SAN MATEO (05/08/2000) - As e-mail is now necessary for business communications, shared calendar and scheduling is becoming a must-have for many enterprise users, allowing them to simplify their scheduling with their colleagues.
IPlanet Commerce Solution's Calendar Server allows users to access their calendars from any browser or Web-enabled wireless device, as well as add to co-workers' schedules and layer schedules in their calendars. With iPlanet Calendar Server 2.1 -- the company's first port to Windows NT from Sun Solaris -- iPlanet is doing its best to make Internet-based calendar sharing as ubiquitous as e-mail.
Calendar Server 2.1 is a highly scalable, standards-based calendar service that targets large enterprises, ISPs, and ASPs (application service providers), particularly those that provide consumer hosting or wireless service. Calendar Server reduces a project's time to market, offers customizable logos for service providers' branding, and allows for the addition of ad banners and e-commerce links. Also, the total cost of ownership is low due to centralized directory management and high scalability.
Calendar Server earned a score of Very Good for its ease of installation and maintenance and its intuitive Web-based client. A new product in a developing market, Calendar Server doesn't seem to have any direct competitors. Although some service providers such as E-Cal will host a Web-based calendar, iPlanet's product can be installed by any service provider.
Calendar Server ships with Netscape Directory Server 4.1 and the Calendar Express client. Netscape Directory Server can provide either LDAP compatibility, if your directory is not LDAP-compliant, or a full directory service. Calendar Express is a browser-based client; other compatible clients include wireless devices.
Calendar Server can handle multiple calendars per user, and users can create calendar sets by grouping several calendars together and displaying them over one another on the same view. E-mail reminders can be generated, and a message can be sent whenever a calendar is updated. Calendars can have one owner or multiple owners, allowing project teams to share a calendar. They can be published via the Web or shared within a specific domain.
Also, Calendar Server can send and receive content feeds; customized feeds are created to share information and schedules with customers who have registered for such information. If users include event feeds in their calendar sets, they can see events offered by the businesses they are tracking. I tested this function by building a calendar that represented a schedule for product demonstrations of new wireless Web devices. I included this calendar in my calendar stack, and it added the schedule, revealing any scheduling conflicts.
The shared calendar is highly customizable, letting you change the color, log-in name and password, user interface, and logo.
Calendar Server supports data feeds published in XML or iCalendar -- an Internet Engineering Task Force calendar standard -- formats. It has native LDAP support and APIs for accessing other directory services.
I installed and tested Calendar Server on a Windows NT 4 server with Service Pack 5 installed. I used Netscape Directory Server 4.1 as the directory. Once the directory was installed and running, I created some test users. The final step was to install Calendar Server, logging in as administrator with full rights to the server on which I installed this software. Administrators must know the host and domain names -- the installation process will likely detect them, but administrators need to ensure the names are correct.
As part of the installation process, I was prompted to specify the Calendar Administrator e-mail address and the SMTP server host name and to enable/disable e-mail alarms. I also had to make sure that the correct Web and Admin Ports were detected and set by the installation process; in most cases, the default works fine. Depending on the option you choose, you may need to set other values to complete the installation.
I found the Calendar Server client easy to navigate and very intuitive. The information accessed from the server was quick, and although some of my testing was performed on a remote server, the Web-based calendar pages were served with speed. The menus are somewhat rudimentary, but this made it less cluttered and complex, so your customers will be able to use it with little or no training.
This summer, iPlanet plans to release an upgrade to Calendar Server that will add free-time searches, group scheduling, resource scheduling, and conflict handling. This update will make this product more attractive for enterprises that are considering migrating to hosting internal Internet standards-based e-mail and calendar services.iPlanet's Calendar Server provides the benefits of calendar services, which were previously reserved for internal corporate calendar system users, to Internet users via ISPs. It also provides an additional customizable, branded, revenue-generating service for ISPs and ASPs. Calendar Server is easy to install and maintain, reducing a project's time to market at a low total cost of ownership.
Gregory Michael (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a systems architect in Minneapolis.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
iPlanet Calendar Server 2.1
Business Case: This shared calendar service can provide an additional revenue stream for ISPs and ASPs that provide e-mail and application hosting services.
Enterprises building Internet-based calendar services could also benefit but should consider waiting for the summer 2000 upgrade.
Technology Case: This solution includes Calendar Server, Netscape Directory Service, and a browser-based client. The services use Internet standards and are easy to configure and administer.
+ Comprehensive solution
+ Easy to install and configure
+ Intuitive client
- Requires APIs for authentication with non-LDAP-compliant directory servicesCost: Starts at $7 per user (one-time fee)Platform(s): Solaris 2.6 or Solaris 2.7 (SPARC), HP-UX 11.0, Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 or lateriPlanet E-Commerce Solutions, Sun-Netscape Alliance Mountain View, California; (650) 937-7260; www.iplanet.com