My NWTL Sessions – Verse On Premises

As part of Alan Hamilton’s NWTL (New Way To Learn) initiative, I have recorded sessions on Verse on Premises, the first on Installing and the second on integrating it with Connections. My installation session has been updated into this blog entry for VOP 1.0.1 which shipped today May 8th.  I am sharing that and  my second presentation which is on how to integrate Verse On Premises with IBM Connections.  In my example I use Connections 6 as the instructions are the same as for Connections 5.5 but that isn’t supported by IBM currently to YMMV.

To access all the NWTL sessions if you’re a Business Partner you can register here.  Thank you to Amanda Bauman for recording the session with me.

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Integration Verse On Premises & Connections – Small Problem

This week I have been working on integrating Verse On Premises running on Domino 9.0.1 with IBM Connections.  Alright Connections 6 which isn’t supported right now.  The actual configuration is fairly simple and detailed on one page of IBM documentation.  It involves pasting some CORS redirection lines from the IBM document into your httpd.conf file and then replacing the server hostname with your own.

When I first did it against new servers the profiles integration worked fine but the Files (both accessing and uploading) as well as Follow/Unfollow actions failed.  That pointed fairly clearly to an issue with the OPTIONS request type and firebug confirmed that was throwing a 401 unauthorized error.  Finally I started to run out of ideas and asked Roberto Boccadaro if he could share his httpd.conf with me.  When I compared three separate environments the most glaring difference was with the SetEnvIf variable which is Step 5d on this page

SetEnvIf Origin “^https://(vop_server_hostname\.)?(domain_name)$” origin_is=$0

IBM’s instructions on that page tell us to use escape characters before each full stop so my variable setting would be

SetEnvIf Origin “^https://(mail\.)?(turtleweb\.com)$”origin_is=$0

However that was the problem.  The https:// caused the 401 error and I had to replace it with escaped forward slashes so my new URL is

SetEnvIf Origin “^https:\/\/(mail\.)?(turtleweb\.com)$”origin_is=$0

I applied that single change and everything immediately worked.

I have let the IBM documentation team know but if you have the same problem, check your SetEnvIf variable.

A Few Things From Connections 6 System Requirements

Connections 6 is due to be released on Friday but yesterday we had the announcement and the system requirements.  I took a look at them here and there’s a few things to be aware of if you’re an existing Connections customer

Operating Systems

  • Windows 2012 R2 and 2016 are both supported as server platforms but that’s it
    *Connections Content Manager isn’t supported on Windows 2016
  • Linux OS is SLES 12 or RHEL 7 so if you will almost certainly need to upgrade your OS if you’re already on Linux
  • Only 64bit OS are supported for servers
  • Installation Manager remains at 1.8.5 / 6 which can be upgraded in place if necessary
  • WebSphere Application Server is 8.5.5.10 which again can be upgraded in place if necessary
  • DB2 requires 11.1 minimum
  • SQL Server 2016 only
  • IBM HTTP Server 8.5.5 fixpack 10 required
  • Tivoli Directory Integrator 7.1.1 fixpack 6 is a minimum requirement and can be upgraded in place
  • Sametime integration requires Sametime 9.0.1 for chat and meetings

 

So those are the highlights that jumped out at me but the installation documentation isn’t out yet so I’ll find out more on Friday hopefully.  Start your engines…….

 

 

Fidgets.. taps fingers.. waits for the pinkish hue..

Connections 6 including customisable communities and Orient Me – the first component of Connections Pink is due today.

Or this week.

Or in the next two weeks.

Or very soon at least.

Usually I’m not that desperate to be first in line but I am currently writing a presentation about integrating Verse on Premise with Connections and I really really want to write it using a new Connections 6 install….

C’MON!!!

Connections Futures – IBM Connect Review #3

We interrupt this blog to apologise. Usually I like to sanity check my statements before publishing them but 80%+ of presentations from IBM Connect are missing online. That means my notes are all I have right now.

So let’s talk about IBM Connections and where it’s going.  You’ve probably heard references to Connections 6 as well as Connections Pink maybe Muse or Livegrid so let’s try and clear some of that stuff up.

First Connections 6 will be shipping in Q2 (tbc) and will be an upgrade from Connections 5.5 (possibly 5.x). It will have the same architecture as existing Connections and that means WebSphere, DB2/SQL/Oracle ,TDI etc.  There are some much needed new features in Connections 6 like the ability to customise as well as copy Communities. It will also ship with the first component of Connections Pink in Orient Me which will be an optional service offering an intelligent newspaper like homepage that customises itself for each person and their activities / interests.

To get to Connections Pink you’ll first need to be on Connections 6 so let’s talk about Pink and what it is.

To quote IBM Pink “is a Vision, not a Release”.  It is the future of Connections reconceived from the ground up.  There are several principles behind that Vision

  1. Currently there are multiple code streams for Connections depending on whether you are in the cloud or on premises.  There will be a single code stream
  2. Websphere will be gone
  3. Everything will be delivered as a microservice inside a docker container
  4. DB2/SQL/Oracle will be gone and replaced by MongoDB
  5. You will be able to choose the location of data for each service/component so if you want your Activities data in the cloud but your profiles on premises you can have that
  6. Every service / component will have a published API
  7. You will be able to develop your own extensions and publish them to your own github repository to deploy

There’s a lot more but essentially the ties to the legacy IBM architecture are gone. The keywords (as far as I could tell) are customisable,  flexible and developer focused. If you’re an admin then things should get much easier as you’ll be deploying services that are prebuilt inside docker containers and can automatically pick up updates directly from IBM as you would any other online software update.

So let’s take a brief timeout and discuss docker.  If you’re a developer you probably already know and maybe use docker but as an admin, especially one managing production environments it’s likely you haven’t come across it.  A docker container can be deployed anywhere as inside it are both the software code and application and the operating system needed to run it.  In theory simply starting a docker container will enable you to run the application inside it without ever having installed anything.  As you can imagine that’s a very tempting idea for Connections where we have 14+ individual applications that could then each be run inside their own individual docker containers.  Now that seems simple but as admins we will still have to understand docker behaviour, networking, container to container communications and so on.  It does mean however that add / removing / upating services becomes a simpler task.

One of the important goals of Pink is that there is to be no migration effort  from Connections 6 to Pink.  As they are doing with Orient Me, IBM will gradually introduce Pink elements into the existing Connections architecture and those elements will read data from the legacy components into their new Pink components so that at some time in the future it’s all Pink.  I stole this chart from Maureen Leland’s presentation and there are three important things to note from it.

  1. Yes those are a lot of scary looking technologies
  2. No you do not and will not need to learn or understand any of them. That entire middleware layer will be invisible to you
  3. The takeway from the diagram is that the Connections cloud code (Green) and the Connections blue code (on premises) will seemlessly transition to the Connections Pink code without you touching a thing.  Like magic.

screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-22-04-00

The other feature I want to talk about is the Muse Proxy.  Overlaid on top of Connections it will allow us to customise our Connections UI.  If you want to add a button on screen or  javascript action somewhere one doesn’t exist, you can do that using Muse and without touching the docker containers that have the services in them.  Think of it like a really powerful stylesheet (well I’m an admin so that’s how i’m going to think of it).  Now imagine your docker containers continue to update with the latest code but your configuration settings via your Muse proxy don’t change. We can separate the customisation elements from the service elements.

So I could type pages more on this and I will in future blogs when I want to talk about all of the technologies that you should not need to learn but want to be aware of.  Livegrid for instance is a new development platform for Connections and that gets a blog all of its own. The good news here is that IBM are dismissing the more lumbering dated and complex technologies and trying to replace them with architecture designed as if they were a new startup with all the technologies in the world to choose from and not just ones branded IBM.  It’s a big vision thing and I hope they can pull it off.

To quote Jason Roy Gary the Director of Software Development for IBM Connections

“We don’t want to develop software for you, we want to develop it with you”

– I applaud both the intent and the HUGE effort being put in.  As partners and customers we will do what we can to contribute to that end goal.

So to summarise, you need to get ready for Connections 6 not just for its new features (of which the Community customisations would be worth the upgrade alone) but because you will get the first Pink service (Orient Me) and have everything in place for the Pink updates and services as they arrive.  Connections 6 should be the last whole system upgrade you need to do.(that’s me saying that not IBM) 🙂

 

 

 

 

You Lie! Error Messages and When To Ignore Them

Building Connections this week and troubleshooting some errors reminded me to share the process I have adopted when dealing with IBM error messages – which is to treat them as hints that can set you on the right path but also send you badly down the wrong one.

Problem 1:

Installing Connections itself via Installation Manager.  One of steps during the install requires you to specify the DB2 server, the database names and credentials to connect to them.  I click validate and it fails  with error CLFRP0030E and launch error!.  That points to this technote which says I left a space after the hostname for the DB2 server.

I absolutely didn’t leave a space and didn’t copy/paste.  Just in case (and working on the assumption that it’s always me and not the product) I cleared it all and typed carefully again. I confirmed the hostname was correct and could be reached.  I also relaunched Installation Manager and started from the beginning.  No luck.

It’s  at this point I have to accept the error is referring to something else and that’s all the information I’m going to get from Installation Manager.  So now I move to asking myself “what if I saw no error but it just failed to connect”.  Well the first answer to that is to check if the connection details, hostname, credentials etc actually work at all.   Having confirmed the hostname and ports (there were no firewalls turned on or virus software), I logged into the DB2 server and checked the LCUSER account. Locked out.  I unlocked the account and the install then completed.

Problem 2

The test server in this environment is one box with everything DB2, TDI and all the applications on it.  My base WebSphere install was WAS 8.5.5 FP10 since Connections System Requirements for WebSphere 8.5.5 says FP8 and higher and I wanted to test that out. Everything installed fine right up to when I went to install Connections Surveys.  That’s when I hit a 2 day brick wall.  Installation Manager couldn’t connect to the Deployment manager despite it being on the same server.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-18-26-10

Well that’s odd.  Deployment manager is running.  The hostname resolves. The port is listening. I try to find out what the system requirements are for Connections Surveys but for 2 days last week and through the weekend the IBM system requirements pages for Survey were down.  I’m stubborn so I won’t let it go.  Even the Forms Experience Builder requirements for earlier versions were down.  So eventually I had to leave it and move onto the production build. The work needs completing and I was suspicious that the issue might have been installing everything on one server.

I build production across 4 servers and this time I stick with WebSphere 8.5.5 FP8 just in case.  When I get to the Surveys install it goes without a hitch.  So back to the test server I go.  Roll back Websphere to 8.5.5.0 and then forwards to FP8 (thank you Installation Manager!).  Surprise surprise Surveys installed perfectly.

So. Not an issue connecting to deployment manager or port or the server running but instead “Connections Surveys cannot install onto WebSphere 8.5.5.10 at all.