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From:Thursday, May 22, 2003 2:08 PM +0300
Subject:RoadMap FC 8 and future releases 
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71001_31259_5.pngFirstClass: An investment in quality
courtesy of Scott Welch, Director of Project Management

For over 10 years FirstClass has been at the forefront of the electronic communication revolution. From the earliest FirstClass servers with a few hundred users in 1990, through the emergence of the Internet in the mid-1990s, and on into the current era of super-scalable unified messaging, FirstClass has been there.

In the 13 years since FirstClass 1.0, we have continued to enhance and extend our product. Working in close conjunction with our customers, we have introduced a steady stream of innovative releases and provided them to our customers in a timely fashion. Our goal is to provide one major release every year, and one minor release every six months. Our track record over the past few years supports this goal delivering FirstClass 6.0 in July 2001, FirstClass 7.0 in August 2002 (13 months), and FirstClass 7.1 in early 2003 (6 months). This commitment is further reinforced with the delivery of FirstClass 8.0 in Q4 2003.

In addition to maintaining a reliable and predictable release cycle, for almost 15 years we have adhered to a set of principles which drive every FirstClass release. We must:

1       add new features, improve product usability, and fix bugs
2       improve performance and scalability
3       improve product security
4       decrease the total cost of ownership
5       continue to advance the FirstClass vision

These principles, the "Big Five", are major factors differentiating FirstClass from other products and applications. Every release of FirstClass is guaranteed to advance every single one of these principles.

Now that we are part of the Open Text family and have access to a wider range of technologies and expertise, we can continue to implement these principles and take them to the next level. In practical terms this means that future versions of FirstClass will both incorporate new Open Text technologies and inter-operate more closely with Open Text products such as LiveLink. Whether you are a FirstClass customer looking to add Live Link Document Management or a Live Link shop with Instant Messaging needs, you will benefit tremendously from the seamless integration of these technologies. One of our main goals is to make both the user and administrator experience as positive as possible.

The roadmap below is split into two broad sections: The Release Roadmap and the Vision. The Release Roadmap is a description of the range of technologies and components that we are building for the next release. It is a forward-looking document, and of course the final version of the product might differ from what is described. The FirstClass Vision broadly describes our vision for FirstClass specifically and collaborative computing generally. While some of the items in the vision are years or even decades from general release, it is only by having such a consistent vision that we can supply the best to you, our customer.


FirstClass 8.0 Release Roadmap

Please note that this is forward-looking information and is subject to change at any time.

FirstClass Release 8.0 has been designed with three broad goals in mind:

1       enhancing performance, reliability, and usability for existing FirstClass customers
2       improving the collaboration experience for customers upgrading to FirstClass from other email only systems
3       enhancing the integration of FirstClass into standards-based IT networks and adding additional tools for third-party developers.

These improvements are incorporated in all FirstClass components: server, client, Internet, and voice modules. In addition, we have introduced two new modules, FirstClass Directory Services and FirstClass Application Services, and made major changes to several existing FirstClass components. For example, the new FirstClass Contact Manager will replace the old Address Book. The new FirstClass Personal Web Publisher will replace the old Home Page. Chat and Who's Online will be superseded by FirstClass Instant Messaging and FirstClass Presence Management Services.

The following information will provide you with a brief description of the major changes in each area of FirstClass 8.0. This release is scheduled for Q4 2003, but please note that some modules and components may ship at a later date.


FirstClass Server

FirstClass Server Release 8.0 delivers a wide range of new functionality, geared to improving usability and performance for both administrators and users:

Removal of limits wherever possible
To increase the flexibility and power of the FirstClass Object Store a comprehensive re-engineering effort has been undertaken to extend or remove all possible limitations on the length of various names, numbers of messages, and so on. Specific increases include:

•       longer names for folders, conferences and attachments
•       more than 1792 incoming messages per conference and Mailbox
•       support for more than 25 rules and actions
•       longer user names in the FirstClass Directory.

Increased server performance for large scale sites
Many of the larger FirstClass sites are now running over 100,000 users, with the largest site being over 250,000 users on a single server. The FirstClass 8.0 release includes a number of optimizations that are required by these sites, but whose benefit will be felt by all sites. In particular, trash collection has been optimized so that it runs several times faster than in the previous release and may now be configured in a limited time range (for example, 2 to 4 AM). If trash collection does not finish in this time range, it will automatically restart the next night at the place it left off. Finally, we've added a number of enhancements to improve mail delivery performance.

In addition to the direct performance improvements we've also included substantial improvements in the protocol used between the FirstClass server and FirstClass Internet Services. The net result of these improvements is that heavily-loaded sites will see performance boosts of up to ten times for inbound and outbound SMTP mail. These protocol changes also substantially improve caching and download speeds for both HTTP and FTP.

Enhanced security
The FirstClass 8.0 server introduces a number of important security improvements. These include server support for S/MIME configuration and improvements in the FCP encryption scheme. In addition, administrators are now able to improve overall system security by forcing the use of encrypted connections and by disallowing the use of saved passwords.

Improved third-party development tools
As part of our commitment to support third-party developers, FirstClass 8.0 includes substantial extensions to the set of tools that enable the creation and delivery of powerful and scalable applications on top of the FirstClass engine. These include toolkit enhancements and the ability for FirstClass Rapid Application Development (FCRAD), as well as other applications to receive, process, and send rich FirstClass message objects. The new FirstClass Application Services module adds support for running FCRAD and other applications on a separate server. Finally, to improve access to applications built in FirstClass, we have added the ability to access FCRAD applications from any web browser without the use of plugins or Java. As part of our ongoing commitment to support platform choice, these development tools will be available on all supported FirstClass server platforms.

Automated FirstClass administration
As systems become larger and administration resources become stretched, it is more important than ever to preserve the FirstClass reputation for reliability and ease of administration. FirstClass 8.0 extends the automation in server administration with a number of important enhancements, including:

•       automatic Post Office and Directory repair
•       automatic repair of mirroring faults
•       trash collection suspend/activate on individual users
•       server will now automatically warn the administrator, via email, when various server limits are approached/reached
External authentication/Single Signon
In conjunction with the new FirstClass Directory Services module, the server will support the ability to authenticate user logins using an external LDAP V.3 directory.


FirstClass Client

With the release of FirstClass Client 8.0, we continue to improve the premier access method for FirstClass. As part of our overall release philosophy of improving FirstClass for both existing and new customers, the latest version of the FirstClass Client contains numerous improvements to existing features while also including many new features which have been very high on customer wish-lists.

Calendar enhancements
There are numerous enhancements to the calendar, including:

•       optional delivery of new events to Mailbox
•       multi-day daytimer view
•       improved look and feel for both week and month views
•       better year selector and current-month display
•       all day events
•       import and export events using vCalendar standard.

New FirstClass Contact Manager
The new FirstClass Contact Manager is a major rewrite of the old Directory and Address Book user interface. It includes completely new views for displaying and using contacts, as well as improvements to the contact form. In addition, users will be able to import and export Contact Manager entries using the vCard format.

Additional enhancements
Other FirstClass Client improvements designed to improve the performance and productivity of both users and administrators include:

•       color in Mailbox and conference list displays
•       smart image paste with automatic conversion to PNG or JPEG
•       save Explore view and window split positions on server
•       enable the use of PNG and JPEG pictures as icons
•       support for hidden items
•       display disk usage and mail alias on status bar
•       pick outgoing Internet email alias.

Compatibility with Legacy Clients
To facilitate migration for users of older messaging systems with non-integrated mailboxes, FirstClass will now enable users to choose to display their Mailboxes in separate Inbox and Outbox panes. This filter may be applied to any folder, Mailbox, or conference within FirstClass. Additional views and sorts will also be added in the future.

In addition, the client menus and forms have been redesigned to make migration from legacy clients easier for the user.

Tables in messages and documents
One of the largest changes is the incorporation of tables in the FirstClass editor. Table support in FirstClass is very powerful, with a full table editor. Tables may be any size, and height and width may be either fixed or proportional. Each table cell can hold any FirstClass content, including text, images, and even another table. Additionally, new data translation engines allow copy and paste of tabular data for seamless interchange with other applications (for example, spreadsheets).

The new FirstClass table functionality is also integrated tightly with FirstClass Internet Services for handling of inbound and outbound HTML mail, as well as for publishing FirstClass web pages with embedded tables to the web.

Printing improvements
FirstClass 8.0 includes a comprehensive update of the FirstClass printing subsystem. Printing of the Contact Manager and Calendar will be much improved, in particular printing of both summary views (day, week, month) as well as improved printing of individual events and tasks.

New FirstClass Explorer browser-embedded client
As part of our ongoing efforts to deliver FirstClass to as wide an audience as possible with minimal integration and administration requirements, FirstClass 8.0 will introduce the FirstClass Explorer. This is a FirstClass client designed to be completely embedded directly into Internet Explorer as an ActiveX application. For ease-of-use the FirstClass Explorer may be installed with only a single click and a small download. The FirstClass Explorer gives users all the benefits of the rich FirstClass Client experience, while at the same time freeing administrators from installing and maintaining software on the end-user machine.


FirstClass Internet Services

As FirstClass Internet Services reaches functional maturity, additional focus is being placed on improving its scalability, reliability, and performance. As well, substantial effort is being placed on improving the quality of existing features.
        
Performance, reliability, ease-of-use
The FirstClass 8.0 Internet Services release heralds a new high in both performance and reliability. On the HTML side, many common operations have been sped up by a factor of 10, with special emphasis on faster template and CGI processing. Major improvements in the handling of both inbound and outbound SMTP messages results in the ability to handle tens of thousands of messages per day. Finally, to improve the ability of FirstClass to run in an unattended environment this release includes the ability to run IS as a service under Windows NT/2000/XP.

S/MIME support
FirstClass 8.0 will introduce the ability to handle both inbound and outbound SMTP messages encrypted using S/MIME, with per-user keys stored securely on the FirstClass server.

Livelink integration
For customers wishing to take advantage of both FirstClass and Livelink, we offer a web interface designed for seamless integration with the Livelink user interface.

Improved web interface
The new FC 8.0 web interface is now approaching the FirstClass Client in both richness and performance. Improvements include:

•       additional tags for visually impaired users with screen readers
•       extra preferences
•       expanded support for mail rules
•       improved calendar interface
•       HTML-based instant messaging.

SPAM reduction
Building on the work in FirstClass 7.1, Internet Services now contains additional support for spam filtering and reduction.

Table support on inbound and outbound HTML
In conjunction with the new FirstClass client table handling, Internet Services has been enhanced to allow full use of tables. This enables the use of tables in both inbound and outbound HTML messages, and allows FirstClass documents with tables to be published on the web.

FCRAD access via web
For the first time, Internet Services allows access to a broad range of FCRAD applications directly from any web browser, without the need for downloads or Java applications on the end-user machine. This opens up a whole new world for third-party tools and custom extensions for FirstClass.

UTF-8/Unicode support
In conjunction with ongoing support for multiple languages, Internet Services adds additional support for inbound and outbound UTF-8/Unicode messages.  

FirstClass Directory Services

As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting open standards, FirstClass 8.0 includes a new component, FirstClass Directory Services (FCDS), which substantially improves the integration of FirstClass into larger meta-directory environments. The initial release of FirstClass Directory Services encompasses three distinct areas of improvement:

Supporting bidirectional user maintenance between FirstClass and LDAP V.3
With the first release of FCDS, FirstClass administrators have the option of "slaving" the FirstClass server to an external LDAP V.3 directory. When users are added, deleted, or modified on the LDAP server, the FirstClass Directory will be automatically updated through FCDS. The feature also allows administrators  to "slave" other applications to FirstClass, allowing FirstClass to be used as the meta-directory in any network.

Providing access to FirstClass Directories from LDAP V.3 clients
As part of enabling FirstClass to fit seamlessly into a network of standards-based directories, FCDS supports querying of the FirstClass Directory from any LDAP V.3 client application. Existing FirstClass sites may elect to take advantage of single-sign-on in a wide variety of applications (for example, file servers, printers, copiers) without the expense of running another server by simply instructing those applications to authenticate against FirstClass Directory Services.

Enabling external authentication through LDAP V.3
FCDS supports login authentication to be performed by an external LDAP V.3 directory, for FirstClass administrators who wish to allow this option on their systems.


FirstClass Voice Services

The primary focus for FirstClass Voice Services 8.0 is enhancing performance, reliability, and ease of use. In addition, there will also be some important new features added:

Voice Access to FirstClass Content
This release will introduce voice access to FirstClass content, including Contact Manager and Calendar information. This access will be provided through a new FirstClass Telephone User Interface (TUI).

Additional Telephone User Interfaces
To improve migration from older voice mail systems, this release includes two new TUIs, one with a command set similar to that used by many Octel voice mail systems, and the other with a command set similar to that used by many Centigram voice mail systems.
        

FirstClass Instant Messaging and FirstClass Presence Management

This release introduces two new FirstClass components designed to improve real-time professional collaboration in a wide range of environments, including education, business, and government.

Instant Messaging and Presence Management Integrated With Collaboration
FirstClass now includes Instant Messaging directly integrated with a professional collaboration system. The new FirstClass Presence Management tool allows you to see when colleagues are online and jump directly to an instant messaging environment. The combination of instant messaging, presence management, and collaboration makes FirstClass the first product to offer true Instant Collaboration.

Transcripting for Knowledge Management
To ensure that instant messages are managed and retained, administrators may tag certain instant messaging areas to automatically save transcripts of all instant messaging sessions.

Rich Media Instant Messaging
As with all components in FirstClass, Instant Messaging allows a rich array of media types, including text, voice, images, and binary attachments.

Advanced User Interface
The new FirstClass Instant Messaging provides an advanced user interface, including activity indicator, invite with message, decline with message, and custom user icons.

Instant Buddy Lists
As part of the new FirstClass Presence Management system, all addresses will automatically become buddy lists. Whether it's a mail list, a Mailbox, a conference or even the list of To and Cc names in messages, the names of users who are currently online will be displayed in bold. Plus, you can choose to instant message them with a single click.


The FirstClass Vision

As is clear from the FirstClass 8.0 roadmap, our customers and partners can continue to expect a rich, powerful, and reliable experience from FirstClass. There are a number of areas which we believe are key to delivering the FirstClass Vision. While some of these are long-term, and may not appear for several release cycles, all are part of the FirstClass Vision and are actively being pursued. Of course, our decisions are always guided by our "big five" set of principles:

1       add new features, improve product usability, and fix bugs
2       improve performance and scalability
3       improve product security
4       decrease the total cost of ownership
5       continue to advance the FirstClass vision

Some of the areas you will see enhanced over the next few releases include:

Integration of FirstClass and LiveLink
To enable customers to easily install and deploy the set of collaboration and knowledge management tools appropriate for their particular organization, we will continue to enhance the integration of FirstClass and Livelink. In addition, some specific pieces of Open Text technology will be included directly in FirstClass, in particular an advanced searching capability and enhanced support for streaming media.

FirstClass eLearning Services
With the introduction of the new eLearning Services module, FirstClass will provide a broad range of learning tools suitable for both educational and corporate settings. The eLearning Services module will include a learning management system, electronic testing, and "Instant Learning" with real-time whiteboard and multimedia broadcasting. In addition, FirstClass will support a rich set of learning object authoring and access management tools, including the ability to use standards-based learning objects such as SCORM.

FirstClass Authoring Tools
To enhance the FirstClass collaborative environment, we will continue to enhance the breadth of content which may be embedded in FirstClass. The will include both additional media types (audio, video, and so on) as well as unstructured office data (spreadsheets, presentations). In addition, FirstClass will allow the creation of simple "on the fly" table-based data management systems.

More Platforms
One of the key parts of the FirstClass Vision is to provide our end users and administrators with a variety of platform choices. In the past, we have proven this by shipping on Mac 68K, Mac PPC, Mac OS X, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2K, Windows ME, and Windows XP. In the future, we expect to expand this range to include additional operating systems, and are currently considering candidates such as Linux, Sun Solaris, and HP-UX. In addition, a separate component of the multi-platform is dealing with mobile computing platforms (see below for details).

FirstClass Voice Services Expansion
While FirstClass Voice Services certainly propels FirstClass to a leading position in unified messaging systems, there are a number of important areas that will be enhanced. On the input side, the current touch tone interface will be augmented with full speech recognition that will, in turn, allow an enhancement in functionality of the Voice Services interface. Our goal is to deliver a full voice portal to enterprise knowledge. On the connectivity side, we will continue ongoing efforts to provide wider switch and protocol compatibility, including SS7, VoIP, and additional PBXs. Finally, adding to our new instant messaging and presence management tools we will be introducing real-time call management, enhanced find-me / follow-me, and Internet Call Waiting.

Support for Mobile Computing
With the unique combination of rich user interface, low bandwidth requirements and off-device storage, we believe that FirstClass is the ideal application to enable next-generation mobile communication. To this end, we are actively investigating porting the FirstClass client application to a number of different mobile computing platforms. Candidates include Windows Pocket PC, Symbion, Linux, Palm, and RIM.

Extend FirstClass Instant Messaging
The new FirstClass Instant Messaging provides a rich, secure, and powerful suite of enterprise-class instant messaging tools. On the functionality side, FirstClass Instant Messaging will be extended to support more media types, including streaming video and interactive whiteboarding. On the connectivity side, FirstClass Internet Services will be extended to allow FirstClass Instant Messaging users to easily communicate with users of other standards-based instant messaging systems.

FirstClass Contact Manager
The new FirstClass Contact Manager is the first step in delivering a rich and powerful Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system. The FirstClass Contact Manager will support such tools as mail merge, contact reminders, and additional views. This will be tied directly to the FirstClass messaging, collaboration, and instant messaging services, so that at a glance users and administrators can quickly identify all communication (both incoming and outgoing) between a FirstClass user and a contact.

FirstClass Synchronization Services
FirstClass has traditionally operated in continuously-connected network environments such as the Internet. Although this focus has not changed, the emergence of highly mobile devices with limited or intermittent network connectivity (laptops, PDAs, cell phones) means that users need access to critical data even when disconnected. FirstClass Synchronization Services will enable users to replicate FirstClass data to their local devices, use those devices while disconnected to both read and modify the data, and then synchronize with FirstClass at a later time. This will encompass all devices running FirstClass client software (for example, a laptop) as well as devices with native applications (for example, a cell phone address book).

Security in all we do
FirstClass is an extremely secure system, and we safeguard this in every release. Additional security areas being considered include encryption of the FirstClass Object Store, user-to-user messaging encryption, message signatures, and support for biometric authentication.

FirstClass Records Management Services
As more and more corporate content lives in the messaging and collaboration environment, it is increasingly important to provide the tools to manage an ever-growing pool of corporate knowledge. The FirstClass Records Management Service will provide both administrators and end users with the tools to effectively define and enforce policies regarding message retention periods, versioning, archiving, and destruction. A powerful backup and restore subsystem will provide the ability to search for and retrieve user accounts, documents and messages for both operational and regulatory uses.

FirstClass Disk Services
In order to enable true mobile computing and seamless knowledge management, FirstClass must be able to manage other types of content. By using the upcoming FirstClass Disk Services module, users will be able to use any application on their local PC to read and write files stored on their FirstClass Desktop, which will appear as a hard drive on their PC. For the first time, the power of office productivity applications will be integrated into a knowledge management and collaboration system. Plus, from an administration and records management point of view, all user work will be centralized and controlled by the records management infrastructure.




 

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