Thursday, July 1, 2004

More thoughts on Notes and relational databases

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

A few weeks ago, Mick Moignard wrote an article entitled "Notes is not a relational database," at http://www.dominopower.com/issues/issue200406/00001307001.html. The article resulted in a very interesting discussion between Mick and Johannes Madsen of Teamsoft, in Denmark.

Using an XML database

Thanks for your article published in DominoPower. A DB2 implementation of the Notes database will definitely make Notes more open. I have, however, for some years now had another idea which serves the same purpose, and which I think is even better. I would like to share it with you and hear your opinion.

I have worked with Notes since 1993 and with relational databases before that, but a few years ago I learned XML and it occurred to me that XML has some of the features which Notes has.

I think the Notes database is a very powerful database, but it is proprietary and can only be used with Notes. Software AG has developed an XML database called Tamino. It is being increasingly used for the same kind of applications as are developed in Notes.

My idea is, that IBM Lotus should turn the Notes database into an XML database, which could be used independently of Notes.

I have not presented the idea to anyone, and I'm only interested in what's best for the Notes product. If you like the idea, you are free to share it with others. I would, however, like to hear your opinion.

PS: If you have contacts which could promote the idea -- e.g. people within

IBM Lotus Development -- I would like you to send me their e-mail address.

Kind Regards,
Johannes Madsen
Teamsoft
Denmark

Mick responds

Thanks for your feedback. Have you looked at the ND7 beta yet, to see what Lotus are doing with DB2 in Domino? I guess you have seen the XML classes in ND6/6.5, which allow you to access all the content and design of a Notes database in XML, both read and write? It might even be that this implements what you are actually suggesting.

What's the performance of an XML database like, if the data is kept as XML in text? How does indexing, referential constraints and other stuff work -- or is it the fact that all the data is actually kept in Tamino as regular data, and just externalised via XML?

Why don't you write up your ideas in an article for DominoPower? I'd suggest that you explain what an XML database is, what the advantages and disadvantages are, show the actual benefits, both technically and in business value, and what the opportunities would be for interchange, and so on. Tell us why you think XML databases are such a good idea, and what it would bring to Notes. We'd love to run such an article. I've copied the Editor, so he'll probably lean on you too, now! If you need help or encouragement, get in contact with me.

As to selling it to Lotus, your best bet to start is to make contact with people inside Lotus as events such as Lotusphere -- talk to developers in the developer lab, find out who the key players in the Notes data storage layers are; talk also to people like Ed Brill, and to key independants like Bob Balaban, Rocky Oliver, and Brian Benz (Benz wrote the XML Programming Bible). Find out what people think of your idea, and hone it to deal with objections. In the end, you may just have to pitch it to Lotus and get them to buy either it or you up!

[Feel free to submit articles to editor@ZATZ.com. Since lots of Lotus folks read DominoPower, consider this your first step selling your idea! -- Ed.]