First of all, don't expect Domino to be more relational, it's a document based system at heart :)
Domino 8.5.2 has integrated support for OSGi and Apache Equinox. Equinox is a lightweight servlet container, and is from 8.5.3 replaced with a full servlet engine. If you don't like JSF, feel free to use something else, we use Freemarker and our own MVC framework, built in Java and Groovy. It gives us full control on the result, is lightening fast, and we feel it's easier to develop for than xPages.
In my experience, the xpages engine is seriously fast, much faster than traditional forms, but I don't develop much with xpages itself, I find dragging and dropping unvieldy, and "programming" in xml an abomination.