Tuesday Apr 10, 2007

Communications Suite: Going Mobile

Overview

A few weeks ago, Comms folks assembled for what we call the Communications Software Summit, a nice little four-day event to share and present information across the spectrum (marketing to technology) for Communications Suite products: a where-are-we-now, and where-are-we-going kind of event. We got smart this time and actually video'd the presenters, and thanks to our AV dept, created some tidy Web presos (video + actual hardcopy presentations) that our internal folks, who couldn't make the Summit, are able to view later, at their leisure, over the Internet.

Not having attended in person myself (Sun $ for travel has really shrunk in the past few years), I've started going through these Web presos, and am finding the information quite valuable. Is there a way that we can share this with our customers? (What, sharing information with customers?!?!?!). Well, not exactly, but what I will attempt to do is create some summaries and post them to this blog, omitting the super secret sauce.

First off, then: "Mobility and the Sun Java Communications Suite," a look at how mobile devices such as Blackberrys fit in with Comms Suite. (And thanks Doug, for your info which I am stealing, er, being influenced by.)

What Are Your Mobile Options for Comms?

According to the preso, here are your current options:

Communications Sync. Oriented to those devices that still don't have wireless capabilities, ye old 'cable sync' kind of technology. So we still provide that capability.

Portal Server Mobile Access. In the early days, there was Portal Server Mobile Access to address micro-browser based devices. The value add was a layer of abstraction between the content provider and the content itself. Prior to Comms 5, Portal Server provided portlets for Mail, Calendar, and AddressBook for your mobile devices. Now, with Comms 5/Java ES 5, there is a deprecation of these Comms portlets, and instead, you get Simple Mobile Support with a decoupled portlet.

SyncML. Now we're getting to the good stuff. SyncML is an open standard protocol for data syncing between devices that, until recently, has been more popular in Europe than the U.S. Lots of devices have SyncML built in, or enable you to install SyncML on that device. SyncML is a layer of abstraction between the device and the server, that, if I understood correctly, is a better architected solution (less revving of software on our end to make things happen). In the past, SyncML was a 'pull' method, but now it also supports 'push.'

Sun oftens uses Synchronica (but there are others) as its partner for deploying SyncML solutions. Synchronica provides a SyncML gateway that runs on Sun's Application Server that syncs with our Comms products. (Synchronica also syncs with other vendors' products, enabling you to have a co-existence environment to migrate your legacy environment to Sun.) Newer versions of SyncML work over the air as well as over a cable, do push Email and support IMAP Idle. The Synchronica gateway can also do push email to servers that don't support IMAP Idle. (IMAP Idle support is new in Messaging Server 6.3).

Blackberry, Palm OS (Treo, for example), and Windows Mobile Devices.: Sun's partner Notify provides a push email solution, NotifyLink that grants mobile access to these devices that don't have built-in access. You install the custom Notify email client on these devices to get the capability to do background syncs/pushes of content. The client also leverages built-in apps on the device, for example, on the Treo; another big advantage is built-in support for attachments, enabling you to access the attachment right on the device. This exists on the Treo for MS apps right now, with support for StarOffice apps supposedly on the way.

Of note: RIM has certified Notify as the only certified IMAP or non-BES for Blackberry devices. Like the Treo, the Notify client on the Blackberry interfaces with the native Blackberry Calendar, AB, and Task databases, as well as providing full attachment support.

The Notify solution provides a number of security solutions, including: SSL between the device and Notify server; AES and Triple DES encryption; AES encryption of stored data; SSL/TLS over IMAP4 behind your firewall; and so on.

Mobile Access Architecture

In terms of architecture, you can deploy mobile access for Communications Suite in two fashions:

  • Hosted access, in which you deploy the mobile access solution outside of your company's DMZ/firewall setup, with the mobile access server at the host provider's site. Front-end Comms servers provide access to the Comms back-end data layer hosts. Such a setup is good because you don't have to support the mobile access solution. The downside is that you need open firewall ports for each Comms front end server process.
  • On premise architecture, in which you deploy the mobile access server in your DMZ and manage it yourself.
Note: Sun IT has actually deployed examples of both these types of architectures.

Lastly, if you aren't familiar with the Comms Partners List, check them out here:

http://www.sun.com/software/products/communications/partner_library/

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

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