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IBM spins up AJAX collaboration project

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AJAXWorld Not content with its current roster of collaboration software, IBM is spinning up an effort based on completely open technologies including AJAX.

The giant has unveiled the reference implementation for a project called OpusUna, to serve up combined video, audio, and data through the browser. IBM said OpusUna is faster and more flexible than today's generation of combined video-based conferencing systems.

The system is expected to run on different platforms. IBM demonstrated OpusUna at AJAXWorld using WebKit for Safari and the Mac, but Boloker said IBM planned support for Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Windows in the first quarter of 2009.

IBM is taking OpusUna into the field early next year for evaluation in real world scenarios by customers, such as those in financial institutions and working in telemedicine.

OpusUna lets conference participants search and combine multimedia and data feeds, resize and view windows on the fly, and jump in and out of sessions without a special hardware server or software. The goal is for participants to work simultaneously, without waiting their turn.

IBM said OpusUna is fast and scalable because it doesn't send screen refreshes or cache data. Instead, caching is done by the external feeds, with OpusUna pulling in just updates.

David Boloker, chief technology offer and distinguished engineer for IBM's emerging internet technologies software group, told The Reg: "We designed this with Sydney and Berlin in mind, because they are distributed and latency and caching are issues."

OpusUna is based on Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), an XML-based specification for presence and real-time communication that's used to manage messaging, presence, chat, and voice and video calls. The server uses an Apache container, and web pages are built using JavaScript, CSS and HTML.

OpusUna also uses OpenAJAX widgets and IBM said you could create an application using Adobe Systems' Flash Player or Microsoft's Silverlight. Applications would hook into the OpusUna server for messages to be passed between widgets.

In an interesting comment on the times, Boloker and IBM technology strategist Dan Gisolfi demonstrated OpusUna as part of an online foreclosure planner that combined maps, data and news feeds with video conferencing. One can't help but think this would have been the classic stock-market trader application demo or something to help sell cheap mortgages a year back. ®

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