At the beginning of this month Packt Publishing asked us to review a new book about Lotus Sametime. Sametime is one of the little gems of IBM Lotus and has been the market leader in the area of Instant Messaging within companies for the past many years. Despite this fact, we have noticed that many of our customers don’t know all the possibilities Lotus Sametime and the latest versions in special has. Any book with extensive information on the full Sametime product is therefore very welcome, so we were happy to review this book.
The book is titled “IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide” and it was written by three people who definitely made their mark in the IBM Lotus Community: Gabriella Davis, Marie L. Scott and Thomas Duff. The goal of the book is to help administrators and architects who want to start using or upgrade to Lotus Sametime 8.5.x, to plan, install and administer this new environment. We feel they’ve succeeded in this attempt. They’ve come up with a book that’s complete and well structured.
The book starts off with an explanation of the different components in the Lotus Sametime portfolio. As the Sametime Standard Server alone already consists of 8 different parts, that’s very welcome. Not every company will need all the components and the book describes clearly when you need which component. The book also describes the other Sametime licenses which add extra components to the Sametime infrastructure: Sametime Advanced and Sametime Unified Telephony. While the first is handled like the other Sametime components, the latter is out of scope for the rest of this book. A very nice addition in this book is the extensive list with system requirements for all OS versions and the components that are available for a particular OS version (e.g. not all components are available for AIX or IBM System i).
Since Sametime 8.5, many of the Sametime components have to be installed on IBM WebSphere. This is a large change for administrators/architects who were used to previous versions of Sametime. Before only the Sametime Gateway and Sametime Advanced had to be installed on WebSphere, but those components weren’t installed that often. With Sametime 8.5, there’s no escape from installing components on WebSphere if you’d like to do more than just instant messaging (and even then you might want to install the Proxy WebSphere component). The book describes those parts of the WebSphere architecture that are relevant for installing the Sametime components. The book also gives you a good start in how to install IBM WebSphere and gives an administrator the feeling he/she will be able to install and administer the Sametime WebSphere components successfully. The book focuses next on several installation scenario’s and here it becomes very clear that the authors have a broad experience in installing Lotus Sametime 8.5.x. The Sametime clients also get their share of attention including how to administer the clients using policies. The book finishes with how to administer and monitor the Sametime environment.
We noticed that on Amazon next to many positive reviews, there was also a review of someone who felt this book didn’t add anything to the already existing information. We couldn’t disagree more. There’s a lot of information in the wiki’s and the information center for Sametime, but a real overview over the entire product and well structured information for someone who needs to start with Sametime 8.5.x are hard to find. This book has great value for anyone who would like to do something with Lotus Sametime 8.5.x.
This doesn’t mean there’s nothing to criticize. Something which disturbed us while reading the book was the mixing up of version numbers. It looks as if part of the book was written before the release of Sametime 8.5.2 and when this release became available they did a search & replace not only on 8.5.1, but also on 8.5. This leads to sentences like “In versions of Sametime prior to 8.5.2 it was relatively simple to install Sametime server software. It was a single package…”. The .2 addition here, simply makes this sentence incorrect. In our opinion, it would have been better to speak of Sametime 8.5.x and spend a separate part on what’s new in Sametime 8.5.2. In the remainder of the book they could have put a warning sign when they discussed components, like the bandwidth manager, which are only available in version 8.5.2 and higher. This would also make it easier to update the book for Sametime 8.5.3 once it becomes available. Another criticism are the items which are not mentioned. For an architect or administrator it’s often interesting to read what a product can’t do, as this means they can stop searching on how to get it done. Although none of the authors is employed by IBM, you won’t find this kind of critical comments in this book. You won’t find e.g. that the Sametime Gateway can’t connect to the MSN network. It does btw integrate with Microsoft OCS/Lync though that’s also not mentioned in the book. However, these small flaws do not change the fact that this is a very well written and very useful book. A must have for anyone who plans to do something with Sametime 8.5.x in their company!