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The IBM Lotus Quickr product line has grown from a diverse background of products to reach the point it is at today. Those lines reach as far back as Lotus QuickPlace, IBM WorkPlace, and WebSphere Portal more recently. Many components fell in place to define the Lotus Quickr 8.0 product that was released in 2007.
This article by David Byrd, author of IBM Lotus Quickr 8.5 for Domino Administration, covers the following:
- Architecture platforms of the Lotus Quickr product
- Desktop Connectors
- Interaction with Lotus Connections
- Interaction with Enterprise Content Management Systems
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Lotus Quickr itself represents a set of capabilities allowing end users to effectively drive team based collaboration, both internally and externally, to the corporate network. These capabilities include the following:
- Team places to allow groups of end users to share information
- Templates for the quick creation of new team places
- Document and content library management services
- Integration with Enterprise Content Management services
- Connectors to provide desktop integration with existing productivity tools
Beyond the preceding list, is a set of various other features to meet the needs of a collaborative work environment such as calendaring, task management, and so on. Additionally, Lotus Quickr can be viewed as a solution, a platform allowing customers to define and address business challenges either directly or with a range of extendable development services. Additional information sources for the customization of Lotus Quickr are available on the Lotus Quickr product wiki site: http://www.lotus.com/ldd/lqwiki.nsf.
IBM Lotus Quickr services architectures
The Lotus Quickr product itself is a common set of services that are built on top of two very different product architectures. When you buy Lotus Quickr you get both. These foundation level deployment architectures are Lotus Domino and WebSphere Portal. There are a host of reasons for this type of product design, but the key is that customers have different requirements and it is not practical to build a "one size fits all" solution. Each of the deployment platforms provide capabilities that can be leveraged to build enterprise class collaboration solutions.
A common question that comes up is 'What is the right deployment platform for a given situation?' Well, the answer for that will depend on many key areas. That said, in some cases either of them, can just as effectively meet your needs.
- Do you already have one of the original products such as Lotus QuickPlace?
- What existing products are deployed within your environment? For example, WebSphere Portal or Lotus Domino.
- What skills sets exist within your environment? For example, Java/J2EE or Lotus Domino.
- Do you need to have geographically distributed server deployments that share data and/or offline support?
For example, if your environment only contains Lotus Domino servers and your staff possess deep Lotus Domino-based skills then leveraging Lotus Quickr for Domino is likely to be the best option. Likewise, if you have existing WebSphere application services such as WebSphere Portal or similar WebSphere Application Server-based applications, then Lotus Quickr for WebSphere Portal is likely to be the best option. However, this is not set in stone, but is intended as general deployment guidance. There are situations such as strategic technology changes or if one of the Lotus Quickr platforms provides key functions, that can drive changes to this pattern.
IBM Lotus Quickr for Domino
The Lotus Domino-based product has the longest history. It dates back to the Lotus QuickPlace v1.0 product. Since then, the core set of capabilities available to end users has grown significantly. While it has seen extensive changes over the years, the core DNA still exists.
The deployment architecture of this product is based on Lotus Domino. This means that out of the box it has a wide range of enterprise class services such as security, directory services, content storage, and replication, to name a few. For customers who already have an established Lotus Domino environment this product is a natural fit into that infrastructure. It can easily co-exist within the Lotus Domino administrative domain. The existing skill sets of the Lotus Domino administrators can directly be applied to managing the server. There are some additional skills required that are specific to Lotus Quickr, but they can be easily picked up. By leveraging the very powerful replication services natively available in Lotus Domino, the servers can be distributed widely across the world while still sharing content. Speaking of deployments, the Lotus Quickr for Domino release is wide and represents a majority of the Lotus Quickr seats today.
A broad business partner community exists for Lotus Quickr for Domino which provides custom data migration solutions, as well as, packaged business solutions that can readily be deployed. If a Lotus Domino-based environment will work for you, Lotus Quickr for Domino would be a solid technology investment.
The following screenshot provides a look at a Lotus Quickr for Domino 8.5 team place rendered in Microsoft Internet Explorer 8:
This image displays a user's team place contains most of the available elements. The active component is the Library feature. This provides structured content management. The primary use of this feature is to manage file attachments.
The user interface itself has been modernized with the latest version 8.5 release and heavily utilizes Web 2.0 technologies. This interface can be adjusted through customization features available to a place owner, as shown in the following screenshot:
IBM Lotus Quickr for WebSphere Portal
The following screenshot provides a look at a Lotus Quickr for WebSphere Portal 8.5 team place, rendered in Firefox 3.5, running on Linux to demonstrate workstation diversity:
The preceding screenshot shows a typical project team place and has some similar elements that the earlier Lotus Domino-based image contained also. The Library is shown in the previous screenshots, but this place was customized to contain project tasks, a calendar, a discussion forum, a blog, and a wiki. These elements can very easily be added or removed by a place owner, using the customize functions shown in the following screenshot:
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The deployment architecture of this product is based on WebSphere Portal Server v6.1.5. As such, the user experience power of the WebSphere Portal platform is available to the product. These functions include such elements as page layout, portlets, and security. The entire Lotus Quickr web interface is built as a set of portal page artifacts that are visible in the administration interface.
For existing WebSphere Application Server and/or WebSphere Portal customers this deployment architecture of Lotus Quickr is very compelling. They can easily glean the necessary administrative requirements of the application from their existing skill base.
In terms of physical deployment the architecture is very different from Lotus Domino and provides is a self-contained application server environment. In a typical WebSphere Portal infrastructure, it consists of number components including HTTP Servers, WebSphere Application Servers, Relational Database Servers, and LDAP Directory Servers. Each of these infrastructure elements work in unison to provide the foundation for the overall solution. This is common for an existing WebSphere Portal environment that would have experience in configuring and managing these elements. Additionally, with the exception of the WebSphere Application Server, the other elements can leverage non-IBM solutions. For example, in the relational database space, Oracle is supported. There is a range of LDAP servers which are supported as well.
For a new customer without previous experience in these technologies it can be a steep learning curve to tackle. There is a wide range of education material available today to help with that task though. This would not be much different than asking a J2EE focused staff to learn Lotus Domino. The two technologies have little in common from a deployment and administration standpoint. It would represent a significant learning curve. Each just represents a different set of technologies. The intent is not to discourage a Lotus Domino-based customer from evaluating WebSphere Portal or Lotus Quickr for WebSphere Portal, but to point out a set of challenges seen by the authors at customer sites.
The Lotus Quickr for WebSphere Portal product also has a strong business partner, eco-system, designing solutions specific to the platform. Many of these partners, as you can imagine, were originally focused on WebSphere Portal-based solutions and Lotus Quickr was a natural addition to their portfolio. It provides a solid team collaboration-based environment built on a J2EE foundation.
If a WebSphere Portal-based environment will work for you, Lotus Quickr for WebSphere Portal would be a solid technology investment.
IBM Lotus Quickr connectors
The Lotus Quickr connectors represent key capability common across both Lotus Quickr architecture platforms. These connectors are deployed locally on Windows-based workstations to allow direct integration into the productivity applications, which a user already comfortable with. That allows a user to continue to work in Lotus Notes or Microsoft Office and directly manage the content on the Lotus Quickr servers.
The architecture of the desktop connectors allow them to integrate with various backend server environments including Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems. IBM has made available, the Lotus Quickr integration code for IBM FileNet and Content Manager, to allow them to appear as a traditional Lotus Quickr server to these desktop connectors. From an end user standpoint, they don't have to be directly aware the type of system they are using to store their data. They can focus on producing content and interacting with other team members.
An example of interacting with the Quickr Connector from the Microsoft Windows Explorer is shown in the following screenshot:
This integration allows an end user to treat Lotus Quickr like just another folder. The exception is that it includes rich content services such as check-in/check-out and enhanced meta data entry.
Interaction with IBM Lotus Connections
One of the common patterns seen in customer environments today is the need for an integrated solution. It is important that solutions like Lotus Quickr be able to easily integrate content into other environments which have already be deployed.
Out of the box, Lotus Quickr provides several types of integration. This includes both the deployment architectures mentioned earlier. Some of those other integration areas are around the Lotus Connections, Lotus Sametime, and Enterprise Content Management products.
Lotus Connections is a social networking product that provides a very rich set of capabilities, which enterprise customers are looking for today in the social space. Examples of these services include employee profile and contact information, communities, wikis, blogs, social activities, social bookmarks, discussion forums, and file sharing. In the Lotus Connections product, these bundled services built on a WebSphere Application Server stack, are designed for small, medium, and large customers alike.
The integration story with Lotus Quickr is primarily around the following two areas:
- Posting of file attachment content into a Lotus Quickr place from an activity.
- Creation and integration of team places within the scope of a community.
The activity integration is available out of the box with some simple configuration changes. The community integration is handled by installing of a piece of plugin code on the Lotus Connections server.
After the community integration is enabled a navigational link is available between both Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections. This allows end users to easily navigate quickly between the two.
Interaction with Enterprise Content Management products
The final area to cover is around Enterprise Content Management (ECM) integration. The Lotus Quickr product has been broadening these services for several releases now. The Lotus Quickr 8.5 release grows these capabilities to a whole new level. Now ECMcontent can be made available in both the Lotus Domino and WebSphere Portal deployment platforms. The integration itself has deepened significantly with this latest release, particularly in the following areas:
- Web based user interface services in both deployment platforms
- Prompting for meta data and enforcement of required fields
- Publication of Lotus Quickr content into ECM system
- Viewing of ECM content in Lotus Quickr
- Ability to search ECM content from within Lotus Quickr
These integration capabilities require Lotus Quickr integration code to be separately installed on the backend ECM system.
Having the ability to connect Lotus Quickr with ECM systems opens a wide range of possibilities. Now collaborative content can be generated quickly within Lotus Quickr and once finalized, it can be published for long term retention and auditability within the ECM system.
This article exposed you to the two deployment architectures available for Lotus Quickr, as well as an overview of the products. Additional areas of integration in terms of Lotus Connections, Enterprise Content Management, and desktop productivity applications that Lotus Quickr provides, were also discussed. This is just a brief insight of the potential here. The product itself can easily be inserted into larger solutions sets to meet your business collaboration needs.
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About the Author :
David Byrd is an IBM Senior Certified Executive IT Architect with IBM Software Services for Lotus from Fayetteville, GA. He has been an IBM/Lotus employee for over 9 years in a number of consulting positions covering various technology areas. David has a deep background in virtually all areas of Lotus products and technologies covering areas ranging from low-level API development and collaborative application architectures, to security architectures and messaging architectures. His current focus is on Lotus Quickr as well as other team collaboration technologies and its deployment within enterprise customers. He has worked with Lotus Notes and Domino for over 15 years.