Introducing Sametime 8.5.2

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(For more resources on IBM Sametime, see here.)

What’s new in Sametime 8.5.2

IBM Sametime 8.5 and 8.5.2 introduces many new capabilities to the Sametime product suite. In addition to the numerous features already included with the Sametime 8.x family of clients, Sametime 8.5.2 has extended client usability and collaboration. Let us take a look at a few of those enhancements:

  • Sametime Connect Client software is now supported on Microsoft Windows 7.0, Apple Macintosh 10.6, and Linux desktop operating systems including Red Hat Enterprise Desktop (RHED), Ubuntu, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED)
  • A lightweight browser-based client that requires no additional downloads is available for instant messaging for Apple iPhone and iPad users
  • A browser-based client is available for Sametime meetings
  • Sametime Mobile Client support has been added for Android devices (OS 2.0 and higher), Blackberry 5.0 and 6.0 devices, and Microsoft Mobile 6.5 devices
  • Rich text messaging is now available for chats with users connected through the Sametime Gateway

If you deployed Sametime Standard in a previous release or are interested in the online meeting conferencing features of Sametime 8.5.2, then you and your users will be happy to know that meeting attendees now can attend online meetings “instantly” without having to load any additional software in their browser. Meetings start quickly and are retained for future use.

Probably the most significant change for you as a Sametime administrator is the introduction of IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) as an application hosting platform for Sametime. In previous versions of Sametime, with the exceptio of the Sametime Advanced and Sametime Gateway features, the Sametime server was deployed on Lotus Domino servers. If you know how to install and manage a Lotus Domino server, then you will most likely be the same individual who will manage a Sametime server as the skill sets are similar.

But with the addition of WAS comes flexibility in server architecture. As an administrator, you have the ability to choose features and configure servers based on your organization’s unique needs. The linkage between Domino and Sametime still exists through the Sametime Community Server. So not only can Sametime be sized appropriately for the needs of your organization, it can also run on multiple operating systems and servers as per your requirements.

Some highlights include:

  • With the release of Sametime 8.5.2, Lotus Domino 8.5.2 is now supported.
  • A Sametime Proxy Server has been introduced as a component of the Sametime server architecture. The Sametime Proxy Server hosts the lightweight browser-based Sametime client. It runs on WAS and is different than the WAS Proxy Server.
  • Media Manager Server is another new Sametime server component. This server manages conferences using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to support point-to-point and multi-point calls and integrates into the Sametime environment through your Community Server. Sametime 8.5.2 introduces support for standard audio and video codec for improved integration in the Sametime client and the Sametime Meeting Center. This allows for interoperability with third-party conferencing systems.
  • Transversal Using Relay NAT (TURN) server is a Java program that runs in conjunction with the Media Manager Server and behaves as a reflector, routing audio and video traffic between clients on different networks. The technology used by this Network Address Translation (NAT) Traversal server (ICE) uses both TURN and Session Transversal Utilities for NAT (STUN) protocols and behaves similarly to the Sametime reflector service that was part of earlier versions of Sametime.
  • Improved network performance and support for IPv6 networking.
  • A new central administration console called the Sametime System Console (SSC) for managing Sametime server and configuration resources from a consolidated web interface.
  • Sametime Bandwidth Manager is a new optional WAS-based Sametime server component that allows you to create rules and policies that determine the use of audio and video within Sametime. The Bandwidth Manager monitors Sametime traffic and uses your rules to dynamically select codec and quality of video streams as calls are initiated by users.

No matter if you are new to Sametime or a long-time Sametime administrator, our aim is to guide you through the planning, installation, management, and troubleshooting steps so that you can successfully implement and support Sametime 8.5.2 in your environment.

Sametime 8.5.2 server architecture

As we have described briefly, the server architecture for Sametime 8.5.2 has changed significantly from previous versions. Prior to this version, Sametime was a single server installation and ran as an add-in task under a Domino server. It provided both instant messaging and web conferencing features combined into a single server. Although there was a license model that only installed and enabled the instant messaging features (Sametime Entry), the installer was the same if you wanted to include web conferencing functionality as well.

The new architecture still includes a Domino-based component but the Domino server is intended strictly for instant messaging and awareness. All other Sametime functionality has been re-engineered into separate server components running on top of the WAS platform. By moving all but the instant messaging and awareness services from Domino onto WebSphere, IBM has constructed an environment better suited to the needs of enterprise customers who have a high demand for services that require significant non-Domino resources such as audio, video, and web conferencing.

Additionally, the new architecture of Sametime 8.5.2 is about enhancing the client experience, dramatically improving performance, and bringing the technology in line with modern audio, video, and browser standards.

Let us begin by taking a look at the new server components and learning about their role and function.

Sametime System Console

Core to the entire Sametime multi-server architecture is the management interface which runs as a WebSphere application. It is called the Sametime System Console (SSC). The SSC actually plugs into the standard WAS 7.x menu as an additional option.

The SSC provides the configuration and management tools needed to work with all the other Sametime components, including the Domino-based Instant Messaging server. It also comes with a series of step-by-step guides called Sametime Guided Activities to walk you through the installation of each server component in the proper sequence. The SSC also has a Sametime Servers section that allows you manage the Sametime servers.

The SSC installs as an add-in to WAS and is accessed through a browser on its own dedicated port. It also uses a custom DB2 database named STSC for storage of its management information.

Sametime Community Server

Sametime Community Server is the instant messaging and presence awareness component of Sametime, which is installed as an add-in task for Domino. It must be installed on Domino versions 8.5 or 8.5.1, but it can work with earlier versions of Sametime already installed in your environment. Keep in mind, however, that pre-8.5.x clients will not benefit from many of the new features provided by your Sametime 8.5.2 servers. If your requirement is solely for instant messaging, then this is the only component you will need installed alongside Domino itself.

The Sametime Community Server “standard” install also includes the original Domino-based Meeting Center. This browser-based component has not been updated in any way from pre-8.5.x versions and is there purely for backwards compatibility and to maintain any existing scheduled meetings. There is no integration or interaction between the Domino-based Meeting Center and the Sametime 8.5.2 Meeting Center(s).

Other than being updated to run on top of a Domino 8.5 or 8.5.1 server, the actual Community Server component has changed very little and includes no significant new features from previous versions. Its browser administration interface and options remain the same. However, if you have deployed the SSC, the native Domino administration is over-ridden.

Following is a chart of the Sametime Community Server infrastructure. Note the optional management of the server by the SSC. Although the use of Domino as a directory is still supported, it is highly recommended you deploy Sametime using a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory. If you will be deploying other Sametime 8.5.2 components, then your deployment will usually require an LDAP directory to be used.

Sametime Meeting Server

The Sametime Meeting server has been completely re-engineered to bring it up to the standards of modern web conferencing solutions. It is also better aligned with IBM’s Sametime Unyte online service. The new Sametime Meeting Server (versus the Domino-based Meeting Center) runs as an application under WAS. In addition, as it requires a data store to hold meeting information, it utilizes a dedicated DB2 database for managing the content of each meeting room.

The previous Sametime meeting client was entirely browser-based. To improve performance and functionality for 8.5.2, a rich meeting center client has been introduced which plugs into the Sametime Eclipse environment. A browser interface for meetings is still available but it provides a reduced set of functions.

Sametime Proxy Server

The Sametime Proxy Server re-introduces a lightweight browser-based client for Sametime, which has not been available in versions shipped since 6.5. The new browser client is designed to be lightweight and fully customizable and it is based on Ajax technology and themed using CSS. This allows it to launch quickly and be customized to match your organization’s design.

The Proxy Server installs as an application under WAS, although it has no data store of its own and does not require any database connectivity. In the configuration for the Proxy Server, you direct it to a specific Community Server to supply the Sametime services. The following diagram gives a brief overview:

The Proxy Server ships with a default client designed as a JavaServer Page, which can be modified using customizable style sheets. It gives a feature-rich Sametime experience including multi-way chats, browser-based meetings, and privacy settings.

Sametime Media Manager

The Sametime Media Manager takes on the role of providing audio and video services for both the Sametime clients for peer-to-peer VoIP and video chats, and for web conferencing within the meeting rooms in the new meeting center. It is designed to provide services for multiple Meeting Servers and through them for instant meetings from the Sametime client. Installed on a WAS platform, it has no need for a data store and does not require any database connectivity.

The Media Manager is designed to provide a multi-way audio and video conferencing experience using modern codecs; however, it does not support Sametime clients in versions prior to 8.5.2. It is the audio and video “glue” that connects all the other Sametime server elements in 8.5.2.

Sametime TURN Server

In its default configuration, the Media Manager creates a SIP connection from itself to the requesting client. However, where the client is not on the same network as the Media Manager, no SIP connection can be made directly. To address this issue, which affects users outside of your firewall as well as those on different internal networks, IBM has introduced the TURN Server with Sametime 8.5.2.

The TURN server uses both TURN and STUN protocols to create a connection with the client. It routes audio and video traffic between itself and the Media Manager, allowing connections between clients across networks. The technology is sometimes referred to as a reflector and pre-8.5 versions of Sametime came with a reflector service of their own.

The TURN server is a Java program that runs in a command window on any Windows or Linux server sharing the same subnet as the Media Manager. It doesn’t require WAS or any data store but runs with a separately installed IBM Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

Sametime Bandwidth Manager

The Sametime Bandwidth Manager is a new optional WAS-based component that is designed to help Sametime administrators manage the traffic generated by the Media Manager and its audio and video services. Within the Bandwidth Manager configuration, an administrator can create sites, links, and call-rate policies that define the service provided by the Media Manager. The Bandwidth Manager analyzes its rules when a new call is initiated and instructs the Media Manager on how to service that call.

Among the extremely granular levels of customization available are options for sites to have link rules that constrain the traffic between them. You can also create specific policies that specify the services available to named users or groups during peak and off-peak periods. Depending upon network load, user identity, and call participation, the Bandwidth Manager can be configured to control the bandwidth. It can do this by reducing the audio to a lower codec, reducing the video frame rate, or even denying video completely, informing the user that they should retry at a later time.

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