Integrating voice, email, and fax in a single unified messaging store

Check your voice mail, email, and faxes from a single server-based Domino database with Domino Unified Communication. See how easy it is to use this unified messaging solution to store data in one repository and to use almost any device to access it.

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Edmund Stanton, Enterprise Software Engineer, IBM Corporation

Edmund "Ted" Stanton is an Enterprise Software Engineer for Lotus Software in North America. He has been working with Lotus Domino and extended products since 2000. He worked in System Integration for Towers Perrin before joining IBM in 2002. Ted holds a double degree in Computer Science and Mathematics as well as a minor in Business from Virginia Wesleyan College. His primary area of expertise includes mail routing protocols and instant messaging. He has certifications in Domino Document Manager (Domino.doc), Lotus Instant Messaging (Sametime), Lotus Team Workplace (QuickPlace), Domino Administrator, Domino Designer, WebSphere server, and Windows 2000. He is a Primary Area Expert for Lotus Domino Shared Mail and has written extensively on this topic. He co-authored the IBM Redbook, "Lotus Domino 6.5.1 and Extended Products Integration Guide," SG24-6357-00. Ted is a member of the Lotus Notes/Domino 7 enablement team for Beta testing and documenting new product features. He is also an active member of a designated focus group involving IBM Business Partners to identify skills and knowledge required to successfully perform the role of the Lotus Workplace Messaging System Administrator.



16 August 2004

In the ever-changing world of technology, the amount of time and money spent to ensure constant accessibility via fax, phone, email, chat, and text messages is steadily increasing. Companies have been searching for the answer to a unified messaging store to improve business productivity by helping the end user gain faster access to multiple media types. IBM has developed a solution in partnership with Cisco Systems, Avaya, and AVST that provides users a central repository to store and retrieve fax, phone, and email messages, and in 2002, IBM introduced its solution: Domino Unified Communications (DUC). Domino Unified Communications integrates with Lotus Notes and Domino to store email, voice mail, and fax messages in a server-based database. Now users can retrieve, create, and manage all their emails, voice mails, and faxes with a single device.

Domino Unified Communications allows you to access your messages from telephones, the Lotus Notes Client, pagers, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's), cell phones, and browser-based email clients (Domino Web Access or iNotes). No longer do you have to dial into your voice mail to listen to voice messages or run to the fax machine to obtain important documents. Domino Unified Communications now allows you to access all these messages from one device and in multiple languages. You can use a phone to listen to voice messages as well as email messages or use a computer to read emails, faxes, and even play back voice messages. Not only will this save you time and frustration, but it will lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) because storing voice messages in Domino databases is typically less expensive than storing them in a proprietary voice mail system. Voice mail messages on average are less than 30 seconds long and each minute of voice data stored in Domino is approximately 1 MB in size. Storing multiple message types in one message store also reduces the process of backing up data to one process.

Domino Unified Communications can be deployed in small to medium businesses (SMB) or large corporate enterprises. According to the Cisco Systems Web site, it is projected that the market for unified messaging (UM) will reach $840 million by 2006 with over 24 million UM mail files. Businesses that have implemented unified messaging technology report desktop users spend 53 percent less time managing all their messages. Mobile Notes users report savings up to 70 percent less time when checking their messages using the Notes/Domino environment instead of using traditional means (email client, fax machine, and so on). Training time for new employees unfamiliar with the Notes environment is also reduced because the unified messaging client provides a single application for all email, fax, and voice mail messages, requiring familiarity with only one application interface, not three. Unified messaging represents the convergence of email, fax, and voice mail so that all messages are accessible from and controlled by a single application. Unified communications (UC) takes unified messaging a step further by extending message access to additional devices and technologies, such as mobile phones, pagers, PDAs, and browsers.

Domino Unified Communications can take full advantage of Domino features such as digital networking, automatic message replication, clustering, mail rules, system filters, and foldering. Lotus Domino can still utilize additional email clients that support Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME), Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3), and Internet Message Access Protocol 4 (IMAP4). However, some DUC functionality will not work if you access a DUC-enabled mail file, such as clearing any type of read or unread flag. Users can personalize their mail files which provide full menu options to guide users through them with faster system navigation.

This article introduces you to Domino Unified Communications, giving you an architectural overview of how it works and which vendors your can choose to work with. It is intended for experienced Domino system administrators.

Technology needed to run Domino Unified Communications

IBM has partnered with three voice messaging technology vendors to deliver this product. Domino Unified Communications can be installed in conjunction with Avaya, AVST, and Cisco. The DUC code for all three vendors is based on a common architecture. In order for DUC to support fax capabilities, a dedicated fax line connected to the fax port on the fax server must exist. You will need to contact the vender to get a list of officially supported fax servers that you can use.

The procedure for setting up Domino Unified Communications depends on which vender you choose to install with. In this article, we will be working with DUC 1.2.2 for Cisco. However, IBM does not recommend any one vendor over the other. For more information about the installation and the partners' voice messaging system for Cisco, Avaya, and AVST, please refer to their respective release notes.

Domino Unified Communications can be installed by a trained professional consultant from IBM Global Services (IGS), IBM Software Services for Lotus (ISSL), or any authorized integrators from the voice messaging vendor of your choice. IBM Business Partners or their authorized integrators are responsible for the sale and support of all vender components related to DUC. Domino Unified Communications software is available through the IBM Passport Advantage Web site.

Supported server system requirements
The server software necessary to install and run Domino Unified Communications is as follows:

  • Microsoft Windows 2003
  • Microsoft Windows 2000
  • Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 (using the Intel Pentium processor)
  • Lotus Domino 5.0.10 or higher

Supported client system requirements
The following client software is required to run DUC:

  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows 9.x
  • Windows NT 4.0
  • Lotus Notes 5.0.10 or higher
  • Lotus Domino Web Access (iNotes)

Installing Domino Unified Communications 1.2.2 for Cisco

The installation of Domino Unified Communications 1.2.2 for Cisco requires three separate setups and installations. Domino Unified Communications runs on Lotus Notes and Domino 5.0.10 and higher, 6.0.x, and 6.5.x. The installation also requires Cisco Unity release 4.0(4) or higher on the voice mail server.

  1. Install DUC 1.2.2 for Cisco on any Domino servers that contain DUC-enabled mail files that you want to use unified communication and messaging. When you install the DUC server code, this will also UC-enable the default mail templates for Lotus Notes and Domino Web Access. During the installation, you can also select additional mail templates that you want to UC-enable.

    Note: If you are upgrading your DUC servers from Domino 5.0.x to Domino 6.x or 6.5.x, perform step 2. Then install Domino 6.0.x or Domino 6.5.x on the servers, and then reinstall DUC 1.2.2. Select both the mail50.ntf and mail6.ntf templates to DUC templates. This ensures that existing DUC Notes 5 users remain operational and that new DUC users (Notes 5.0.x, 6.0.x, and 6.5.x) can be created.

  2. Install the vender-specific Administration Client to enable/disable users for Domino Unified Communications.
  3. Install DUC 1.2.2 on Notes clients that you want to utilize unified communication and messaging. Installing DUC on the Notes client installs the Sipro Labs G.729a audio compression driver. When DUC is installed on the Notes client, the following extension manager add-in is added to the Notes.ini file: ExtMgr_Addins=ucclient.

When Domino Unified Communications is installed on the Domino server, some additional code extends into the ROUTER, SERVER, and HTTP tasks. In addition, Domino now runs three new tasks: UCEvent, CSUMHIr, and UCAdminp. UCEvent monitors mail files for DUC-specific events on the server. CSUMHIr passes message notifications to the voice server over TCP/IP. UCAdminp works with AdminP to process DUC-specific administration requests.

Subscribing users to Domino Unified Communications

After you install the DUC software, enable the end users for DUC. Use the Cisco Administration Client to select the users that you want to subscribe to DUC. The voice mail server sends an AdminP request to Domino. The AdminP task passes a request to the UCAdminp task to subscribe a user to DUC. The UCAdminp task is responsible for changing the mail file ACL to give the voice server Manager access along with replacing the design of the database to a DUC-enabled template for Domino Web Access users (hidden views are added). You also use UCAdminp to create profile documents that are in the users' mail files to store information about users as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Cisco Unity Administrator
Cisco Unity Administrator

The Recorded voice control bar displayed during the subscriber registration allows you to make and play recordings with a phone or with your computer microphone and speakers. The Recorded voice control bar displayed in Figure 2 uses Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) and requires that your browser is able to download and run ActiveX controls. You also have the ability to record up to five different personal greetings for such occasions as being out of the office or away from your workstation.

Figure 2. Recorded voice control bar
Recorded Voice Control Bar

The Cisco Unity server also modifies the subscriber's Person document. Thus, the voice mail server must have at least Editor access in the ACL of the Domino Directory with Delete documents and Create shared folders/views rights. Cisco Unity writes extensions into the Person document, but they are read-only. Figure 3 shows a DUC-enabled Person document.

Figure 3. Modified Person document with DUC enabled
Modified Person document with DUC enabled

Viewing and retrieving messages

With a Notes client, users can view messages in their Inboxes to determine if they are voice messages, fax messages, or email messages. The icons provide a visual description of each message type and because every message is delivered to one Inbox, you can see the number, type, and status of all your communications in one view. All messages appear in the Inbox (shown in Figure 4) and in addition, voice messages appear in a separate voice Inbox that displays the length and type of each message as shown in Figure 5. Voice messages can be played back on the user's machine using the integrated audio player/recorder. For messages to be played from Lotus Notes or Domino Web Access clients, the user must have either a machine with a capable sound card and speakers or a desktop phone. Voice messages are displayed with a custom form that gives them access to pause, stop, skip ahead, and skip back. All of these controls are available regardless if you playback the message through a computer or phone.

Figure 4. DUC-enabled mail file (Inbox view)
DUC-enabled mail file (Inbox view)
Figure 5. DUC-enabled mail file (Voice Inbox view)
DUC-enabled mail file (Voice Inbox view)

The integrated audio player/recorder provides the user with the ability to create new voice messages with a microphone or telephone. Figure 6 shows the embedded media player in a voice message. The user can then save the message as a draft or send the message to one or more recipients. Sending a recorded voice message works just the same as sending a regular MIME message.

NOTE: Voice messages do not function properly with encrypted mail.

DUC-enabled users can specify a variety of notification methods and criteria depending on the chosen voice server partner. When listening to a voice mail message, the user can add private notes to the message. This allows the user to store additional important information (up to 15,000 characters) in the message. Private notes are never forwarded or included in a reply with history.

Figure 6. Embedded media player with Private Notes field
Embedded media player with Private Notes field

The embedded media player in voice messages give the user a VCR-like remote control. Users can play, pause, skip, stop, and record. They also have volume control, a status display, a phone number display, and progress bar. For additional information about the controls available, please refer to Figure 7.

Figure 7. Controls available with the embedded media player
Controls available with the embedded media player

Subscribers can still access voice mail by dialing into the voice server and providing their identification and PIN. After the subscriber is authenticated, the voice server accesses the mail file and presents a summary of the messages. The subscriber can then skip or play back any message using a touch-tone keypad. The voice server plays the voice messages exactly how it was received. The voice server can also play back email messages with the Text-To-Speech functionality. The subscriber can then reply or forward any existing messages from his Inbox or create a new message. All sent messages are stored in the Sent view of the mail file. Also depending on the capabilities of your fax server and the voice partner you have chosen, you may have the ability to print emails, attachments, and incoming faxes on a nearby fax machine with the touch of a phone.


Behind the scenes: How Domino Unified Communications works

If a call into a PBX or IP-phone system is unanswered, it passes that call to the voice server using the Call Answering (CA) function. The voice server determines the correct subscriber for the call and plays the subscriber's greeting. The voice server then records the voice message with any additional information, such as urgency or privacy. The voice server then prepares the recorded voice message and routes it to the correct recipient mail file. When the message is received by the recipient, the message is categorized and notification services are generated depending on the user's preferences. The end user can be notified via any appropriate Message Waiting Indicator (MWI) or new message alert. DUC supports the standard message waiting indicators provided by conventional voice servers as well as common alert mechanisms such as instant messaging, pagers, and short message service (SMS). Figure 8 shows how Domino Unified Communications works.

Figure 8. Flow chart of Domino Unified Communications
Flow chart of Domino Unified Communications

Below is an except from the Domino console that shows the process of events starting with the Unseen flag being cleared (which is triggered by the USER.ID that owns the mail file opening an Unseen message). The process ends with confirmation that the notification was passed onto the handler queue. Once the voice server has received this notification, it tells the underlying phone system to turn off the light.

mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCExtn(server)] Unseen flag cleared
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCExtn(server)] Posting MWI notification(s)
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCExtn(server)] Sent notification DB00075 from mail file mail\duc10.nsf
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCEvent] Notification received
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCExtn(server)] Notification posted for profile UCProfileCountChange:
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCExtn(server)] One notification posted
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCEvent] MWI notification DB00075 received for handler 
mm/dd/yyyy 09:20:45 AM  DUCS: [UCEvent] Event DB00075 posted to handler queue UCHDLR93062880

When you replace the design of a database using a DUC template, only additional design elements are added. The DUC mail template does not alter or remove any of the default design elements. The following table displays the new design elements that are added to the template.

Element Name
FormsUCDisplayInfo
Voice Message
(Display Received Voice Message)
(UCMemo)
ViewsVoice Inbox
Agents(UC Enable)
(UCPreferences)
ImagesPhone.jpg
act_EDIT.GIF
act_Listen.GIF
SubformsUCPlayer
(DisplayFwrdContent)
(UCItems)
(UCVoiceNote)
(VoiceDeliveryOptions)
Script librariesCore UC Classes
Core UC Strings
Unified Communications

The new DUC template starts with a UC naming convention (for example, UCmail5.ntf or UCmail6a.ntf). To verify whether or not a template is DUC-enabled, open the template with the Domino Designer client and check for the Voice Inbox view. To check whether or not a mail file has been DUC-enabled, verify if there is a $UCInbox view. This view is written into the mail file at the time of DUC enablement by the AdminP task.


Summary

Domino Unified Communications is IBM's solution to integrate Domino with email, voice, and fax messages into a single message store. Domino Unified Communications when installed with Voice Messaging technology from Avaya, AVST, or Cisco reduces costs and increases user productivity and performance. Users can be notified when messages arrive and can listen, record, read, and respond to email, voice mail, and fax messages from one device or application.

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