Even though IBM’s Lotus won’t send Notes/Domino 8 out for public beta until next month, the company is planning the next versions of the platform that will focus on the server and bring such changes as 64-bit support, and new directory and authentication options.

The roadmap, which began slipping out at this week’s Lotusphere conference, shows IBM’s newly cemented commitment to its Notes/Domino platform and reinforces the demise of the ill-fated Workplace platform introduced some four years ago.

While Notes/Domino 8 is all about the client, the first maintenance release and the next major version beyond that will concentrate on the server, as IBM settles into a cycle of 12-to-18 months for major releases.

However, users won’t have to wait that long for a 64-bit version of Domino server. That capability will come in Notes/Domino 8.0.1, the first maintenance release of the platform – which will ship sometime after the planned mid-year release of Notes/Domino 8.

Also slated for that release is compliance for Notes mail with Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 140, a US federal standard that specifies security requirements for cryptography modules. In the maintenance release, IBM also plans to support its Notes-on-stick feature, which lets users carry around their entire Notes desktop on a removable storage device. But it is the next major version – dubbed “Next” but slated to be called Notes/Domino 9, barring legal hurdles – will be designed to bring infrastructure architects more flexibility in how they deploy and support Domino.

For the first time, IBM will let users replace the Domino directory with Microsoft’s Active Directory or any directory that supports the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). Users will be able to run Domino without having to use the Notes ID file, which is used to identify a legitimate Domino server and Notes user and acts as the passport to enter Notes.

“Today, there must be a Domino directory but the idea going forward is to let users have their own external LDAP directory without having a Domino specific directory,” says Penny Scharfman, programme director for Notes/Domino at IBM.

In addition, IBM plans to support alternative methods of authentication to the server, simplify security administration, and improve storage and failover capabilities.

The Domino Web Access client will be upgraded with deeper support for activity software IBM is developing as part of its commitment to bring social networking software into corporate environments.

On the client side, IBM will add calendaring improvements, client provisioning capabilities and deeper integration with RSS and ATOM.

Notes/Domino Next is slated to ship by the end of 2008.