ExtST update – it’s fixed, up-to-date and supported. Yes, really!

You may remember that back in November 2009, I reported that IBM had begun to recognise that the ExtST sametime gateway to IBM had indeed seen serious issues, and desperately needed some investment and an upgrade from the historic version 3 of Sametime it was running.  At the time I said:

I am pleased to say that whilst not every issue with the service has been corrected and will be perfect from this day forth, IBM has made a significant investment over the past two months into recognising the problems, listening to the users, and improving the system – I cannot over-emphasise the change I’ve seen from those that support this service – it is practically a 180degree turn in attitude toward the importance of the ExtST service.

Commitments have been made to bring the service up to the current release of Sametime in the short- to medium-term, and many more people within IBM and Lotus are aware of how important this service is to partners and customers alike.

and

I am very very pleased at IBM’s response at this time.  Whilst there is no doubt that there has been a lack of focus on this in the past, there are key IBMers (Matthew, Brandon and Jeri – that’s you…) working very very hard to improve the system now, and I appreciate all that they are doing.

As of November 2009, IBM opened up support for Sametime Connect 8.0.2 and Notes 8.5.1 (though there were some issues with adding new contacts in the Notes client and also committed to upgrading to the latest version of Sametime on the service.

Well, fast forward a year, and I am delighted that the ExtST service now:

  • Has been upgraded to Sametime 8.5.1
  • Is fully supported by IBM’s CTO organisation
  • Will receive funding for regular updates in the future
  • Supports all the latest IBM Sametime client software, including Sametime Connect 8.5.1 and Notes 8.5.2
  • Has the Sametime 8.5.x proxy installed meaning that the service can be accessed from the web with zero-download (accessible from www.ibm.com/collaboration by clicking ‘Start Now’)
  • Has an associated wiki allowing full communication and feedback with the team running the service
  • Has a commitment to always support the latest clients ASAP, and hopefully, even the latest beta versions
  • and most of all, works wonderfully well!

Whilst the process of getting this service up to this level has taken a while, I can only praise the team involved – Matt Simpson and Brandon Smith particularly.  They have accepted some pretty critical feedback from myself and others in this community, acknowledged the failings of the previous service, campaigned for appropriate funding from within IBM, and pushed on with the work required to get this service back on track.  I am full of praise for their tenacity.  Matt even took the time out to appear on This Week in Lotus back in October to discuss the ongoing work.

So, if you’ve either never tried the ExtST service, or else have tried it and had issues, now is the time to add ExtST into your Sametime client.

To do so, in your Sametime client, add a new community:
IBM Lotus Sametime Connect - stuieee

Give the community a name, and add your IBM ID username and password:
New Server Community

Use ‘extst.ibm.com’ as the hostname and port 80:
New Server Community

Use a direct connection:
New Server Community

Click ‘OK’ to add the community and to connect.

To add IBMers, you need their email address.  So either search for their email addresses at whois.ibm.com, or else grab it from an email exchange, then select to add a new contact:
IBM Lotus Sametime Connect - stuieee

Type in their email address, name (plus any comments you wish) and group they should be added to:
New Contact

That’s it, you’re done, you should now be able to add and chat to as many IBMers as you like.

So, give ExtST another go, and let me know how you get on.

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!