Continuing in the vein of prior posts with the ‘better’ tag, I want to describe quality improvements made in recent releases. Notes/Domino 8.5.3 has just been released, and you can read about new features in the announcement. There’s plenty to like. The embedded Symphony version has been updated to 3.0, and the embedded Sametime to 8.5.1, both key advances. There are enhancements to XPages and the Domino Designer, and much more. But quality is not just about new features. It’s about all features working well.
The overall quality objectives for the 8.5.3 maintenance release were to significantly reduce the outstanding defect backlog, to improve integration with companion products like Connections, Sametime and Symphony, and to expand test coverage and test automation. The team has delivered on all of those objectives. All major components (Domino, Notes, Designer, Traveler) reduced their deferred defect backlogs by considerable amounts, some by more than half. The vast majority of those defects had not been reported by customers. They were found in house. Removing them eliminates the risk our customers will run into them. Reducing internal defect backlogs is always an objective for a modification release (a.k.a. maintenance release), but release 8.5.3 has achieved reductions that are greater than is typical for most maintenance releases.
Security is a high priority for any release from IBM. In Notes/Domino 8.5.3 we moved systematically forward with further detailing of our threat model and the adoption of Rational AppScan Enterprise Edition for testing of the full attack surface across the Notes client. Similar efforts were done for Traveler and for iNotes. (Domino did this work previously). All the components had security testing in the past; what’s changing is that we’re adding Rational AppScan testing across all of our portfolio. And of course resolving all security defects before releasing.
The Domino team also focused on memory related improvements in release 8.5.3, delivering new NSD macros, and an administrator capability to track and drop 'bad' IMAP sessions, which can cause server crashes. A very key improvement is a substantial reduction in use of shared 16-bit handles, which will reduce the type of conflicts that can cause potential hangs or crashes. The aggregate result is an even more stable solution. For the Domino Configuration Tuner (DCT), we continue to deliver additional rules to help you ensure your environment is optimized. If you use DCT, be sure to download new rules regularly. We add new rules at least quarterly, and some times monthly. For iNotes, we continue to focus on achieving full parity between the Notes and iNotes client experiences, delivering important improvements to sorting by subject, to auto-processing of calendar entries, and the option to not expand personal groups when sending.
Less visible to our customers is the continued progress on test automation. The more of our standard test scenarios are automated, the more time our engineers can devote to specialized, exploratory testing around new features. Some critical areas have doubled the number of automated tests this year, freeing up engineers to expand coverage, all part of our continuous improvement effort.
Release 8.5.3 is the next global deployment candidate for IBM’s own internal environment of nearly 400,000 users around the globe. Prior to release, the IBM CIO’s Office deployed it to over 4,000 IBM employees, and our Services Division deployed a pre-release build for over 14,000 users. That means over 18,000 people were using it daily before we declared it ready to ship. The CIO servers are primarily AIX and zLinux servers. Although the majority run the client on Windows, there are a few hundred running on Linux and Mac platforms as well.
In summary, there’s a lot to like about Notes/Domino 8.5.3. I’ve described a few highlights of the quality effort here, but of course the proof is in the pudding, or more accurately, in the released software. Enjoy the new release. As always, feedback is welcome.