the free version, previously you needed an invitation. But the interesting part is the enterprise version Workspace Essentials, with features for security and control needed in that kind of environment. There you can also create and manage guest accounts, and you get 20 GB storage per user, compared with 1 GB for the free version. Another difference is the access to support. The free version uses online forums while Workspace Essentials has support and offers SLA. The cost for Workspace Essentials is $6 per user and month, somewhat less for large number of users.

There are a number of ways you can use Watson Workspace. Access through a browser (except Internet Explorer) or on your phone (Android, iOS). There are also native clients, both for Mac  and Windows, built using Electron, just like Slack. The desktop app is fast and the user interface is nice and clean.

So what makes IBM Watson Workspace different from other group messaging software like Slack or Microsoft Teams? The answer is Watson and cognative technology. I have been using Watson Workspace for several months, and one of the features I like the most is called Moments, the ability to get a summary of all the messages I missed while I was away so I can catch up quicker. It has been working really well for me. Watson analyzes the messages, group them together by subject and decides what the most important parts are, and display that to me. I can then expand and see more if I like.

Just like in Slack you can add apps to Watson Workspace. The number of apps available now at the launch is very limited, but I would expect many more to be available in the future. Among the apps available are IFTTT and a connection to Slack. In Workspace Essentials there are also apps for IBM Connections and Microsoft Outlook email.

As you expect there is file and image sharing as well as presence indicators. But there is also one (or two, depending on how you see it) missing function. As of now you can’t edit or delete a message. This is however something IBM says is at the top of the list for the next iteration, in the near future.

Watson Workspace has a public API, and if you are a developer you can write your own bots or other tools that integrates with the software. You use Watson Work Services for this.

So will I replace Slack with Watson Workspace? Not fully, as I use Slack to communicate with a number of people today. But I will continue to run Watson Workspace, and probably expand my use. The Moment function is addicting, I really miss it when I use Slack and need to catch up on perhaps hundreds of messages in some channels.

Well done, IBM.




IBM Insight 2015 coming up

I won’t be able to attend IBM Insight in Las Vegas later this month, but I know several of my fellow ESS (formerly known as ICS, formerly known as Lotus) Champion will be there, as well as champions from some of the other divisions of IBM.

IBM_Insight2015This will be a massive conference, with over 1,600 sessions, technical training and labs. It will cover data management, cloud, analytics, content management, Watson and much more.  I really wish I could go, but I hope some of the session will be streamed.


IBM Verse – Features I would like to see

I have been testing IBM Verse Preview a little now, and I have compiled a list of some features I would like to see implemented. I have not included things in the UI (User Interface), because it is clear that part is still being polished/developed, and have some ways to go. I am going to focus on actual functionality, the UI items I will wait with until we are closer to the official March 31 launch date.


Connect IBM Verse to GMail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail

This is needed for several reasons. First to import existing calendar entries, contacts (including pictures, e.g. in Google Contact) and even existing email. Say the last 3 months or 6 months or even 12 months of email.

The connection should also be used to retrieve any new email coming to those acounts and display them in Verse. This way Verse can act as a federated email client, replacing the need to login to 3 or 4 different webmail systems. This requires one more function: the ability to change the sender address to match the account it was sent to. For example, if I get a mail delivered to and it get imported into IBM Verse, when I respond to it I need to be able to select that is the sender, not Outlook Express could do this this 15 years ago…


Signatures (including graphic elements)

Nobody will be taking Verse serious if you can’t create a signature for your outgoing email. Even for personal mail that is pretty much required today, and if you are trying to showcase a product intended for enterprises, don’t cripple it like this.

New email message in Verse (left) vs GMail (right)
New email message in Verse (left) vs GMail (right)


Allow custom usernames and aliases

In all/most other systems I use the nickname TexasSwede. In IBM Verse I have to be karl-henry.martinsson, which is longer, harder to remember (and to get right for people) and also annoying to have to type every time I login. Talking about login, the login screen does not remember my username and I have to enter my username as well as the domain. Not fun, especially when the mailbox times out every 30 minutes. If you like to keep your mail open all day, that is not useful.

While we are on the subject of account/user settings, it would be nice to be able to change the password…


Make Verse freemium, not crippleware

Nobody will bother testing IBM Verse if you are limited to 25 emails per 24 hour period and a 500 MB mailbox. Even GMail had 2GB at it’s launch in 2004 (if I recall correctly). I am sure there are many other things in the full version that have been removed in the preview version (if it has been developed yet). From what I understand, there is quite a bit of work left on the full (paid) version as well…


Mail Rules

For any kind of corporate/enterprise email you need rules to sort incoming mail into folders. With the integration of Watson in IBM Verse, this should be easier than ever. We should be able to get the most accurant and most powerful email rules ever seen. Of course, with a 25 email per day limitation, nobody will have enough mail in their Verse account to eventest the analytics part of the product.


Support more browsers

At least Internet Explorer 10/11 should be supported. Many companies are still standardized on IE, no matter what you think about that product. I know that as late as last year, certain security certificates for banks in Sweden required even older version of Internet Explorer

In addition I have also heard reports that Safari did not work because the version installed with the operating system wasn’t supported. IBM requires pretty much the latest versions of the browsers for Verse to work. They do some fairly advanced browser sniffing, but the error message you get just tell you that your browser is not supported. That message should be much more precise. If you have Firefox 31 and Firefix 32 is needed, that should be explained.


Mail sent to non-existing users

If you send a mail to a non-existing user (for example of you type the address wrong, perhaps dropping one s from my last name) you get a non-delivery notification saying “User does not exist in Domino Directory”. We are all happy that Verse is built on top of the reliable and robust .NSF infrastructure from Notes and Domino, but it would be nice to use more descriptive and less confusing messages. What’s wrong with “The user does not exist, please check the email address.”


1 Comment

IBM dropped the ball on IBM Verse

At IBM ConnectED in January IBM promised that all attendees would get early access to the next generation web-based email presented at the conference, IBM Verse. Jeff Schick initially promised it for february, but after several emails where the attendees were offered to sign up, it got very very quiet. Today the real invitation finally arrived in my mailbox, and I signed up. After signing up I was told it would take up to a day before my mailbox would be setup and available, but after about 30 minutes I got the welcome email.

What I noticed is that there are a number of functions not working or not available yet. This is something one would expect of a beta product, so not something I react negative to, even if it would have been nice to see a more polished product being introduced, even if it just labeled “IBM Verse Preview”. Among the functions missing is a way to create a mail signature. There is also a limit to 25 emails in a 24 hour period, as well as no more than 10 recipients for any email. Storages is limited to 500 MB.

According to a response in the support forum, IBM have dropped the Freemium idea. IBM Verse Preview replaces it, and will be just a demo version to try to get customers to buy the full version, where signatures and other features not present in the crippled Preview version will be available.

If you want to hear Jeff Schick announce the Freemium version (and personally invite ConnectED attendees to get early access to Verse Freemium), watch this video (starts at 42 minutes in):

In my opinion, IBM need to drop the 25 email and 10 recipient limit, increase the mailbox to at least 2 GB and add at least the functionality GMail offers, which include signatures (with graphics). Then there is quite a bit of polish left, if you mail a non-existing user you get the message “User XXX not listed in Domino Directory”. Yes, we are all happy that IBM Verse actually uses Domino and .NSF for mail storage, but it should probably be hidden from users.

There are also parts that look totally different, a lot of Connections stuff like profile settings, inviting users to your network, etc. Finally, Internet Explorer should be supported. Not that it is my favorite browser, but many companies are still standardized on that browser.

In my opinion, IBM dropped the ball. As my instructors in the Swedish army would have said: “Do it over, do it right”.  IBM Verse has potential, but not as crippleware.


October Community Webcast – Wednesday October 15

This Wednesday it is again time for the monthly ICS community webcast. This month’s guest speaker will be Luis Guirigay, IBM SME for Social, Mobile and Cloud.

Below is the description of the webcast agenda.

Never before has there been more opportunity for IBM Notes Domino Enterprises! Join Luis Guirigay to learn about the latest tools that will help your company get the most of the Domino platform and increase your ROI. Step through all of the latest user experience options in IBM Notes, Domino, and iNotes, and Traveler that will take your company to the next level of social email. Step through the benefits and options to access mail and apps in the cloud and get the lowdown on the IBM Connections Cloud (formerly IBM SmartCloud) offering. Get the latest information on IBM Mail Next and how the Design Advisory Program is going.

Read more here and register here.


End of content

No more pages to load