On the surface, Lotus Development's Sametime is not very different from lots of established chat, instant messaging, and whiteboard products. That's not surprising, because the technology is based on conversation software from DataBeam and Ubique - two companies Lotus purchased last May.
But such a superficial view of Sametime overlooks the main reasons large organisations should seriously consider it over less expensive products. Sametime is arguably more secure, scalable, reliable, and manageable than its competitors. More importantly, perhaps, it plays well within your existing IT infrastructure. For example, if your development staff is familiar with Domino Designer, you can easily customise Sametime server.
Sametime server's browser interface helped me quickly set up new users, monitor activity, and manage security privileges. I was most interested in checking performance under heavy loads, and the logs of my dual-Pentium Pro server indicated that several thousand conversations could be handled simultaneously.
Finding people online and invoking conversations are simple tasks using the Sametime Connect client. It installs in less than two minutes and then presents a small desktop window with a clean design. I easily added people and groups to my "Watch List" from an existing Notes directory and imported other names from a separate address book database on the server.
Connect clearly indicates who is online and the user's current status (such as "I am away", "I am active", or "Do not disturb me"). Further, users can refine their online visibility by creating a special list of who can and can't see them.
To send an instant message, I clicked on an active name in the Connect Watch List. To start a two-way conversation, I just highlighted a name and clicked the Chat button.
The Sametime server supported more than 100 participants in one session; administrators can cascade multiple servers to increase meeting capacity. Finally, participants may view the same meeting from various clients - Web browsers, Sametime-enabled Notes/Domino clients, or other T.120 software, such as Microsoft NetMeeting.
During meetings, Sametime's object tools proved flexible and useful. Participants passed control of an application, Web pages, and their desktop to others in the meeting. Moreover, several users simultaneously annotated the whiteboard.
Managing security, hosting large conferences, and handling administration all worked quickly and reliably. This combination of features and manageability should make Lotus Sametime a strong candidate if you're building a new real-time collaborative system - or need to augment lower-end solutions.
The Bottom Line
Lotus Sametime 1.0
Lotus Sametime is a client/server real-time communications product; with a Java-capable browser, it enables application-sharing and whiteboard sessions.
Pros: Online status information; privacy options; instant messages; chat sessions; secure meeting environment; integration with Lotus Notes/Domino.
Cons: No Unix version; lack of support for H.323 audio and video standard.
Platforms: Server: Windows NT 4.0. Client: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0.
Price: $7700 server. Client access licence $31 per user (both prices are suggested retail price)Lotus www.lotus.com.