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Consultant's Corner: Introducing Novell Teaming + Conferencing

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Gregg Hinchman

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Posted: 18 Sep 2007
 

Introduction

"One thing I can tell you is you got to be free" to share information in as many ways as possible. It seems just 5 years ago we had email and List Servers. Now we have wikis, blogs, YouTube, etc. Makes you wonder what new way of sharing information we will have in 5 more years.

Today, or rather in October, Novell will provide administrators with Teaming + Conferencing. This is not a new set of tools to the world, but it's new to Novell - and it does integrate with email systems such as GroupWise or Exchange. Teaming is social networking for businesses. Well, that's a nice way to compartmentalize it, but it can be so much more. Allow me to give you a quick run down on what Teaming + Conferencing can do:

  • Increase productivity by bringing people closer to solve business problems
  • Manage intellectual property by providing repositories to house information and make it search able as well as provide document management features such as versioning
  • Decrease organizational costs by providing communication mediums like web conferencing and presence which will minimize travel related expenses, as well as avoiding rip-and-replace of the infrastructure
  • Strengthen security by protecting organizational information with identity-based access to end-users inside and outside company borders, and integrate with your current environment by using standards-based protocols

There are two products, really: Teaming and Conferencing. You must first have Teaming in order to get Conferencing. Conferencing provides desktop conferencing features for organizations. Think WebEx but fully supported/secured within your organization.

Function and Features

Novell Teaming + Conferencing is a collaboration product that ties people together for the purpose of driving an organizations growth/business/objectives. It offers a single place to:

  • Communicate
  • Create
  • Manage, and
  • Discuss

Novell Teaming + Conferencing provides end-users with the ability to create their own personal workspaces. There are many different tools within these workspaces:

  • Discussion Forums
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Document Management
  • Email
  • Instant Messaging
  • Work flow
  • Web Conferencing

Figure 1 - Communicate, Create, Discuss, Manage

There are 'core' folders which supply a majority of the Novell Teaming feature set. They are:

  • Document folders - a repository for team documents with document management features such as versioning, and multi-level access rights
  • Forum folders - a zone for team discussion threads, blogs and wikis
  • Calendar folders - a managed area for various team related calendars
  • Address book folders - a data set of team contacts

In Teaming, folders may have their own email address, which provides a way to send email directly to a folder for discussions and other teaming functions. It also provides a way to manage and sort content.

So what does it take to run Teaming? Novell Teaming uses databases to support its feature set. Currently, MySQL, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL are supported. In addition, the supported portals are Jboss and Liferay. The supported server operating systems include:

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise server 10 (supports Teaming plus Conferencing)
  • Windows 2003 server (supports only Teaming)
  • Red Hat Linux 4 (supports Teaming plus Conferencing)
  • Novell Open Enterprise Server 2.0 (supports Teaming plus Conferencing)
On the desktop there are two items to consider, first the browser and second the operating system. Mozilla, Internet Explorer 7 and latest version of Safari are supported browsers. Novell Teaming supports at the desktop level Linux, Windows and MAC on the desktop but for the Conference client you will need SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, or Windows XP Professional or Vista.

Teaming Architecture

Let's dig a bit into the architecture and see how Teaming + Conferencing is laid out. Certainly, in an implementation you will want to have more than one server to host all the services that Teaming + Conferencing offers. And you will need storage space, as well. But for a pilot or for testing, you may want to run all services on one server. I recommend you test and pilot Teaming + Conferencing first, with the idea of creating one business use. This will help you, as the administrator, to understand the full set of features/functions. It's with this understanding that a full implementation comes. As with all things, it's better to think and plan it, then implement. But I digress ...

Team Membership may be pulled via LDAP from eDirectory and GroupWise. To extend the team, users outside of the company can be added to the team membership, again with LDAP. Meanwhile, Portal Containers and Teaming Portlets open up the access for administrators and end users alike. So, access to your individual or team portal is available via a browser from anywhere. Team documents - those stored in a "team" - use WebDAV as well. Teaming has a nice set of Document Management features including versioning. This allows a team to work together on a document, maintain control of documents of the team's intellectual knowledge, and increase document collaboration.

As an addition to document management, there is work flow. Teaming comes with a nice implementation of work flow for some basic features. Discussion forums work with an RSS client including GroupWise allowing for thread discussions. Team calendaring works with iCal to get appointments and such into GroupWise. Address books use LDAP with GroupWise.

Figure 2 - Teaming architecture

The addition of Conferencing takes the above architectures and adds in integration with phone systems, GAIM, and a host of features. Teams can meet virtually via the Team portal. This, along with ZON on the desktop, will allow for team members to share their desktops, white board ideas, and converse via phone or VOIP (voice over IP). In conjunction with the "Presence" feature, ad-hoc meetings may take place with any member online from around the globe.

Summary

In short, Teaming + Conferencing is really going to provide organizations an entirely new way to collaborate! And that is just enough to get you singing ... "Come Together, right now, over ..." Teaming. In the next article, I will dig a bit deeper to show the administration as well as one simple solution that can be built with Teaming.

As always, I can be reached at: Gregg@HinchmanConsulting.com, if you have any comments, article ideas or just want to help a quirky consultant support his GroupWise habit.


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