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Last year’s Collabsphere was packed with a lot of interesting presentations. One of which was our very own Jon Schultz and Wannes Rams from ISW on how the HCL Connections Cloud will look like in the near future.

For a bit of background history, the IBM Connections Cloud / Smart Cloud included:

  • Domino mail, Sametime and Connections
  • Many Management Tools
  • Completely different Connections codestream from on-prem: which meant getting updates from on-prem releases was slow. This also leads to a divergence of service between what you would have on prem and what you would get in the SmartCloud.

The sale to HCL meant:

  • Customers and support were transferred to HCL
  • The infrastructure / service remained with IBM in their software datacenters, in what was for years the existing SmartCloud and Connections cloud.

This generated a split scenario where IBM was running the service but HCL was holding the responsibility for it. 

In July 2019 HCL ran an event called the Factory Tour during which they announced that they would not continue with the SmartCloud / Connections Cloud service. This of course let to some confusion given the fact that at that time no options were presented for what to do starting mid-July of 2020. 

HCL’s solution for the customers that were using SmartCloud / Connections Cloud was to assign the cloud hosting to a small select group of partners.

Three Thirds Collab is not a new company but three companies which decided to collaborate when HCL’s announcement was made. It includes ISW in Australia, Belsoft in Switzerland and Prominic.NET in the USA. The reason these companies decided to work together was that: all three companies have a great deal of experience with Connections and Domino. 

Even though Connections seems to be the start one must not forget that there are other conex products:

  • Domino Mail
  • Domino Apps
  • Domino Volt
  • Sametime Chat
  • Sametime Meetings

There were some challenges that hosting Connections 6.5 rose:

  • Multi-tenant had to be built since the infrastructure needed to run Connections is not as easy as one might think. 
  • Migration process to be invented since there was a lot of data locked in the IBM SmartCloud with no easy “Migrate” button in hand. 
  • ThreeThirds and HCL…one team
  • Started in October 2019
  • Connections MT delivered niod-May 2020
  • Initial data migration scripts on May 23rd 2020
  • Final usable scripts on June 11th 2020
  • just 36 days to migrate all the customers.

As you might expect this whole process meant a whole lot of work from all the teams involved, be it the Prominic or IWS or HCL’s just to get all the customers migrated safely and as smoothly as possible. We were safe to say in October at Collabsphere that the initial bugs and issues were solved and that all the hard work has paid off.

We now have:

  • 2 production data centers
    • Based on Connections 6.5 CR1, MT
    • US (owned by Prominic)
    • EU (own hardware)
  • 3 license types
    • Connections Social (includes HCL Docs for online Viewing of documents)
    • Connections Docs (for Editing)
    • Connections Engagement Center (includes Doc for Editing)

For those of you who don’t know how the Connections Engagement Center looks like, here is a preview:

Connections-Next-Step

As you can see it can help you better organize your day and you can customize it to fit your precise needs.

You can also get now from Three Thirds:

  • Custom IdP
    • SSO (Azure AD Connect, Okta, Citrix NetScaler)
    • SSO with Sametime, Verse, Notes Client
  • Our own Admin App
Connections-Next-Step-Admin

Using this app you can see your users, any restrictions that might apply to those users, if they also have email, as well as taking care of user management from here.

  • Integration with Activities Plus
  • Integration with Sametime Chat and Verse
  • Customizations with Customizer (tenant by tenant)
  • Custom integrations on demand (built in house)
  • API access for customers
  • 3rd party Apps (Webex, Kudos, OnTime…)

How are things evolving:

  • New whitespace customers
    • Start fast with no technical knowledge
    • Proof of concept is offered where they can start using Connections and then just get to the next step if they decide to buy the solution.
    • Ready to start in minutes
  • On-Premises customers that want to migrate to a MultiTenant environment
    • They lost technical skills
    • They are not up to date with the new technologies used in the newer versions of Connections
    • IWS is currently building a migration tool that will be ready in 2021 Q1, to help with this process

What is yet to come:

  • Admin app accross Mail and Connections
  • More Admin tools
  • Community Metrics
  • Activities Plus in Verse
  • Allow for external chat tools
  • Self service API access
  • BP user management

As we are aware that everybody is excited about Connections 7; we expect the MultiTenant version to be delivered in 2021 Q1. After HCL delivers it the plan is to update the test environment, perform a thorough testing on it to make sure everything is as it should and then upgrade the production in the Spring of 2021. As you might expect this timeline is entirely dependent on when HCL delivers the MultiTenant Version.

Why you should move to the cloud:

  • Full infrastructure service
  • Full upgrade service
  • Deep Know-How of Connections, but also the underlying parts like Websphere, DB2, Docker, Component Pack, Customizer
  • Technical support and administration tool to manage user changes.

You can check Jon and Wannes’ presentation here. If you need any help with Connections, or want to take it for a spin just drop us an email