Instant Messaging for iSeries?

Big Blue unveils instant messaging community service for iSeries users

At its PartnerWorld conference and expo in New Orleans, IBM Corp. yesterday unveiled IBM Community Tools, a new instant messaging technology for its eServer iSeries platform.

Big Blue’s new IBM Community Tools application isn’t currently available as a standalone product, however. Nor will its underlying technology necessarily be made available as part of another product, says Amit Dave, a senior technical staff member for enterprise technologies. Instead, Dave indicates, it’s being offered on an “as-is” basis to members of IBM’s iSeries Nation.

iSeries Nation is an online community and informational resource ( that Big Blue provides for iSeries users.

The goal of IBM Community Tools messaging, explains Dave, is to ratchet up “informational exchange” among iSeries users. “The purpose that IBM will use it for is to communicate and extend information about new technologies to the community, like a new Redbook is out, or COMMON is around the corner, or there’s a new article in the press about a great piece of new technology."

The IBM Community Tools service is based on independent work performed by one of Big Blue’s WebAhead researchers. Dave acknowledges that the new service’s instant messaging and collaboration features are similar to what IBM’s Lotus software group offers in its Sametime instant messaging and Web conferencing solution. But while Sametime offers support for chat rooms, along with the ability to message individual users, IBM Community Tools offers a blanket capability to address all of the online users in a community, he explains. “It’s not necessarily an organized chat room as such.”

Instead, when an iSeries enthusiast uses IBM Community Tools to send an instant message, it’s distributed to all online members. From there, members can decide whether or not they want to participate in a discussion. “Everyone who was connected, they would get a little pop-up window at the bottom of the screen and [then they have an opportunity to] join.” Chat invitations disappear after about 10 seconds, he notes.

IBM calls these capabilities “SkillTap” and “FreeJam.”

Dave makes clear that IBM hasn’t committed to extend the features or functions of its new messaging service. At the same time, he acknowledges, if the service matures, it could become a tool for IBM and its partners to interact directly with iSeries customers. “The potential is tremendous, but what we don’t have at present is the ability to tune into a specific channel. I can’t tune in to say: 'Let’s just do this [product presentation] for a particular ISV.' So [right now] everyone can participate.”

IBM is hosting its new community messaging offering on an iSeries 820 box, Dave says. It will be available free of charge to anyone who wants to participate. In addition to instant messaging, IBM Community Tools offers support for the following features:

  • PollCast, a facility to instantly poll participants and receive anonymous survey results
  • TeamRing, which lets members create instant Web presentations and invite articipants to follow along
  • w3alert, a feature that sends instant alerts to community members, with optional links to Internet pages
  • Question Search, a facility that enables participants to search multiple knowledge bases for answers to iSeries-related questions
  • Dave says that Big Blue expects that many of iSeries Nation’s 50,000 members will opt to sign up for IBM Community Tools.

Chuck Lewis, a member of the iSeries Nation Freedom Council and an iSeries manager with a supply company based in Indianapolis, says that IBM Community Tools “could be an interesting concept and could prove to be another useful tool or … set of tools.” At the same time, Lewis allows, he would need to “see it in action to really gauge” its effectiveness.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.