Thursday Mar 13, 2008

Comm Suite 6 Beta: Answering a Few Questions

A few questions about the Communications Suite 6 release have come up this week, thought I'd pass them along.

Q. Can I simulaneously deploy the new Web client, Communication Center, alongside the existing web client, Communications Express?

A. The plan is that the new Communication Center and the existing Communications Express will be able to co-exist. We understand that some customers will need to continue using Communications Express for various reasons before completely switching over to Communication Center. We have conducted in-house testing of this co-existence scenario. Unofficially, we have had two setups: one in which CE is deployed in Web Server 7.0 and CC in Application Server 9.1 U1, as their respective web containers; and a second in which both are deployed in single Application Server 9.1 U1 web container. I repeat, these are unofficial, not fully tested/qa'd at this point.

Q. I've noticed that both the Identity Suite and the Communications Installer install the comm_dssetup.pl script, for modifying the LDAP directory schema. Which should I be using?

A. You want to use the comm_dssetup.pl script installed by the Communications Installer. The version provided by Identity Suite is out of date. However, if you install Identity Suite before the Communications Suite components, there is an issue. You will need to run the commpkg upgrade command to force an upgrade of the existing comm_dssetup.pl installed by Identity Suite, to the newer version bundled with the Communications Installer and Communications Suite 6 components. (If you just run commpkg install, and it already detects comm_dssetup, it will not install the newer version.) See the Note at the bottom of this page for more information.

Q. I am working on installing Communications Express in the beta program with IM Server integration. The section "Configure IM Components to Enable Communication with the Instant Messaging Server" mentions the following:

Provide the Httpbind JID and password. The Httpbind JID should be a meaningful string.
What relationship does the JID have with a DNS name/hostname? Also, is the password mentioned here relative to a JCS component or something arbitrary for this portion of the configuration?

A. As far as the JIDs are concerned, they can be any arbitrary string. We have been embedding the host and domain in the string by convention but it doesn't have to be that way. Because the server can be distributed from the gateway the only stipulation is that the entries in the server's iim.conf file and in the gateway config files should match. That goes for passwords too. So when you view the httpbind jid in the iim.conf and the httpbind.conf files they should match. The JID is our way of providing component authentication with the server. Naming all JIDs the same (such as hostname) will probably cause problems especially when the server is talking to multiple components which may be running on the same host. Hence we use "httpbind" and "avatar" in our examples to distinguish the two.

Wednesday Mar 05, 2008

Communications Suite 6: Overview of the Communications Installer

Communications Suite 6, now in beta, brings a number of changes. You'll encounter a change immediately as you install Comms 6, as we've got a new installer,appropriately dubbed Communications Installer. Here is a brief overview of this new installer.

What Does it Install?

Communications Installer (CI) only installs Communication Suite components: Calendar Server, Communication Center, Delegated Administrator, Instant Messaging, Messaging Server (32- and 64-bit), Communications Express, and Sun Cluster Agents for Messaging Server, Calendar Server, and Instant Messaging. The CI also installs necessary shared components and required patches for Solaris OS. You will need to use the Java ES distribution, and the Java ES installer, to install dependant components, such as Access Manager, Application Server, and Directory Server.

Does the New Installer Perform Multi-host Installations?

No, it is still a single host installer. However, if you are interested in simplifying multi-host deployments, see Enterprise Messaging Reference Architecture Toolkit.

Is the Installer a GUI?

No. The CI does not contain a GUI, only a CLI and silent install.

Does the CI Support Installing in Solaris Zones?

Yes.

What is the Command to Run CI?

The command is commpkg. See commpkg Usage for more information.

Does the CI Support Multi-instance Installation?

Yes, through the use of the --altroot switch. Again, see commpkg Usage for more information.

Friday Feb 29, 2008

Comms Suite 6 Beta Refresh: The Next Step

Today we are making available the Communications Suite 6 Beta Refresh, which includes the new Ajax-based client, Communication Center.

To those of you participating in the Communications Suite 6 beta program, here are the doc links of interest that pertain to the new client:

Thursday Feb 28, 2008

CommSuite Wiki: Search and Ye Shall Find


Marianne Von Werefkin (1860-1938), Sunday Afternoon in Spring (1910)

When it comes to searching for information, let's face it: you want to find it quickly and have pertinent search results to choose from.

With that in mind, I'd like to recommend the built-in search facility to wikis.sun.com for finding information that we are building on the CommSuite wiki.

Confluence's search facility performs a full-text search of all content on the CommSuite including pages, comments, and attachments.

To search the CommSuite wiki, simply type what you are looking for in the "Searching Sun Java Communications Suite" bar, located on the CommSuite landing page.

Notice what happens when you type: the search already begins displaying results for you even before you press enter. For example, here I am searching for "install":

If you don't find a search result here that you like, click the Go button, and you'll get the full set of results, and other search options.

From this page, you can:

  1. Click an item in the Results list.
  2. Use the Location drop-down menu to search other wiki spaces on wikis.sun.com.
  3. Select a specific type of information (page, news, attachments, and so on) and see search results only for that type.
  4. Choose to see content by modification date.
Bottom line, wikis.sun.com provides some fairly powerful searching capabilities, and it's best to give it a whirl to see what works for you.

Friday Feb 01, 2008

To Wiki or Not To Wiki, Is That the Question?

With little fanfare, we rolled out the Communications Suite documentation wiki this week. The wiki provides Communications Suite 6 (currently in Beta) product documentation and other technical information traditionally hosted on docs.sun.com. Anyone with a Sun Online Account (SOA) is able to leave comments and/or edit content on this wiki.

I'll be the first to admit, this is a risky move on our part. Indeed, we should be wary about becoming too enthusiastic about using wikis to deliver non-open source product documentation. In many ways, such a move can be viewed as a step backward.

Some of the negatives include:

  • Figuring out how to handle contributions from the outside (and the inside, for that matter)
  • Dealing w/ release-specific information (and creating snapshots) versus creating more 'living' documentation not tied to a release
  • Loss of formatting and other production options that traditional publication tools provide (indeed, just had to do a search and replace on our wiki, which is more of a manual hunt and replace)
  • No real printing to PDF solution (yet)
  • How to localize the content when it's a constantly moving target

However, I'm ready to accept these negatives based on what's happened so far with the Comms Suite wiki. Yes, we've traded down in many areas, but in our ability to communicate with customers and respond to their needs, we've greatly traded up.

Already, in just a few scant days, the response from our users has been very positive. Our users appreciate the ability to comment on the documentation and receive immediate responses in a way that is so unlike our previous model of no back-and-forth communication whatsoever. Also, as users are making suggestions for new pages, or asking questions, or wondering about the relation between topic areas, we as the wiki info managers (aka writers) are acting in real-time to better the information and prioritize our efforts.

But I'd caution that this approach is not for everyone nor for all products. Indeed, I can't really see myself becoming an advocate (just yet, anyways); every product should look at its own needs to see if a wiki-based doc delivery has merit. Communications Suite is unique in a number of ways: we are a relatively small community, especially when compared to the hundreds of thousands of Java users out there. We have some passionate users who want to share their knowledge, and who have already been collaborating for years through email aliases. The wiki approach to product documentation seems like the next extension of this collaboration.

It's been my experience, too, that the Comms community--like most these days--is interested overall in getting timely, accurate information, however and whatever the delivery mechanism. In the past, we in Pubs have been slow to meet this need, and our toolset hasn't always been a help. One can easily see the benefit in using a wiki to meeting customer expectation for fast and good information, even if at first blush, there may be some edges that need smoothing. Again, the open wiki model will does present some downside in potentially initially accepting somewhat imperfect content by a technical writer's standards. But I believe that not only can the content be improved over time and brought up to snuff, the timeliness and expert content coverage outweigh this situation.

Stay tuned as we continue with this experiment.

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Reporting about Unified Communications Suite Documentation, including news, Comms 101, documentation updates, and tips and tricks.

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