[CalConnect Winter 2006] The Open Group’s Federated Free/Busy Challenge

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Mike Lambert from the Open Group is talking this morning about a challenge for achieving federated free/busy. The Open Group’s Messaging Forum is the descendant of the Electronic Mail Association.

The Vendor Challenge approach is a method for bringing vendors to work on real problems presented by users. The problem is defined in terms of a Business Scenario (Use Case) which defines the problem, the business and technology environment, measures of success for the solution, and the constraints. Vendors of relevant products are invited to accept the challenge. On completion, vondors demonstrate the solution.

Afterwards they work to ensure that the solution is deployed in commercially available products in a consistent form. If the activity has identified the need for standardization work (which often happens) they try to make sure that happens in the proper forum. They also have a certification program to recognize and promote products that embody the solution.

Wen Feng from Boeing is presenting the Federated Free/Busy challenge. Why bring this question at this time? Boeing’s aircraft programs are increasingly collaborative between Boeing and other partners. The 787 program is being designed in a global collaborative environment – brings up issues of how to exchange data securely, how to work collaboratively. This program has around 300 first tier partner companies. The problem of getting people together in this virtual collaborative environment brings up the issue of scheduling.

Even within Boeing they have multiple calendaring systems, despite concerted efforts to standardize.

Currently they’ve built an internal system that allows authenticated users to use a web page to retrieve a table of free/busy time for anyone with a Boeing email address from their Exchange servers. But they need to broaden it outside the company – the Boeing free/busy is probably only 30% of the problem in the collaborative environment.

Current calendaring systems do not all contain sufficient information to solve the problem – for instance, if I’m usually in Pacific timezone, how does the free/busy time reflect the fact that for a week I’m travelling in Asia and am on a different time zone?

Free time is not always reliable – just because you’re not busy doesn’t mean you’re available.

Few organizations have corporate policies on updating of calendar information (e.g. you must keep your calendar updated).

The challenge:

By the end of Q2 2006 there should be a real-time mechanism that is able:
– to extract and c ollate/display free/busy information
– from at least 3 major groupware packages
– using open standard protocols
– for a constrained list of named attendees
– and a constrained list of times.

“as large corporations, we do not use proprietary protocols.”

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