Give Your IBM Notes & Domino Apps an "MOT"

By Nigel Cheshire

Last week, my car had to go into the shop for its “MOT” - the British version of an annual safety and emissions inspection. The MOT test is named for the Ministry of Transport - which was the name of the government department responsible for all things related to cars and driving back in 1960, when the test was introduced. (In the interests of progress, the department has now been renamed to the DVSA, and no-one knows what that stands for.)

In 1960, you didn’t have to have your car tested unless it was at least 10 years old. It was an unsophisticated checkup to make sure that the brakes and steering basically worked. Now, of course, the test covers a long list of items, including compliance with emissions standards, and must be repeated annually, once the vehicle reaches just three years of age.

That’s not too far different to the rules in our home state of Massachusetts, where vehicles are subject to annual checks no matter how old they are. As you might imagine, in the United States the rules are different in every state, and some states don’t require safety or emissions testing at all. It surprised me to learn that Michigan, home of the motor city, doesn’t require any testing. Meanwhile New Hampshire (“live free or die!”) requires annual testing like Massachusetts.

In any case, the point is that cars, like many other things, have a tendency to degrade over time, and require frequent checking to ensure that they continue to function properly. Just like software applications, in many ways. Yes, I know that cars are mechanical and have parts that wear out and need to be replaced, and that you couldn’t say the same thing about software. But software apps need maintenance too.

Think for a moment about your portfolio of IBM Notes and Domino applications. If you have an application that’s been doing loyal service for a number of years, it’s quite likely that something about the environment in which it operates has changed during that time. The operating system has been upgraded. The version of Notes and Domino that the application is running on has almost certainly changed. Servers move and get renamed. Directory structures get moved or renamed. Web site links move or are retired. Even if the application itself has never changed, there could be any number of things that have changed in the environment in which it operates and upon which it depends.

And yet there is no “MOT test” for apps. It’s pretty much unheard of, in my experience, for an IT group to spend any time at all on testing and remediating applications that are already in production. But why not? We put lots of emphasis on testing applications before they go into production. It would be unthinkable for an application to be written and then just rolled out to users with no testing. Why then is it such a crazy idea to spend some time on testing those same applications later on in life? Given how many environmental changes could impact on the application, doesn’t it make sense to retest the applications on a regular basis? Especially if at least some of that testing could be automated?

That was what inspired us to create Teamstudio Validator. Validator provides a quick, easy and non-invasive way to check for some basic and common faults in older applications. In brief, Validator checks for four types of problem:

  • Broken doclinks and URLs

  • Orphaned documents and agent data notes

  • Conflicts, such as replication or design conflicts

  • Differences between data and design, such as inconsistent keyword fields or missing dependencies

Consider an example. Suppose the default value formula on a field assumes a certain data type, and yet one single document contains an incorrect data type in that field. On attempting to open that document (which could be just one amongst tens of thousands in the database), the user would experience an “Incorrect data type for operator or @Function” error.

Within a few minutes, you can run Validator against an application and produce a report which pinpoints such potential problems, thereby avoiding calls to the support desk and a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what the problem is.

To learn more about Validator, click below. And, in case you’re curious, my 17 year-old Jeep passed its MOT with flying colors!