Last week I briefly discussed staff’s need for collaboration enablers and started looking at some alternatives to Microsoft Exchange. Daily business can result in an information overload. Data is often duplicated in address books, calendars, and e-mail attachments with silos of information being created in various locations including desktop PC’s, memory sticks, and shared access file servers. Having the ability to access shared information while on the move has become a necessity; contact databases, e-mail, and calendar information are required for users to interact effectively regardless of their physical location. Oracle Collaboration Suite 10g is a member of the Oracle Fusion Middlewear—a portfolio of software ranging from process management to business intelligence. Oracle Collaboration Suite enables:
- Content Services—A truly enterprise-scalable and secure content management solution that extends the value of content by making it accessible to all workers, while reducing business risk and facilitating regulatory compliance.
- Real-time Collaboration—The only secure, presence-aware, integrated solution for the enterprise. Real-Time Collaboration accelerates business processes by enabling individuals, teams and entire organizations to detect presence and collaborate instantly.
- Unified Messaging—A unified inbox for e-mail, calendar, voicemail, faxes and threaded discussions helps users manage information overload and increase productivity. Enterprise-wide Web and mobile access supports today's diverse work styles and information needs.
- Workspaces—A team-based view to track and manage content and communications in the context of the business process. Workspaces provide a single place to capture, organize and view documents, meetings, tasks, e-mail, discussions, and announcements related to any project or process.
As you can see, the Oracle Collaboration Suite offers more that just shared contact and calendar information. The suite is a full blown solution covering content management and workspace collaboration. However, the most relevant collection of functionality, while comparing the collaboration suite to Microsoft Exchange or Open-Xchange is Unified Messaging.
Oracle Unified Messaging gives users access to a unified inbox that encompasses mail, meeting invitations, voicemail, fax and threaded discussions. These resources are managed centrally with Oracle Enterprise Manager. Data storage is consolidated in to the Oracle Unified Messaging data store with the aim of reducing costs and increasing security.
Connectivity between Oracle and Microsoft Outlook is provided in the form of a connector—this brings the unified messaging store to a desktop environment with which users are already accustomed. A full DHTML Web interface is also available for remote access via any Web browser. Other clients are supported—Thunderbird or any IMAP/SMTP capable client can be used to access e-mail. Native Linux and Mac calendar applications are able to communicate with the Oracle calendar store.
Mobile services are supported “out of the box” giving the ability to offer push e-mail and over-the-air calendar synchronisation. Mobile device management decreases the complexity of systems with a centralised administration platform.
The Oracle Collaboration Suite is a modular system which means components can be deployed as and when they are required. An enterprise may decide to deploy messaging and calendar modules and later follow them up with voicemail and mobile services. As a key component in Oracle Fusion Middlewear, Unified Messaging can also be deployed with other middleware products as the business requirements change.
I haven’t yet had the change to use the Oracle Collaboration Suite in a working environment and would be very interested to hear the opinions of current users. The biggest concern is that Outlook-integrated functionality is implemented via a connector. My previous experiences with Outlook connectors have been negative—with a host of problems arising from bugs in both the connectors and Outlook's plug-in handling.For those wanting to explore the suite further, downloads for both Windows and Linux can be found here.