Every now and then, we need to reflect on the world of our corporate users who work outside the IT environment. This is particularly important in the world of supply chains, where cooperation and collaboration among suppliers and distributors becomes increasingly important in the global economy.
But with the continued and renewed terrorist activities and new restrictions for airline travelers, the days when a business manager might willingly jet-hop from a customer's office to a manufacturing supplier's factory to a warehouse fulfillment center are fading into distant memory. The airline security gamut has grown too arduous, and the once-common face-to-face "relationship" meetings up and down the supply chain have become too expensive. Our executives know this, yet too often they've neglected to communicate it to IT.
Hey! For the traveling business exec, it's a hell of waiting, standing in line, suffering delays, and enduring rigorous hours away from home.
Instant Messaging Seeps into the IT Infrastructure
Meanwhile, the technologies of instant messaging (IM) on the public Internet have blossomed with increasingly sophisticated tools, including VoIP, Webcams, and Short Message Service (SMS) to supplement the basic IM chat capabilities. Instant messaging itself has wormed its way into the IT infrastructure with public applications from AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Skype, and other providers. Our execs are embracing these technologies, often bringing the services into the organization behind the scenes, because it makes communication along the supply chain work smarter.
Security from Public Purveys Are Targets
Yet these messaging applications from these various public purveyors have become targets for IM worms and viruses that compromise the security of the entire organization. IT has no control over the providers, and if a bug or virus begins to spread, the most IT can do is restrict the service at the firewall, shutting down the communication flow.
Now, last Wednesday, IBM began shipping the promised 7.5 release of Lotus Sametime. Where will IT stand with this service? Will it help our organizations or make it more difficult to manage the influx of IM and conferencing services?
IBM started marketing Sametime many years ago as a conferencing application that sat atop Lotus Domino and included IM. However, because there was no standard IM protocol for interfacing to the other IM providers, the task of providing a unified communications platform—in which differing IM clients can participate in a basic chat environment—has been a long time in coming.
Now it appears that the unified communication platform is finally a reality with Lotus Sametime 7.5, and on the surface it looks great!
Sametime 7.5 Provides Secure Cross-Platform Messaging
Lotus Sametime 7.5 provides IM, Web conferencing, voice conferencing, and video conferencing capabilities all built on open and secure standards-based protocols. In addition, IBM has joined forces with all the major IM purveyors to provide plug-ins that enable cross-program messaging communication in a secure and controlled manner.
Sametime 7.5 was built with Eclipse, which opens the door for business partners to construct future code that will extend the Sametime platform to future cross-program messaging enhancements. IBM says that close to 100 partners from around the world are working with IBM to deliver solutions for Lotus Sametime. This provides opportunities to integrate back-end data applications for message collaboration, as well as opportunities to develop standards-based messaging technologies and video and audio technologies. It pushes the door open much wider for real collaboration along the supply chain, without dictating a proprietary solution that may not be available to individual organizations within the chain.
In addition, because Sametime 7.5 is built to IBM enterprise-level security standards, IT can finally control the company's exposure to security intrusions: Instead of removing IM technologies from the workplace or being forced to rely upon multiple organizations for a fix to a problem, IT managers can take the controls and exclude or include functions and provide personnel with a decent set of security tools.
Finally, IBM is creating an online virtual showcase of plug-ins to allow customers to easily search for and learn about available third-party technology that integrates with Lotus Sametime.
So what does Sametime 7.5 do that other IM platforms fail to do?
How Does Sametime 7.5 Measure Up?
First of all, the virtual world for collaboration between your employees and others opens up so that personnel can be in constant contact to ask questions, resolve problems, or join into ad hoc conferences. The perpetual license for each client is only $55, which makes it a bargain at the user's end. If your organization already uses an IM function, you know how productive this can be.
Secondly, IBM has provided more than 100 new and enhanced features, including a new IM client, a completely redesigned Web conferencing user experience, federation with public IM networks, integration with leading telephony and desktop video providers, and integrated Voice over IP (VoIP).
Thirdly, Sametime permits application sharing so that IT or other personnel that are remotely stationed can work with users to resolve problems, without needing to hop a plane and meet face-to-face.
Fourthly, the standards-based open and fully extensible design also transforms Lotus Sametime software from a real-time collaboration program to a real-time collaboration platform, enabling developers to more easily deliver customized real-time business solutions that use the Sametime environment as a resource.
Finally, Sametime can now also serve as a foundation for advanced organizational collaboration and social networking, allowing the whole supply chain to work faster, be more responsive, and increase its productivity.
System i5 Availability
System i Hardware Requirements
- i5 Model 520 or larger with any processor feature
- Model 730 or 740 with any processor feature
- Model 800 with processor feature 2464 or greater
- Model 810, 820, 825, 830, 840, 870, or 890 with any processor feature
- 1 GB memory for each Sametime and Domino server
- 500 MB free disk
- 4 disk drives
i5/OS Software Requirements
- IBM i5/OS V5R3 or V5R4
- TCP/IP Connectivity Utilities for iSeries
- IBM Developer Kit for Java
- Domino for i5/OS Release 7.0x
- I5/OS Portable Applications Solutions Environment
- Cryptographic Access Provider 128-bit for iSeries
No Frequent Flyer Miles Offered
When one stops to think of the cost of fielding a business team along a supply chain versus the cost of adding the productivity of an environment like Sametime 7.5 to an existing System i5 Domino infrastructure, the importance of this new release becomes clear: It's an application platform that in most cases can pay for itself in less than a year. In addition, it adds value to the service that your business provides to the supply chain, while simultaneously increasing the potential for greater productivity.
IBM Lotus got it right with this release, and they deserve kudos for making it natively available to the System i5. The only potential drawback for your execs considering Sametime 7.5 is that IBM Lotus is not offering airline frequent flyer miles with each license purchased, and that will certainly cause some execs to balk. But then who actually wants to fly anymore anyway?
Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press Online, LP.