By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-04-24 Print this article Print

While each of the Sun Collaboration Servers is a discrete component within the Java Enterprise System, Sun has done a good job of integrating the servers where it makes sense to help users manage e-mail, calendars and IM.

In our test configuration, we also looked at a fourth component, the Java System Portal Server, which provides a unified interface for the three collaborative components. We recommend companies planning to use all three servers consider the portal to ease integration.

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The bundling of the three components in the Java Communications Suite sets Sun apart from both Microsoft, which has completely decoupled IM from Exchange Server, and IBM, with its two separate e-mail and IM products (Domino and Sametime). The closest direct competition would be CommuniGate Systems and its CommuniGate Pro Core Server.

The messaging and calendar servers are standards-based systems that can be accessed through a Web browser, standard e-mail client or Outlook (using the Sun Java System Connector plug-in). The IM server is also standards-based—an XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol)-based system that we accessed through either a Java-based client or by using a client that supports XMPP, such as Gaim. The IM server also supports federation, so a company can use it to directly connect the internal IM network with internal IM networks of partners, as well as public IM networks.

We particularly liked the Java IM client. It does a good job of providing access to the rich capabilities found on most XMPP-based servers, such as persistent chat. Java Enterprise System can be configured to manage archiving of IM-based conversations—on the server or by copying conversations to the users in-box.

We would have liked better integration of user presence information throughout the applications—such as the Web mail client—but we could view a users presence status through the IM portlet on the Java System Portal Server.

While most of the vendors offering e-mail and calendar servers have gone the route of building rich Web interfaces around technologies such as AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), Sun has stuck with a fairly simple user interface that still manages to present data clearly and efficiently. The biggest drawback is that users dont get as rich an interaction with the UI as they would with a competing product. For example, with richer Web clients, the ability to reply to e-mail through an option in a right mouse button menu is common.

For companies that need Outlook support, Sun has done a good job delivering a plug-in that almost completely hides users from the fact that they are accessing a server other than Microsoft Exchange. This is due in part to a well-designed management tool for packaging up necessary configuration settings and an executable for delivery to the users system. The only notable change is the "work offline" menu item specific to the Sun connector.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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