This report follows on from the Phase 1 Report and documents the project team's progress towards implementing the recommendations from Phase 1. During this phase, the project team evaluated 3 solutions to provide calendar and email services to UW BlackBerry users. The project team is able to recommend one solution for Calendar integration (the Nexthaus SyncJe client) but were unable to find an adequate solution to address the email services. Rather than pursuing an email solution at this time, the project team is recommending that any further investigation be deferred until the Next Generation Email Project has completed their review of email services.
The focus of Phase 2 of this project was to implement the recommendations contained in the Phase 1 report. Many of the Phase 1 recommendations were support-related (i.e. procedures and documentation) and have been accomplished. The primary recommendation contained in that report was to conduct a pilot with Consilient Push to address email and Oracle Calendar (Bookit) integration issues. While this report focuses on the results of that pilot and subsequent testing of other solutions, an update is provided on the other Phase 1 recommendations also.
The outline of work identified in the Phase 1 Report is as follows:
- acquire, install and configure the agreed set of services (Consilient Push);
- introduce the service to a pilot group of users;
- monitor the results of pilot usage (including evaluation of Consilient email and calendar clients);
- develop recommendations for expanded usage and ongoing support;
- develop recommended documentation.
Acquire, install and configure Consilient Push
- The version of IMAP installed on the various IST-supported email servers was University of Washington IMAP-2000. Consilient Push solution required an upgrade to at least version 2001.315rh. The mail servers IST and ADMMAIL were upgraded to version 2004g on July 4th and July 27th respectively. The upgrades went well and there were no issues identified. The xhier package has since been released to the entire campus for use.
- A configuration was discussed and reviewed with Consilient staff that involved 2 Consilient Push servers (for redundancy), MySQL data stored on the NetApp filer using MySQL database engine on a different server. This configuration was deemed to be viable for a production environment. Two DELL PowerEdge 1850 servers were purchased by IST to host the Consilient Push software (see specifications in Appendix B).
- For the initial installation under the pilot, one server hosted the Consilient Push software, the MySQL database engine and the MySQL database. Once up and running, it was discovered that in order to implement the failover option (2 servers), IP multicasting would need to be enabled on our network. While there are plans to support IP multicasting on our network in the future, it is not currently supported so one Consilient server was used to host all components for the duration of the pilot.
Introduce the service to a pilot group of users
- The Consilient client software is deployed from the server to the clients as opposed to using the Application Loader utility of the BlackBerry Desktop Manager. This process, called provisioning, involves configuring the user account on the Consilient Push server and then emailing the instructions to the user which contains a hyperlink that initiates the software download and installation onto the BlackBerry. This installation process resulted in two new applications on the target BlackBerry: Consilient Push (email) and Consilient Calendar.
- The Consilient documentation indicates that the Consilient software requires a BlackBerry running OS version 4.0.2 or higher. This version of the OS is not available for some older model BlackBerrys (e.g. 7280). We were able to confirm the software would function on BlackBerrys running version 220.127.116.11 but could experience some problems that were corrected in the subsequent OS upgrade (see note). Curiously, one team member's 8700 model BlackBerry was running version 18.104.22.168 of the OS and would not work until it was upgraded to OS version 22.214.171.1244.
- In the end, 5 team members evaluated the software.
Monitor the results of pilot usage
- A SharePoint site was established to allow team members to post their observations in the forums and respond to other posts (click here for the mobile-friendly version). A few high-level, summary comments are presented here; the forum postings can be reviewed for details.
- Consilient email client
- The number of limitations/issues that team members experienced with the email client makes it difficult for us to recommend this solution to existing BlackBerry users. It was acknowledged that BlackBerry "newbies" might have less issues with some of the limitations (e.g. keyboard shortcuts) but there are some integration issues that just make the email client less functional (e.g. clicking on a web address in a message does not open the page in a browser; clicking on a phone number does not dial the number).
- The only benefit with the email client appears to be the ability to delete email in one location. The client does not support filing of messages, viewing sent mail or mail in other folders. Consilient has indicated that the standards for push-IMAP folder synchronization have not been formalized. When these standards are put in place, Consilient intends to move toward supporting this functionality.
- Consilient calendar client
- Generally, the calendar application was well received despite the occasional time when events failed to update.
- Wireless synchronization of the calendar is a real benefit for our users.
- It was recognized that some users would be satisfied being able to see their "Bookit" calendar on their BlackBerry, but the lack of a notification mechanism (e.g. audible alert) was deemed to be a significant limitation.
- It was decided that testing would now concentrate on the Nexthaus SyncJe client (which integrates with the native BlackBerry client and thus supports alerts). The Consilient calendar software may be revisited if the Nexthaus SyncJe client tests fail.
- Consilient administration
- The frequency of updates (both client and server) is a concern. During the short pilot phase, we experienced 3 different revisions of client and server software.
- Troubleshooting was difficult - there is little in the way of status reports that are readily available (outside of the application logs). As a result, troubleshooting consists of contacting the vendor for support, sending the logs and waiting for a solution.
- As of September 7th, pilot testing ended and the license was not renewed on September 13th.
Summary of Consilient Push
While the team continues to be impressed with the architecture of the Consilient Push solution, the open-standards approach and the stability of the push-IMAP interface, the current iteration of the client software is just too immature to recommend to our BlackBerry users. It would be useful to continue monitoring the development of the Consilient Push client software with the aim of revisiting this decision down the road as the product matures (e.g. a year from now).
Acquire, install and configure NotifyLink
- The version of IMAP installed on the various IST-supported email servers was already compliant with the version required for NotifyLink (no Push-IMAP required)
- One of the DELL PowerEdge 1850 servers was pressed into service as the pilot server for NotifyLink. For the pilot, this one Windows 2003 server hosted the NotifyLink software, the SQL Server 2005 database engine and the SQL Server database (see diagram).
- NotifyLink support staff assisted with the server installation via a downloaded and installed GoToMeeting client.
- The installation required some relaxation of server hardening that would need to be addressed with the vendor in a production environment.
- Initial testing was conducted with the NotifyLink server configured to check the email server for messages every minute. After configuration was completed, a more realistic production environment setting of 15 minutes was set for the pilot phase.
Introduce the service to a pilot group of users
- The NotifyLink client software can be deployed via synchronization from the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software (Intelisync) or downloaded directly onto the BlackBerry via the device's web browser. Team members downloaded the software directly onto the device and followed the configuration process documented on the project website to configure their accounts and application.
- Unlike the Consilient Push solution, NotifyLink provides configuration options via a web client. Many user account and device configuration options exist. These can be locked down by an administrator if desired.
- The default configuration for the NotifyLink device software is to check for messages every 3 minutes from 7am to 7pm. Users could modify these settings on their device.
- In the end, 7 people evaluated the software.
Monitor the results of pilot usage
- The SharePoint site was again used to allow team members to post their observations in the forums and respond to other posts (click here for the mobile-friendly version). A few high-level, summary comments are presented here; the forum postings can be reviewed for details.
- NotifyLink email client
- The email client is similar to the native BlackBerry client and includes many features BlackBerry users rely upon (e.g. autocorrect and shortcuts). Only a few minor differences were observed by the team and at least one extra feature over the native BlackBerry client that was found to be useful (the template-based Quick Reply option). This email client is definitely more fully-featured than the Consilient Push email client.
- We were unable to get the NotifyLink email client to recognize IMAP folders on our servers. NotifyLink has indicated that the problem viewing IMAP folders is related to the structure of our inbox and mail folders. Future revisions of NotifyLink may support our current configuration. As it stands, the only benefit with the current email client appears to be the ability to delete email in one location. It is not possible to file messages, view sent mail or view mail in other folders.
- As with Consilient Push, NotifyLink did interfere with the desktop email clients (e.g. Eudora and Outlook) but the work-around was not deemed to be acceptable.
- The registration process between the NotifyLink server and the email server failed for two accounts. The more complicated the user file space, the more problematic the registration appears to be. In one case, registration occurred only after the user file space was "tarred up" - and subsequently "untarred" after registration was successful.
- NotifyLink calendar client
- All day events, tasks and notes become 2-day notes upon synchronization. NotifyLink is aware of this problem and indicates a fix is still in the planning stages. NotifyLink does not rely on industry standard exchange formats (such as SyncML/OMA DS) that would avoid the data-translation issues experienced by their client.
- Some other anomalies were experienced by project team members: deleted meetings re-appearing, meetings that were duplicated (one 70+ times), meetings that were deleted on the server but not on the device.
- NotifyLink administration
- The web-based interface is functional and appears to be robust (no failures were experienced during the pilot).
- Allowing users to configure/customize their own account settings via the web is convenient and practical from a support perspective. For example, during the account creation phase, email accounts were configured with incorrect passwords and the users changed them to the correct password via the web client.
Summary of NotifyLink
This solution has a very good email client but the calendar integration has shown some flaws. Issues identified by the team are reportedly fixed in version 4.5 of NotifyLink - scheduled for release February 2007. The email solution architecture is not a "true push solution"; relying on the client to check in at specified intervals for messages. This results in a delay that clients may find unacceptable in some situations.
Acquire, install and configure Nexthaus SyncJe
- The SyncML components on the Oracle Calendar server ("Bookit") are already in place. The Oracle Calendar server uses SyncML device profiles to determine the format and type of data the device can accept. If no profile exists, Oracle Calendar creates one based on some tests. Initially, the Nexthaus SyncJe client did not have a profile so the Oracle-generated profile was used. This Oracle-generated profile proved problematic but was solved with the 10.1.2.3.3 release of Oracle Calendar, which included an Oracle-certified profile for SyncJe.
- The client software consists of an application that resides on the device and acts as conduit between the BlackBerry calendar and Oracle Calendar ("Bookit") using the SyncML data standard.
- This solution has no server hardware requirements over and above Oracle Calendar.
Introduce the service to a pilot group of users
- The software was downloaded by project members and loaded onto their devices using the BlackBerry Desktop Manager Intellisync utility.
- The installation and configuration of the client was documented as part of the project.
- Initial testing was conducted with the current Nexthaus SyncJe client (version 1.14) which required manual synchronization from within the SyncJe application. Subsequent testing was performed using a new version (2.09) that supports auto-synchronization.
- In the latter stages of the pilot, an "over-the-air installation" (OTA) was provided on the Nexthaus website.
Monitor the results of pilot usage
- The SharePoint site was used to record observations and respond to other posts (click here for the mobile-friendly version).
- Nexthaus calendar client
- Scheduled synchronization works well and if network issues arise, the changes are picked up on the next sync.
- Initial testing revealed some data synchronization issues that were reported to Nexthaus who indicated that the issues were resolved in the Oracle-certified profile for Oracle Calendar 10.1.2.3.3. Attempts to obtain a copy of the profile from Oracle for testing were fruitless. As such, the team decided to wait until the general availability of release 10.1.2.3.3 of Oracle Calendar (which occurred on October 30, 2006). Subsequent testing under Oracle Calendar 10.1.2.3.3 confirmed that issues have been addressed. The pilot group was expanded and only a few minor issues remained.
- The SyncJe client depends upon stable network connections. The testers reported more favourable results with the newer model BlackBerrys that operate on Rogers' EDGE network such as the 8100 ("Pearl") and the 8700 series models.
- Testers did notice some anomalies in their calendars in March 2007. Further investigation revealed that this was due to changes in the observance of Day Light Savings Time (DST):
- The Energy Policy Act (2005) in the United States changed the start and end date of Daylight Savings Time (DST) such that it starts 3 weeks earlier in the spring and ends 1 week later in the fall. That means that next year (2007), we will spring forward 1 hour on March 11th (second Sunday in March) instead of April 1 (first Sunday in April). Canada is adopting the revised schedule also.
- At the time of this report, RIM has yet to release the required update for the BlackBerry. As a result, the BlackBerry SyncJe client will record meetings onto the device in the affected date window that are 1 hour off from their true time.
- The problem magnifies if a slow sync occurs because the new meeting (already shifted by an hour) is then synchronized back to the server at the wrong time. That meeting will be synchronized back to the device (again offset by an hour) upon the next synchronization. The net result is a 1 hour meeting appearing twice and blocking off a 2 hour period. The more slow syncs that occur, the longer those meetings will get (below).
- A slow sync is triggered by selecting the "Reset" option within the SyncJe menu and after any failed synchronization.
Summary of Nexthaus SyncJe
This is a calendar-only solution (i.e. no email synchronization) that does not involve server acquisition or additional hardware infrastructure to be installed and maintained. There have been some issues but overall the solution seems to be quite solid. The solution should be verified once RIM provides patches to address the Daylight Savings Time. Implementation of the Nexthaus SyncJe client can proceed independent of an email solution.
- It has become clear to the team that nobody other than RIM will be able to develop software for the BlackBerry that will be able to match the function and performance of the native applications. Both the Consilient Push and NotifyLink solutions resulted in a significant reduction in battery life (i.e. time between charging). As a result, replacing any native application needs to be carefully considered and tested since some of the limitations appear to be due to restrictions in the API provided to 3rd party vendors. In this respect, the design of the Nexthaus SyncJe application is preferred as it acts as an interface between the Oracle Calendar ("Bookit") and the BlackBerry calendar application and does not replace the existing RIM-provided calendar application on the device.
- Some BlackBerry 8100/Pearl users have configured their handheld to connect directly to their UW-based email accounts. Tests have confirmed that this connection is secure IMAP (i.e. IMAP via SSL). Support for secure IMAP could replace the need to forward mail via .procmail filters however this configuration is not recommended because:
- Full folder synchronization/reconciliation does not occur (e.g. messages sent from the BlackBerry are not filed in the "Sent Messages" folder of the email account).
- There is a delay in delivering mail to the device as the IMAP service checks periodically (15-20 minute intervals) for mail as opposed to pushing mail immediately to the device when it arrives.
- When the IMAP service checks the UW server for mail, any local software reading the mail (e.g. Outlook) will lose its lock and a message will appear on the desktop
- Late in the fall of 2006, Oracle released an update to the BlackBerry Desktop Manager 4.x software that enables IntelliSync to work with Outlook mail accounts using the Oracle Connector for Outlook. Previously, Oracle Connector for Outlook users were required to use an outdated version of the BlackBerry Desktop Manager to synchronize their calendars, contacts, etc.
Develop recommendations for expanded usage and ongoing support
- Recommendation for calendar support:
- Recommendation 1 : Nexthaus SyncJE client should be made available to BlackBerry users. Based on a purchase of 101-300 clients, the cost of the solution is roughly $20/client with annual support and maintenance (including upgrades) approximately $15/client per year after the first year (see Nexthaus quote). The software does not expire or cease to function after a year so recovering maintenance costs will present a challenge.
- Recommendation 2: The purchase and maintenance of the Nexthaus SyncJe software should be centrally funded.
- Recommendation 3 : Deployment of the Nexthaus SyncJe client should proceed cautiously until RIM addresses the Daylight Savings Time (DST) issue on the BlackBerry in late January 2007 (see RIM's site for latest updates). After RIM releases a DST patch, IST should move quickly to confirm that SyncJe functions normally and update client devices with the RIM patch.
- Recommendation 4 : The software should be made available to users via a download link (to Nexthaus site) from the IST download site
- Recommendation 5 : Maintenance and support strategy (license key management) should consist of:
- license codes should be available from the CHIP
- CHIP/Client Service need to track license purchases for upgrades, etc.
- recommend a form of cost recovery be implemented for the software
- support will be provided by Client Services
- Recommendation for email support:
- The January/February timeframe for the next NotifyLink release and the uncertainty surrounding email platforms at this time lead us to not recommend an email solution (see Next Generation Email Project).
- Recommendation 6 : The Next Generation Email Project should consider support for BlackBerry and other mobile devices in their deliberations.
Develop recommended documentation
The following documentation has been developed based upon the Phase 1 report recommendations:
- Link to PocketMac (RIM or PocketMac.com) should be on IST Download and BlackBerry@UW page.
- Develop documentation on how to use the BlackBerry™ as a USB modem (including requirements with respect to handheld model and operating system). See: http://ist.uwaterloo.ca/cs/bb3rdparty.html
- Users wishing to transfer files between their BlackBerry™ and their computer can use eFile. See http://ist.uwaterloo.ca/cs/bb3rdparty.html
- Develop documentation on procmail filter settings that are required for BlackBerry™ users.
- BlackBerry™ users should be made aware of the PIN to PIN messaging function.
- Each department (support area) needs to develop and communicate troubleshooting procedures for their users.
- IST needs to develop its support model and communicate this to the campus.
- IST needs to develop and publish cost minimizing tips for the roaming BlackBerry™ users. See BlackBerry@UW: Travelling
- IST needs to document and communicate notification procedures that are required when devices on Telephone Services plans are transferred from one user to another.
- Links should be made to useful 3rd party software pages from BlackBerry@UW and/or IST Download (as appropriate).
This project had two objectives:
- recommend a set of services that UW should provide to enhance the use of the RIM BlackBerry on campus;
- implement the recommended service(s) for a pilot group of users, monitor the results and develop recommendations for ongoing support.
Both of these objectives have been accomplished. Although the project took longer than anticipated, the additional time allowed the team to fully evaluate third party solutions currently available and to recommend a course of action to provide calendar-Bookit integration for UW BlackBerry users. The team recognizes that an email solution still needs to be found but decided that this would be accomplished better when the situation is clearer with respect to the outcome of the Next Generation Email Project.
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|311-4799||3.4GHz/2MB Cache, Xeon 800MHz Front Side Bus, 2nd Processor for PowerEdge 1850|
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|313-2425||24X IDE CD-RW/DVD ROM Drive for PowerEdge Servers, All OS|
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|310-5668||Rack Chassis w/Rapid Rails forDell, HPQ or other Square HoleRacks, PE1850|
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|902-2982||Type 2 Contract Same Day 4HR Parts and Labor On-Site Response,Two Years|