GroupWise Mobility Update

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As you can imagine I am getting daily emails about the status of our GMS replacement. In my last blog on the subject I stated that we would probably be shipping that product this month. Since that time and, as is often the case with software projects, things have not run entirely to plan. We had already put the product through our superlab for scalability testing, and refactored some of the code in response. We also had some additional work to do to change the underlying database that we using. So far everything looked good in our lab - we were getting good throughput (1000 users/devices in the test environment) and stability was good.

Then we got to the internal rollout. This is where we hit some problems - lab data and real life data are two very different things. Some users would sync with no issue at all, and some users could not get even the first item to sync. Product stability took a hammering too. Our engineering teams have been working through the issues and are making good progress, to the point where we are now syncing what seemed to be our most problematic mailboxes. In that process we have seemingly hit the item limit of an iPhone (9,999 emails), and we have Palm, Windows Mobile, Nokia and Android devices working against the server too.

In response to some of the early testing that we, and others have done, we have made a fairly major product change. We have consolidated our platform support matrix down to a single configuration. That supported configuration is 64bit SLES 11, using the PostgreSQL database. There are a few reasons that we did this, but the one that will help our customers the most is that we are delivering it as an Add-on CD for SLES. This means that you install it much like OES, and the wizard should take care of most of the configuration for you. This should allow you to get it up and running more quickly and reliably, and will cut down on the install types of questions that our support team gets.

We also looked at delivering the product as an appliance for XEN and VMWare, however, we chose to push that deliverable off until after we ship this first version. A question to you is how many of you are ready for a virtualized appliance, what kind would you want - and just as importantly, how many of you are not ready?

After all of the work that we did over the last 2 months we put the product through our superlab again, and results are very encouraging (caveat - test environment/data only). We seemed to comfortably scale to well over 1000 users on the configuration mentioned above. We also benchmarked it against GMS on the same hardware, and performed much better, both under normal load and very heavy load. On our test harness we had 1500 users configured and syncing with no real issue (CPU util, memory consumption, Disk I/O and response times were all within acceptable limits). We will get more real world data as we roll out more broadly internally, which is the real litmus test.

Our next milestone is to deliver the connector to our current set of Gradenko customers and let them validate it. After that we will go to closed beta, and then public beta. As I mentioned on NGWList yesterday I am expecting to get to public beta or FCS within the next 3 months or so, depending on closed beta experiences.

Dean recently blogged on the devices that will be supported here.

I am sorry that we are still not able to deliver the product, but I would rather we lived through this initial pain and get it fixed, rather than deliver something of low quality to our customers

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  • You need to find another solution. As an end user for an organization that uses Novell Groupwise for its e-mail, I was informed by Novell in the fall, prior to my purchase of a Palm Pre, that I would have push e-mail within 30 days. Since then its been 30 more days, then 30 more days every time I checked back in. Now its 90 days, and my confidence in ever getting it on this phone in my lifetime is Zero. Of course, I'm also beyond my replacement period for the Pre as well. Welcome to the Bardo. Thanks, Novell.
  • You're right about the API generally, but not about the mobility issue specifically. Let me rehash this some more. If you've kept up with the various blogs on this subject, you will have heard it before.

    Novell repackaged Intellisync before Nokia owned the product. When they made that decision, it was very logical. Take the best product on the market, rebrand it and give it to customers for free. And they did it before the other guys. Microsoft's push technology with Exchange came along later. Active Sync as a protocol was not a standard, as you call it. It was a piece of junk that only Microsoft used and only Windows Mobile supported. It took some time before the major phone manufacturers gave in and included Active Sync support by default. You act as if it's been a standard for 10 years or something. Up to this point, Novell had every expectation that Intellisync would continue to be a market leader in that space, and new phones would be supported.

    Enter Nokia. They bought Intellisync, picked out the pieces that they wanted, and scrapped the rest. This didn't go one for 10 years either. By the time Novell, and the rest of the world outside of Nokia, knew that Intellisync was going to die, and that iPhone - or any other new phone - support wasn't coming, it was time to make a fast change of course. So over the last year or so, they've built a solution from the ground up that works with the now prevalent Active Sync defacto standard. By the way, before Nokia changed direction and went with Active Sync, there were relatively few devices that supported it. Apple didn't pick Active Sync support because it was some huge industry standard. They picked it because it was the Microsoft solution, and their business model is to support their own stuff first, Microsoft second, and that's about it. Between Nokia and Apple, their decision to go with Active Sync is what turned it into a standard.

    Let me also repeat - there are options, and there have been options nearly since the iPhone was released. For many phones, GMS is still the free solution from Novell. For those newer phones not supported by GMS, you can buy Notify, or one of the other solutions. They offer a hosted model if you like, so you don't even have to install it. So I'll say it again - any company that drops GroupWise over the iPhone is making a poor decision. Not only because, for love of Pete, it's a phone and there are tons of options, but also because you can absolutely support the iPhone with GroupWise.

    You're right for the most part - CEOs, CTOs, CSOs and CFOs don't think about IT as the focus - and they probably shouldn't. Unless it's a technology company, IT is like the plumbing. But guess what they do care about, almost unilaterally - MONEY. It's the IT director or CIO's job to help the people in command understand why things are the way they are, and to help guide them. And what I'm saying is if there's an IT person, or director, or CIO out there that sits down with their CEO, CSO, CFO, etc. and tells them that they can't have an iPhone because, gosh darnit, our email system just won't work with it - it's either a lie, most likely hiding an agenda, or it's the mark of stupidity.

    If my CEO calls me over to show me his new iPhone - which, by the way won't happen because I proactively offer other compelling solutions that make my users happy - but if he did, I would give him the 50 cent explanation about how we're going to achieve his goal, and leave his office where I will immediately get on the phone with the Notify folks. It's just not complicated.

    We have GroupWise in place because we're not going to throw out a good solution for a phone, although, as I pointed out, we wouldn't have to.
  • It's odd just about all my past posts have supported Novell, but I have to reply back to your comments.

    You comment that Apple did all the work for supping Exchange, thats not correct. All that Apple did was code to an open, well documented and well tested API. GroupWise has never had such an API in place, instead it has been limited to a mix and match set of APIs. Novell has all ways defered the fixing of this issue and you can find posts going back 10+ years from people pleading for this to be resolved so that third parties can extend and expand Groupwise. Instead part solutions were delivered instead, such as the third party Nokia solution (which Apple was never going to support) or API retreads such as the web services layer that still can't even compress its data stream so is unuseable on a mobile device.

    The greatest problem for GW is that it needs a gateway to convert it's current APIs and data store into a communications process that can be used by phones. The new gateway may at last fix these issues but it's way to late too market. face it for most GW sites it needs to be in place for the first shipment of the new ipad hit people's desks not many months after.

    As for the rest of your post you are taking to point of view of an IT person, I have no idea where you work but most companies are run by CEOs, CTOs, CSO, CFOs who don't care about IT. For the last 2 years all they seem to have cared about is their iPhone, iTouch, Windows Moble or Android device all of which need this gateway.

    I do agree that any company that still has GW in place at this time should wait as the Exchange roll out with be costly and take far longer, but all I have seen in the last 2 years is GW being dropped by company after company and the only companies I know who still have GW in place have it because they all cut their IT budgets to zero.

    Roger
  • Man, I feel like a broken record. Novell was first to market with a free sync solution. It was the best thing on the market at the time (Intellisync). Nokia bought Intellisync. Nokia scrapped Intellisync and didn't bother to give Novell a heads up. Novell had to come up with a solution, which is what we're talking about. Novell hasn't been sitting on their hands for years, watching the mobile phones go by. From nothing to market in around a year for something this complex is a pretty good time frame.

    The competitors that have solutions for the iPhone merely added one more device to the list of products that they already support. It's nothing like building an entirely new product. Be patient. The result will be worth the wait. If you need something now, pay for the third party app, like Notify. It works well enough, and you should realize that paying for Notify in addition to GroupWise is going to be cheaper than migrating to Exchange, by far.

    It should also be pointed out that Apple didn't raise a finger to try to support GroupWise. They did provide Exchange support with Active Sync. Microsoft didn't do a thing to support the iPhone - Apple did that work. Why didn't Apple work to support GroupWise? For the same reason they've never lifted a finger to support Netware or OES. They're elitist pigs who don't care about the needs of a pretty large portion of their clients. How can they get away with it, you ask? Magic, I think. People go into the Apple store knowing they're going to pay more, and they'll have to trade out everything else they own to have the pretty shiny sparkly thing, and they do it anyway. It's freaking amazing. I wish all of the disgruntled iPhone users would band together and kick Steve Jobs square in the ass for causing this discussion.

    If any of you drop GroupWise over the iPhone because your users demand it, it's your fault. The fact is, there are options for iPhone support with GroupWise, and have been for a long time. You would sooner drop a superior product with long standing success in your organization than pay for a few licenses for Notify, or whatever else. You're lying to your users when you say you can't support them. The truth is that you CAN support them. You just can't support them at no additional cost - for the time being. If your users are buying iPhones, they're paying through the nose for the service plan anyway; or your company is. Since when did anyone who buys an Apple product give a rat's ass about frugality?
  • I'm not sure the nature of your comment but...

    I will go along with Novell in NOT supporting a mobile device that just released in the last year, hey it's hard to keep up.

    But...

    The push for ActivSync solution was to support the iPhone. As it's already been pointed out, those things have been out since 2007.

    2010 is here but no Novell-iPhone solution unless you have a budget to buy third party applications. Novell tell us they are going to support mobile devices but the haven't been able to get anything to market.

    Seems odd that at least two other groups have a solution for what Novell cannot figure out???? That right there shows that there are some major problems at Novell.

    As a result, people are leaving GroupWise since the rule #1 in customer service is to keep the customer happy and Novell is not doing that. I miss the days along time ago when Novell rocked, GroupWise was the cat's meow but that was then this is now.
  • It is really not clever from Novell that you don't support practically any new phone which came on the market in last year.
    I myself don’t care about server, because this is technical issue which we solve internally, but not supporting new phones is business problem and I can’t persuade my users not to buy new phones, because they will not be able to use corporate mail and calendar.
  • Hi Alex,

    It's about two years that I'm challenging to maitain our customers on Novell platform, but 2009 is the year that I discovered that is definitively a "Mission Impossible".

    The hope of a new Novell based on OES2 Linux was definitively destoyed at my customers eyes during the year 2009. Novell have killed the image of the most important products like ZENworks, GroupWise and NetWare respectively with ZCM, Mobile Suite and OES2.

    Serial killing consist i losting trust in ZENworks customers, loosing trust of GroupWise customers that have the sensation to have the same web interface of five years ago and OES2 without any significant improvement.

    GroupWise Mobile Server is the last broken hope.

    I only want to say you that I'm not happy of what Novell is doing now and also make you aware that you are loosing my customers.
    Good luck.
    Giovanni Coa
  • The iPhone's been out since June 2007. Nokia announces Intellisync to be discontinued in September 2008. So Novell says keep waiting while our staff becomes increasingly frustrated at the lack of an affordable solution. This appears to be the same old story at Novell. We've been a Novell stalwart, but non-responsiveness and product delays continue to make it increasingly difficult to stay with them.
  • Generally a good positive post, it's sounds like you getting on top of things however it is a shame it's been delayed and although I have no probs with SLES11 it's a shame it's not SLES10 as well for OES2 customers (unless your giving away free SLES11 standalone licenses for GW customers!)

    Our customers are all virtualised (VMware mainly some XENserver) and generally only have a few mobile "power users" that actively use email on their mobile devices so they won't be forking out a small fortune to go to Exchange any time soon.

    For any Windows guys worried about installing SLES11 I would argue that if you can work out how to install Win2008 you can work out how to install SLES11, the installs pretty straightforward then once it's installed the config interface will be web based anyway and let's face it Novell are a Linux company after all.

    Looking forward to the betas.
    Dave
  • We are running VMware ESX so an appliance is good. However, I still like it to be supported on Windows OS as well, Server 2008 maybe?
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