GroupWise Mobility Update

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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Comment List
  • Novell needs a clear, meaningful direction and products that offer the features its competitors have led our users to expect (at least). Assurances that Novell has money in the bank are worth little when no one there seems to know how to invest that nest egg. I fear the only thing keeping GroupWise in our environment is internal political momentum, which is rapidly eroding.

    My users have been waiting for the new mobility add-on for months. They are losing patience. They regularly point out how GroupWise lacks many of the features they use at home. GroupWise is competing for mind share with Gmail as well as Exchange; both support ActiveSync.

    Our trusted consultants shrug when we ask where GroupWise is going. They can’t explain how Novell's expanding array of communications offerings complement one another or integrate into a cohesive strategy. None of their other customers have found Teaming worthwhile. Few see the point of Google Wave, let alone reason to consider a commercial implementation of it (i.e. Pulse).

    Our phone guys keep telling us about the integration we could implement if we "just" switch to Exchange. Their products don't support GW, and they don't plan to add such support since "everyone is running Exchange, or moving to it".

    Whatever advantage Novell once had in our organization may already be gone. I'll be happy to put a test VM on our VSphere servers, assuming you release something before May; by June we may be looking elsewhere.

  • Roger,

    I agree completely with you. The disappointment in the GW APIs has been going on since GW started and has only gotten worse since GW 5.5. Not being able to do a simple restore of a single message from tape is purely because of not having a communications server, GMS, to do that third party translation like exchange communications server. This should have been done back in GW 7 release and at least when GW 8 was released. And now a 3 month delay is going to put a lot of pressure on us to move to exchange. Right now we have blackberries but there is talk of moving to iphones because of the EULA from RIM. If this happens in the next few weeks then I may have no choice but to start down that path and once I go down that path I will not be coming back. If I am going to take the heat for email then I might as well use something that benefits my resume.

  • Hi aldowner,

    the told as: not all features will work for the preview IIRR syncing emails will not work but calendar and contacts will work.
    But November 2009 is already over and most of my customer plans the migration to Exchange or Zarafa.

  • Hi, Walter, just curious to know, what kind of limitations? In what subjects or areas or anything? What is the limitations?
  • This is bad.

    You can be arrogant and tell to use 3rd party ...

    We must listen every day of new phones rollin' into Customer-environments with questions about mobility. We gave a date of end of 2009 as you have instructed and it was JUST bareable.

    Now... three (3) months MORE !

    IT lives in it's own bubble but Customers wanting to use and do business despite times are not very happy with this.

    AND you don't have to listen to their complaints. You have to listen to US, who TRY to talk to you.

    Virtualization OK. What ever software packing OK. JUST DELIVER, Please.

  • There are many lessons here for Novell, not the least of which is that those who live by the third-party solution die by the third-party solution. Intellisync was a good short-term strategy. In the long term the technology should have been bought or replicated in-house (as Microsoft would have done).

    blntskul said:
    "any company that drops GroupWise over the iPhone is making a poor decision."

    Notify adds additional cost. So does GWAVA. And so does the anti-virus software. We actually pay more for GWAVA and anti-virus software than we do for GroupWise. Our administrative overhead is increasing, too. GWAVA, at best, requires a significant investment of time in self-study; at worst, it requires training (i.e. GWAVACON). Gradenko will exacerbate this problem. Now factor in the complexities of migrating from NetWare to Linux, especially if you aren't already running Linux. Finally, add to this Novell's recent decision to skip public betas and the instability and bugs that we have seen in the latest clients (crashing, phantom items in "Work in Progress", etc). For many, the fact that another round of holiday-inspired iPhone acquisitions has come and gone and we STILL don't have a good solution for it is merely "the straw that broke the camel's back".

    "If my CEO calls me over to show me his new iPhone....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."

    NotifyLink is a nice product but those of us who have actually evaluated it know that it can be less reliable than both BES and GMS. You may find your CEO back in your office 3 months later demanding to know why he has to restart his mobile device all the time.

    Now I understand the desire to defend Novell. I've been a fan for over a decade. The problem is that they're failing "The Dr. Phil test". You may think their strategies were correct, that all of the decisions were the right ones at the time and that Novell is merely a victim of forces beyond their control. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for ya?" Because from where I sit, the folks are headed for the exits.
  • Hi,

    last year in Vienna the Novell guys told us: November 2009 (yes 2009) we have a preview - with some limitations.

  • Normaly a struggle for keeping GroupWise for many of our customers (instead of Exchange) is painfull but we could win that part.
    Now all the management deciders does have an iPhone and they MUST sync it right NOW. None of all the other arguments does mather and only for that reason some of our customers already started a plan to migrate to Exchange. All thanks the syncing-problem!
  • Not trying to pick a fight, but if you're an end user, why were you talking to Novell rather than to your internal folks? And why did you buy a phone that your company can't support? And is this the first time you've ever had to wait longer for something than you anticipated? And who at Novell gave you a 30 day time frame? If that really happened, you should go ahead and let Alex know who he needs to fire. Oh, and I haven't been keeping tabs lately - is the Pre currently synching with iTunes, or is it currently blocked? I bet Apple's going to win that smack down. My sarcasm gets the best of me. It does sound like I'm picking a fight. Sorry.
  • "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"

    I'm happy you have a work environment like that however most of us don't. Let me give you an example of how it works in the rest of the world. I'm fairly certain that my situation is far more common than yours.

    CXO walks into your office on a Monday morning and says "I just bought this over the weekend. I need to get my e-mail and calendar on it. (Even better when I.T. is supposed to approve all computer related purchases, and this was bought and expensed, bypassing that procedure.) Better still is when the CEO's administrative assistant walks into your office with their new phone and says, this needs to be set up on our system. I've actually not had that situation here but I'd bet we have some readers here that have.

    It's exactly the same as upper management mandating a move to Exchange over the objections of I.T. It's not because I.T. didn't do it's job, it's that ultimately the upper management will consider it's judgment superior simply because it is upper management, and not based on any technical knowledge of the situation. They want what they want and they pay you to make that happen. You not liking it is not a concern.

    Most of us don't have a third party sync solution because we were using GMS. (Blackberry shops not included as you needed BES regardless) When I tell the CXO that unfortunately we can't sync that device, but if you spend $XX,XXX on Notify we can have that up and going for you, he's going to look at that as a failing of I.T. despite the fact that I.T. can't get the purchase approved by management.

    Regardless of how the situation came to be, the expectation that someone above your head is never going to buy a phone without checking with you is going to get you disappointed in most shops. Many of the people I work with here will come and ask me my opinion about what a good phone to get would be and what will work with our systems. I also work with people above me that routinely show up with the latest toy they bought and expect us to make it work. I fully expect to see an ipad in here some time in the near future...

    "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."

    That would depend entirely on the reason given. Right now, if you come to me with your droid phone or iPhone and want calendar sync, I'm going to tell you our system won't work with it... BECAUSE... we don't have a sync solution in place for that, and it's not in the budget to put one in any time soon. So the reality is, our system won't work with that. If however I just say GroupWise can't work with that at all.. Then yes, I'd agree with you completely.

    We're unfortunately in a bad situation of having to outlay money for a sync solution as a temporary holdover. Sure we could keep using it, but ultimately if the GMS replacement turns out to be good, you would much rather be supporting one platform for your sync needs and you would phase the temporary solutions out.

    The thing that's saving a lot of companies Novell installations on a temporary basis is that they don't have the money to rip and replace with an Exchange solution. Novell can only hope that what it ultimately releases makes the disgruntled shops happy enough to keep them from switching.