Category Archives: Cloud
Last week IBM provided a glimpse into their next innovation in email. Code-named MailNext, it is now formally named Verse. This is the next evolution of Connections Cloud, their enterprise cloud suite of software.
Now, just a week later, IBM has announced plans to make Verse available to CONSUMERS for FREE!!!
This is unprecedented by IBM. First, this is the first time IBM has targeted consumers rather than businesses. Second, the price is right to attract users to experience the new concept in messaging. Free. A brilliant strategy to finally take an aggressive action toward marketing their product by first winning over their market as individuals and then as businesses.
Long ago Microsoft did this by including Outlook with every operating system. Consumers used that interface to use POP to access their personal email accounts. Familiarity at the consumer level made it easy for businesses to be persuaded to use it along with Exchange server for an enterprise messaging system. Then Google repeated this successful recipe to build a strong consumer base before diving into the enterprise messaging marketplace.
Now IBM is going to apply the same formula. Unlike Google however, IBM is not going to turn consumers directly into profit like Google does with their advertising and scanning of email. They will be targeting Businesses to provide the revenue.
The beauty of this formula is simple. Email is the software equivalent of a Gateway drug into the collaboration software market. And IBM intends to get you addicted to theirs. In this case, those hardcore drugs are IBM’s collaboration software suite: Connections (team, B2B and B2C tools for file sharing, activities, wikis, blogs, forums, surveys, & more); Sametime Instant Messaging, video, audio, web conferencing, and Notes & Domino. And IBM is taking the same approach as the State of Washington, making their gateway drug very accessible and affordable to everyone.
I have to wonder if this isn’t at least partially driven by IBM’s new partnership with Apple who has proven how successful consumer loyalty can be. Many of us who work with the IBM technology and understand how much more powerful it is than the competitive products have long blasted IBM for shunning the consumer market. I have often thought one of their biggest mistakes was separating the application designer tools from the Lotus Notes client which took away the power for end users to apply their own energy to create the custom applications they needed. At that point in time they disarmed their greatest allies and advocates of the software. It looks like the giant has finally awoken and recognizes the power that the individual has on the choice of software in the workplace. I am anxious to see what this new evolution will do for improving our productivity in the most widely used software category in the world. How do you think this will impact the landscape of the collaboration software market? Want to see for yourself? Pre-register here.
(Note: because the features of IBM Connections is so tightly tied to releases in IBM Connections Cloud, this story applies to both)
On September 24th I published an article analyzing the Gartner report about Social business offerings. In it I mentioned the lack of a roadmap for IBM Connections Cloud (SmartCloud). The issue keeps resurfacing. So far it has been met mostly with diversions and redirects: “Why do we need a roadmap published?” or “We already have webinars and meetings with customers and present the roadmap to them“. I will say Luis Benitez has done a great job of posting information in various external sources like this slideshare or on his personal blog website (Still not official and only covers the Connections functionality of Connections Cloud and it not a roadmap). And of course there is the official IBM wiki website with the “What’s New” posting highlighting some features after the update, although not all changes are mentioned here, like the update to the ActiveX control for Internet Explorer which was pushed out without warning last Wednesday, outside the usual maintenance window; and the post contains no history of earlier releases. All of these are only partial lists of what features are being working on or have been released to the service and they miss some of the key points of a roadmap. Perhaps the name Roadmap is misleading. Timeline might be more accurate. I will take a moment to clarify what exactly I am looking for in a roadmap and why I think it is so important.
A roadmap provides several things:
1. A general description of each feature that is coming along with a target release date
2. A detailed description of each feature that has been released along with the exact date
3. An indication when a feature is cancelled or delayed (optional)
4. A general vision into the progress of the service past and future that builds confidence and rapport
A roadmap does not need to show the next 2 years of features coming. Requirements change too often to be reliable and it would be unwise to tip their hand and show the competition too much about what they are working on. But it should show the short term list of features that are imminent, within the next 2 to 3 months. Why is this so important? Because Cloud is not like software. First, there are no beta releases for us to play with in advance. Second, there is no SPR listing for it like there is for software, like Notes/Domino. Third, customers cannot chose to delay or avoid a release like they can with software updates. Therefore we need enough advanced notice to prepare for the new features. This often requires communications to our user communities of the impending changes. Larger organizations often have a series of reviews that the communications must pass before being sent out. The help desk may need to get special instructions or at least be prepared for the calls that will inevitably be generated. Administrators may need to request the feature be enabled once it is available, like using federated login method for mobile apps.
The single most important reason for posting the date a feature was added is for troubleshooting. In an environment where the customer is controlling the installation of software, they can track when the software was installed or upgraded. So correlations of when the change was made and when a problem started happening are possible. This is not the case in a cloud service environment. Therefore it becomes an essential role of the cloud provider to document and publish the dates that new features are released. Without it, it can take much more time identifying and resolving issues.
Sometimes plans change. It is better to show the changes than to have them simply disappear. This is not a legal contract, only a guide to help inform the customers. Changes are OK.
Trust is essential to getting companies to buy into your solution. The historical data will provide a track record that demonstrates how much work is continually going into improving the service which will build confidence in both current and potential customers.
In other words, a roadmap doesn’t just show you what is coming, it also shows where you’ve been and where you are now. Just like the GPS in your car shows where you are and the roads around you for safe navigation. Without the ability to see these things, customers are driving blind. That is why we need a roadmap for IBM Connections Cloud.
SmartCloud Tip #05: Problems for mail and calendar delegates. You’ll get tons of helpdesk calls if you don’t do this.
One of the points IBM stresses during your migration to SmartCloud is to migrate delegates of mail files, calendars, and contacts either ahead of or at the same time as the people who delegated them (delegators). This is necessary because a user cannot access databases on the SmartCloud servers until their own account has been added to the service. This is part of the security model. In other words, mail files in the service can only be viewed by users that are in the service. No problem. As you build your batches for migrating, the migration process alerts you who the delegates are for the people in a given batch and those delegates can be added to the same batch with one click.
But what is missed is that the delegates have bookmarks and calendar overlays pointing to the delegators mail or calendar. Those bookmarks point to the servers on-site, not in SmartCloud. So as delegators are migrated to SmartCloud, the old links that other people have to their mail don’t get updated. The end result is that delegates will continue to view the old data in the database on the server on-site even after the delegator has moved. The delegate gets no warning that the delegator has moved. The only clue is that they no longer see any changes that are made in the delegators’ mail or calendar. What makes this more insidious is that the problem begins when the DELEGATOR is moved, not when the delegate is moved. So an administrative assistant that manages many executives’ mail files has to constantly monitor when those executives are moved and then update their bookmarks.
That is why it is a best practice to be sure to promptly delete mail files from the on-site servers after their owners are successfully migrated. Life for delegates can also be simplified if all of the mail files that a delegate has access to are moved in the same batch. Then the delegate can update all the bookmarks at the same time. You could go a step further by creating database redirects as the databases are deleted from the servers on-site. If you do this, you don’t have to alert the delegates every time a delegator’s mail file is moved to SmartCloud. However, this can’t be done if you just approve the database deletions posted in adminP as part of the migration process. You need to create these some other way. One method is to delete the databases manually in the admin client where you can also add the redirect when it is deleted. You could also do this programmatically with an agent. I invite any developers to post a comment on the details for doing that.
I have posted an idea in IdeaJam requesting an enhancement.
as well as in Greenhouse.
These are the terms of service you are agreeing to in your Google Apps Business account. See the text highlighted in RED. Does this agreement concern anyone?
(Taken from Google Business TOS https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/ )
Your Content in our Services
Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.
When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.
Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.
If you have a Google Account, we may display your Profile name, Profile photo, and actions you take on Google or on third-party applications connected to your Google Account (such as +1’s, reviews you write and comments you post) in our Services, including displaying in ads and other commercial contexts. We will respect the choices you make to limit sharing or visibility settings in your Google Account. For example, you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in an ad.
Remember: If the product is free, YOU are the product!
If you are a CTO, IT director, computer professional or enthusiast of cloud computing technology, you won’t want to miss out on this meeting of the Seattle Technical Forum meetup group.
There will be 3 presenters at this meeting speaking on the following topics:
– Google Cloud Platform: Top 10 Edition
– Properly securing your cloud infrastructure
– SmartCloud – IBM’s Biggest Little Secret
I will be presenting a demonstration of SmartCloud for Social Business with IBMer David Bell. This will show off what is sure to be tagged as “The next Facebook”, business style.
You can find the details here.
Even if you can’t attend, you can create a free 60-day trial account at http://collabserv.com
When you move to SmartCloud Notes, you get many great benefits, but of course there are a few tradeoffs. One of those is giving up Manager access to the mail files. Whether you’re the mail file owner or the system administrator, the best access you’ll ever have is Editor. And unless you explicitly configure it otherwise, by default only the mail file owner will have any access at all. This is actually great for enforcing best practices. Users should never have more than editor access anyway, and in countries like France, the law prohibits administrators from accessing a user’s mail without their permission. Yes, the owner can always use delegation to grant others access to their mail file, but that only works if they are available to give that access. That doesn’t help for employees that are out sick or no longer employed at your company.
If you want anything other than the default, you need to plan ahead because once the mail file has been migrated, you can’t change the ACL. This means adding certain groups and roles to the ACL of the existing mail files as well as to the template for any future mail files.
There are typically 3 groups you will want to add to the ACL. The first is your administrator group. Without this, administrators can’t perform some basic administrator tasks, like opening the mail file to do troubleshooting.
The second group that may need access are support personnel who may need access to the mail files, but should not be included in your administrator group. For example, this may be regional administrators, or designated people on the help desk, or HR, or the legal department. How you organize these groups will vary depending on the organization and size of your company. Note that you need a different mail template in SmartCloud for each different ACL. For example, you will need a different template for each region if each region will have a different group of regional administrators.
The third consideration is providing access for your application servers in the event you have applications that run agents that directly touch the mail files. Keep in mind that no agents can run on directly on the SmartCloud mail servers so any agents will need to be run on a server you maintain on site. Typically databases use mail routing to get things into your mail file, but I have encountered a few applications that add entries directly to the calendar. The process of assigning access to these groups is simple, but must be done in advance of migrating the mail files into SmartCloud and also requires modifying the ACL of your mail template that will be posted in SmartCloud so future accounts created in the cloud will have them.
First, create a role called ExcludeDelegate in the ACL of the mail files, then create the three groups mentioned above as you need and apply that role to them. (More on exactly how to do this later.) The following screen shot was taken from the database catalog and shows these ACL entries framed in red boxes. Note that regardless of what level of access you give these groups in the mail file on site, it will not have more than Editor when it is moved to the cloud. But if those entries do not have the ExcludeDelegate role applied, they will be removed entirely from the ACL upon migration.
So how do you get these settings applied to all of your mail files in advance? You could add the entries using the administrator client. On the files tab, select a set databases then right click and choose Access Control – Manage. A dialog box displays that allows adding, modifying, or deleting ACL entries. It also allows creating roles. But the ability to actually applying those roles to ACL entries is missed. (I say BUG, IBM says “functioning as designed”) So the only way to assign a role to an ACL entry via the Administrator UI is to manually open each database one at a time and add the role to the entry. Not exactly convenient when trying to assign the [ExcludeDelegate] role to entries in hundreds or thousands of mail files before migrating them to SmartCloud.
Footnote: An SPR# GPKS6TNBN4 is a request to fix the admin client to mass-update roles in ACLs. Read this article for more details:
Please take a moment to open a ticket with IBM technical support and request that your company be added to this SPR. The more companies that request an enhancement, the more urgent they consider it.
Meanwhile, you can accomplish this using third party tools, such as Ytria EZ ACL tool, a module in the suite of useful admin tools. (Contact me for a discount code) or you can write an agent to accomplish this task.
Prepare your environment with these steps well in advance of migrating and things will be much less complicated at the time of migration.
If you found this tip helpful, you might also be interested in my other tips:
SmartCloud Tip #01 Using the Notes admin client to compliment the SmartCloud web admin screens
SmartCloud Tip #02: Best Practices to get mail files ready to move to SmartCloud
Be wary of using your iWhatever on public networks until the patches are made. The scary part is not knowing how long the “bad guys” have been exploiting this.
For all the bad rap BlackBerry got for their product, one thing that they never compromised on was security. From device, through the phone carrier, through the BB data center, over the Internet, and to your company’s mail server.
Here are several essential tips to avoid users having problems after migrating users’ mail to SmartCloud and to avoid having problems during the migration.
1. First, make an initial pass with the Onboarding Planning Tool (OPT) as early in the migration planning process as possible. You will want to get a jumpstart on fixing all the errors it is going to find that you never knew you had. This will also help to identify all those orphaned accounts no longer in use so you can get a more accurate count of how many licenses you need.
2. Look at the mail files on your server with the admin client. Sort them by size. If you have any over 5 GB, then open each and see how many documents are in the inbox. If you have a lot of these, make an agent to scan them all and create a report. For any that have more than about 1000 messages in the inbox you should have the owner clean it up before they are migrated. This is a performance issue.
3. Identify all mail files that have more than 400 folders. These will need to be reduced to under 400. Again, it is a performance issue and can also cause errors. Finding these isn’t as easy. If you are a glutton for punishment, you can do it manually. Open the server log, go to the view Usage – By Size. Open the document for one of the mail databases and you will find a list of all the folders. An easy way to count them is to copy the list and paste it into a spreadsheet or into an editor that will display line numbers, like Notepad++, a great, free editor. I recommend creating an agent or using a 3rd party tool like Ytria tools instead. (Contact me and I can get you a discount.)
In case you’re wondering, I’ve already asked IBM to add processing counting the inbox documents and the number of folders to the OPT. It is more likely to happen sooner if others request it too.
4. If you aren’t already using local mail replicas and managing them with MMR, then you are best off getting this setup on all users before you start migrating. You can do it after the migration as well, but creating the replicas will take longer because it is pulling it down from the Internet instead of from servers in your data center. Do NOT try to do it at the same time you migrate users. You will inevitably have problems and it will give the impression the migration was the cause. For users with excessively large mail files or with a high document count in their inbox, create the local replica first and have them do their clean up work locally. If you use the MMR settings on the Mail tab of the Desktop Policy settings, you can also tell it to create the full text index automatically too. Your users will be thankful. Be sure to teach them how to use it too!
These tips aren’t documented in the IBM SmartCloud Wiki.
But there are many good lessons to learn there if you are considering making the move. Check out the Learning Center pages on the SmartCloud wiki
(New versions of these plugins are now available. Read here.)
Summer vacation is over. I was deliberately taking a break from my blog to enjoy the fantastic summer and give focus on the business. While I was quiet on the surface, I’ve been very busy in the background. More on that later, but for now, some useful content…
IBM Connections with Sametime is amazing. It’s like a useful combination of features you will find on Linkedin, facebook, WebEx or GotoMeeting, Skype, dropbox, wordpress and IdeaJam and it’s ideal for any business larger than 1 person. And it is no more dependent on your email client than any of those apps are. But if you use IBM Lotus Notes, as many Connections customers do, you will get even more value with your Notes client by using the IBM Connections Plug-ins for IBM Lotus Notes. There is a version for Windows, Mac, and Linux. So where do you find this cool plug-in? How do you install it? Here are step-by-step instructions. And while you’re in the application catalog, be sure to look around at the other useful plug-ins, like the IBM Connections Desktop Plug-in for Microsoft Windows, or the IBM Connections Widget interface to LinkedIn. Have an iPad? Cool. Be sure to go to the App store and search for the IBM Connections app. In some ways I find it even better than the website. Here is a screen shot of the app. It will give you an idea of the features in IBM Connections:
Now here are the instructions for getting the IBM Connections plug-in for IBM Lotus Notes:
1. Click on this link: http://greenhouse.lotus.com . The following website will appear:
(Addendum: If you don’t already have a Greenhouse account, go ahead and click the Sign Up link now and get the process started. You will need an account before you can complete the download. Among other things it will prompt for an IBM contact. If you don’t have one, mention me and this article. They use this to validate accounts as real people.)
12. After printing and reading the agreement and getting written approval from your legal department, select to accept the license agreement and click Next. It will remind you that Notes must be closed before continuing.
15. Fill in the info for your Connections server. If you want to test it out on Greenhouse to see everything it can do, enter the server URL of https://greenhouse.lotus.com and use your username and password for your Greenhouse account. (You should have had to create one before you could download the plug-in. Don’t have one? Go back to that browser window where you downloaded the plug-in and click Sign Up in the top right corner.)
16. Click on Status Updates, Files or Activities to expand the section and see content from Connections. Note that when it is first expanded it may take a bit longer to load the content. So be patient.
That’s it. Be sure to search for me in Greenhouse and connect with me there and I can share some communities and activities I have already made to demonstrate how they work within connections. And don’t forget to go back and browse all the other cool apps at Greenhouse as well as the iTunes app store for iPhone/iPad apps on Connections, Sametime, and more!
Let me know if this was helpful. I am considering doing these as a video. Would you prefer that format over an article?
ADDENDUM: If you get the following error:
Then recheck the User Preferences. Click on the Advanced button and make sure it is using the Java Form with the authentication URL of:
If that doesn’t fix it, there are several knowledgebase articles on the topic. Search for that error message to find them.