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Why choosing Eclipse for Notes 8 was the right choice

It's been quiet around the blog the last few months because I have been neck deep in work getting a new product ready. I'm slowly resurfacing and as blogged about the last few days we (OnTime) are now shipping the latest release of the group calendar product called OnTime Group Calendar 2011. We showed of the UI's at Lotusphere 2011 but now we're shipping and are ready to go.

Besides having a brand new backend with it's own interesting features and performance improvements (see here) the product also ships with a brand new, all Java, Notes UI that runs full screen inside the Notes client. The client is called OnTime Group Calendar 2011 - Notes (or Notes 2011) and is a good showcase of what's possible inside the Notes client and why choosing Eclipse as the platform for Notes 8 was important. We no longer have to use separate clients for our UI but can run it inside Notes where it belongs. The below screenshot shows the UI running inside Notes 8.5.2.

(click the image for a larger version)

The Since the group calendar now runs full screen (a perspective in Eclipse Java parlance) it's launched from the Open menu in Notes. Once opened it adds its own top level OnTime menu and loads data using the new OnTime Group Calendar API. One of the cool things about the UI being in Java is that it does away with the traditional Notes view limitations (for instance one document per row) and allows for some super cool, pixel level, UI drawing. It also allows us to read from an API layer that abstracts the actual reading and providing of data from the application itself and allows us to reuse the API in all our UI's (Notes 2011, Discovery 2011, Web 2011, Mobile 2011 and Team-At-A-Glance 2011 (sidebar)).

The UI allows the user to switch between a day view (see above) where the user may choose to see from 1 to 7 days to a week view to a month view. The week view for instance gives a very nice overview of the calendar of the people you work with.

In all the views you may filter the people shown using groups and legends. Legends are what we call the types of appointments/meetings being shown. On the server you configure what makes an appointment be put in what legend and may be based on category, type or a formula you specify. Once you select one or more legends the viewer is filtered to highlight the appointments/meetings that match the legend. Below I have chosen to only see external meetings.

(click the image for larger version)

Besides the cool and slick UI (if I have to say so myself) we also provide some nice new functionality. If you have write to a calendar (your own or a colleagues) you may drag'n'drop appointments in the group calendar. The below screen shot shows me dragging an appointment from Susanne to Saiful.

The Notes 2011 also allows for full Lotus Sametime integration and customization using Eclipse based extension points but that's a topic for another day.

If you like to try out OnTime Group Calendar 2011 you may obtain an unrestricted, 30 day, trial. Simply drop us an e-mail at sales@intravision.dk. We'll even be happy to offer you 20% discount for all new licenses purchased in May or June as an introductory offer. Just tell us that you learned about OnTime on lekkimworld.com and we'll discount your purchase.

A tale from a customer reaching (and exceeding) the 64 gb limit

As I've tweeted I have spent the last couple of days (and the weekend) helping out a customer that exceeded the hard 64 gb database size limit in Lotus Domino. Before discussing how we solved the problem and got the customer back in business I would like you to think about how situations like this could be avoided. And avoiding it is key as once you exceed the size you're doomed.

First --- how and why database platform would EVER allow a database to cross a file size that makes it break. Why doesn't Domino start to complain at 50gb and make the warnings progressively harder to ignore as the database gets closer to 64gb. Why doesn't it refuse data once it reaches 60gb? I find it totally unacceptable that a software product allows a database to exceed a size it knows it cannot handle.

Now I know that there are considerations for such a warning and that it could be done in application code (e.g. database script, QueryOpen event) but it really isn't something an application developer should think about. Also it should be applied to backend logic as well and really doesn't lend itself to a UI computation. I also know that DDM or similar could warn about it but it still doesn't change my stance. The 64gb limit is a hard limit and reaching, and exceeding it, shouldn't depend on me configuring a specific piece of functionality.

Second -- having the option of keeping the view index in another location/file than the database would have helped. This has been brought up a number of times including at Lotusphere Ask-The-Developers sessions. One could argue that externalizing the view index from the database would just have postponed the problem but the view index takes up a substantial amount of disk for databases of this size.

Now on to how we saved the data.

The bottom line in this is that the customer was lucky. VERY lucky. The customer uses Cisco IP telephones and keeps a replica of the database in question on a secondary server for phone number lookup using a Java servlet. Due to the way the way the servlet is written only as single, very small, view was built on the secondary server. This is turn meant that the database that had exceeded 64 gb on the primary server was "only" 55 gb on the secondary server. The database on the primary server was toast and gave out very interesting messages if attempting the access or fixup the database:

**** DbMarkCorruptAgain(Both SB copies are corrupt)
So thank God they had the secondary server otherwise the outcome of the story would have been less pleasant because using the secondary server we were able to:
  1. Take the database offline (restrict access using ACL)
  2. Purge all view indexes (using Ytria ViewEZ)
  3. Create a database design only copy to hold archived documents
  4. Delete all views to avoid them accidentally being built
  5. Build a very simple view to prepare for data archiving
  6. Write a LotusScript to archive documents (copy then delete) from the database
  7. Use Ytria ScanEZ to delete deletion stubs from the database (this works for them because the database isn't replicated to user workstations or laptops)
  8. Do a compact to reclaim unused space
  9. Make the database available on the primary server
Whew! They are now back in business after building views in the database. They were lucky - VERY lucky. If they hadn't had that secondary replica the data would probably have been lost to much distress. To them and me.

So what are the main take aways from this?

  1. UI check -- in the future all databases that I develop will have a database script check on the database size to try and prevent situations like this
  2. DAOS -- enable DAOS for databases to keep attachments out of the database and keep the size down
  3. Monitoring -- monitor databases either using DDM or other tools to try and prevent sitations like this

And so concludes a story from the field. 4 days later where my hair have turned gray from watching copy/fixup/compact progress indicators the customer is back in and happy once again. Whew!!

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