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Office of Information Technology

Steps to Improving AU E-mail

The Office of Information Technology developed a plan about eighteen months ago to add high availability to all critical services provided to the AU community, including e-mail. The first critical step for e-mail required virtualization of our mail servers.

This change not only reduced support costs, but also allowed for an increased availability of services by removing the ties between server applications and physical hardware.

In the past, many of our systems relied on a single piece of hardware. By removing this dependency, we can now further ensure that systems will be available even as demand increases or applications fail.

E-mail Upgrade Timeline

The goal of the planned e-mail upgrades is to increase the overall reliability of the system, so it is available when you need it. The upgrades have been divided into the following phases:

  1. Consolidate all Lotus Notes Servers onto Virtual Servers
    Completed in November of 2009
  2. Implement Clusters for All Lotus Notes Servers
    Expected to be Completed in June of 2010
  3. Balance Users Across All Clusters
    Expected to be Completed in July of 2010
  4. Implement Server-Based Archiving
    Expected to be Completed in July of 2010
  5. Move All of the Lotus Notes Cluster Servers to the New Business Continuity Site in Reston, VA
    Expected to be Completed in July of 2010

Upcoming Changes

Descriptions of some of the changes that will be coming over the next few months are listed below, including explanations of how they can help make the AU e-mail system more reliable and easier to use.

E-mail Archiving

The Office of Information Technology will be implementing a server-based archiving system that will automatically move mail more than one year old from your mail file to a server-based archive. This archive will be accessible through the built-in archive view in your Lotus Notes client and also in the full version of WebMail.

Research with IBM after our recent e-mail outages identified that one reason for these problems was due to oversized mail files. IBM recommends that a single mail file be no larger than 1GB in size.

Moving mail from your mail file to a secondary archive helps to reduce mail file size. This will greatly improve mail access performance for all users of the AU e-mail system.

User Balancing

We are adding more servers to our environment and beginning to evenly distribute the users across each of these servers to help balance load. This will improve overall performance, as well as ensure that we are capable of handling heavy load peaks when they occur.

We are setting hard limits on the number of users on each server, and will add additional servers as necessary to maintain this balance.

High Availability Architecture

Each mail server will soon be paired with a back-up server, so that all users have access to a primary and secondary server. Lotus Notes client and WebMail users will seamlessly fail over if there is a problem on their primary server.

We have recently contracted with CoreSite, a hosting facility in Reston, VA, which provides guarantees on uptime and availability. We are placing our back-up servers at this Business Continuity site to ensure that we can not only survive the single failure of Lotus Notes server hardware or the Lotus Notes server application, but also the complete loss of our primary data center.

This new level of maturity in OIT's architecture allows for much higher availability rates than has previously been possible.

Back-up Architecture Enhancements

OIT has also invested in replacing our aging tape-based backup system which was difficult to manage and slow to restore data. The new system is disk-based, so it allows for faster back-up and recovery. It also provides a higher success rate by eliminating unreliable tape.

The new system also allows us to move from daily back-ups to hourly back-ups, increasing the likelihood of finding the data on which you have recently been working.

Lotus Notes 8.5.1 Client Upgrade

In June of 2010, we will complete the project to upgrade all Lotus Notes client software on Windows and Macintosh workstations to the most current version, Lotus Notes 8.5.1. This upgrade fixes a security vulnerability found in version 7.0.3.

The new client also introduces many new features. View the on-line summary.

The Office of Information Technology offers training classes to introduce the new features, as well as Basic and Advanced Lotus Notes 8.5.1 training classes. View the course calendar and register on-line.

Lotus iNotes (often referred to as WebMail) was upgraded to version 8.5.1 in October 2009. Lotus iNotes offers three versions:

  • Lite - iNotes Lite mode is the default view. It requires no plug-ins and offers most of the basic e-mail functionality.
  • Full - iNotes Full mode has all of the functionality of the Lotus client for e-mail, calendar, and to-do items. You can switch from Lite to Full mode with just one click. View the iNotes Full mode quick reference guide.
  • Ultra Lite - iNotes Ultra Lite mode is streamlined for use on handheld mobile devices. View the iNotes Ultra Lite mode quick reference guide.

Lotus Notes Traveler

Lotus Notes Traveler provides two-way, over-the-air synchronization between Lotus Notes servers and select handheld devices. Currently the following devices are supported:

  • Apple iPhone and iPod Touch
  • Windows Mobile devices
  • Nokia S60 3rd and 5th edition devices
  • Supported mobile devices using the ActiveSync protocol

Lotus Notes Traveler synchronizes e-mail, calendar, to-do, address book, and journal data in real time and works much the same as a BlackBerry using the BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform.

New mail messages will automatically be sent to your handheld device when they arrive in your Inbox, without you needing to do anything. They can trigger a notification event, such as a tone or a device vibration.

New e-mail messages or calendar updates made on the device are also synchronized to Lotus Notes.

More devices such as Android phones will be supported for Lotus Traveler in late 2010.

Unified Messaging – Avaya Modular Messaging

Coming summer of 2010, Avaya Modular Messaging will integrate voice mail and faxes into your Inbox. Lotus Notes users will see a Modular Messaging player imbedded in the message for voice mail playback on the computer or on your desk phone.

In other mail clients, such as Thunderbird, Outlook, or Mac Mail users will get the voice mail message as a .wav file. Voice mail messages can also be played on mobile devices, such as: BlackBerries, iPhones, and other smart phones.

Faxes can also be received when sent to your office phone number.

IMAP Enhancements

The second greatest source for e-mail server crashes in the past year has been related to supporting IMAP access to the system. IMAP access refers to using clients such as Thunderbird, Outlook and Mac Mail to access Lotus Notes mail.

IMAP access places an extra load on the server when compared to Lotus Notes client access. This increased load coupled with people using several different methods to simultaneously access their mail caused several outages to the system.

We are dedicating resources to our IMAP users to alleviate this problm. This will not only ensure that large e-mail servers are not bogged down by processing IMAP requests, it will also provide the resources necessary to increase the performance and reliability of the IMAP accessible servers.