GroupWise: The Next Chapter!


Bob Flynn is the new President and General Manager for the Novell Business Unit. He posted a blog on July 28th outlining the ‘Next Chapter’ for Novell. See Blog here.

The day before this blog was posted, Bob and Jeff Hawn - Attachmate Group CEO - addressed the engineering team in a BBQ lunch meeting at the Provo campus. It was a call to action! In my opinion, Attachmate Executives have done an excellent job in just a few short weeks of streamlining the portfolio and focusing our efforts, resources, energy and future in all of the right directions – finally!! The simple statement: “Novell is hiring more R & D resources in Provo, UT and reinvesting in our core products with more frequent releases” is music to my ears. I have also heard from our customers and partners that this is an awesome and a welcomed message. Furthermore, this is immediately affecting the GroupWise engineering resources– positions have been posted, recruiting and re-recruiting has begun.

Not only is it important, from my perspective, to increase the investment in our core products, but it is equally important how the “focus and portfolio management” will allow us to be able to cleanly execute. We finally having a collaboration strategy that is business focused, customer driven, product and marketing managed and engineering aligned will make such a huge difference!

In addition, I have been asked to take on a new project where I will be spending my time executing one of our new taglines: create a direct line of sight from our customers directly to our engineering teams. Our customers have always been very loyal and now we need to help you be loyal. It will obviously take some time to satisfy each and every customer, but with the added investment and the renewed executive interest in wanting to make the Collaboration business a success, this will get done!

In addition, we still have a very dedicated and talented engineering team – the absolute best. I have full confidence they will deliver.

Now I don’t want to over promise or make anyone believe that ‘tomorrow’ we will provide solutions for everything. But our commitment is:

  • Deliver higher-quality solutions and greater customer value faster

  • Enable customers to upgrade to latest versions at their own pace

  • Enable and secure a portable workspace across wired and mobile devices

  • Consolidate and leverage social experience across our collaboration portfolio

Here is a list of categories (some are very big buckets, I know) where our customers expect solutions. Help us prioritize! Give me your top 3 out of this list and any specifics you want to include. Have we missed any? Are there any of these that you are not as interested in?

Note: They are not in any particular order.

  • 3rd-Party Integrations

  • Mobility (RIM, ActiveSync)

  • Quality

  • Windows Client Features

  • WebAccess Features (Tablet/Simple Templates, Web IM)

  • Co-Existence (Exchange/GW)

  • Currency (latest platforms, fresh look, latest architecture)

  • Active Directory Support / Administration Model

  • Unified Communications

  • Security

  • Instant Messaging/Conferencing

  • Document Management

  • Cloud / Hosted

  • Mac

  • Outlook

Of course, this list is very high level. In several of these areas there is currently a solution or a partial solution.

Well – It seems like I have said enough….Thoughts?



How To-Best Practice
Comment List
  • 1. Quality
    For us GW has traded on this successfully, probably down to cautious and minimal new features to the base product. But GW8 seems to have burned up all its credits espesially with 8sp2hp2 which for us was propably the most unreliable version ever. Unfortunately this hasn't gone unnoticed with management.

    2. Mobility (RIM, ActiveSync)
    This is a must and mobility looks like it could be a great product (its cool now), just needs further development to improve the management interface, reporting and end device comptibility.

    3. Active Directory Support / Administration Model
    GW doen't need to rely on Active directory support for administration as it doesnt need to have edirectory. Untie it like ZenWorks and I will be happy. I have eDirectory but unfortunately I am only keeping it alive to administer GW. And don't get me started on C1 that has got to go, a nice web front end to administer GW, pop next door and nick the code from the ZenWorks team as they have it nearly perfect.

    Ok now stepping beyond the top 3 and into areas of would be nice.
    4. Co-Existence (Exchange/GW)
    This would be great if there was a way to treat an exchange system as some sort of alien domain/po for booking/viewing calendars.

    Search facilities could also do with improvement.

    Bob, UK
  • Dean,

    I appreciate your position, and especially that there are many discussions that you have which we are not privy to. You'll notice that my list of reasons that you may not have embarked on a Mac client is fairly exhaustive, and includes a number of factors relating to Novell's very survival as a company (for example, the need to triage resources in order to meet show stopper customer requests first).

    In your favor is the fact that a Mac client was released for GroupWise 6.5-8, and given that prior to that there was a five year gap where WebAccess or POP/IMAP were the only Mac options, it is notable that you returned to the platform. I also understand the need to devote resources to the web client, especially with GMail* out there.

    You have some fairly large disadvantages in your (as a GW manager, not as Dean) credibility as well, though. The first is that of the three major products groups at Novell, the GroupWise group is the least Mac-friendly. The OES and Zenworks products are much more receptive to the needs of the Mac community, as are their teams. After all, today I can administer Zenworks 11 from a Macintosh except for actually creating Windows or Linux policies, and their Asset and Patch Management pieces are quite useful. OES has a very robust AFP server, I can do all of my server admin from a Mac (in fact, with X11 I can admin OES better from a Mac than from a PC), and with a little elbow grease I can pretend that eDirectory is Open Directory from a Mac client perspective. Maybe the web admin tool and the new Webaccess will change my mind. We will see when they ship in Windemere and Ascot.

    The second blow to your credibility is the relative stodginess of the GroupWise team as an institution. We will not get into the proof of that, but I think the other commentators on this post would agree that GroupWise trends towards the conservative side of technological advance.

    To be fair, your team has recently produced both Data Synchronizer and Vibe, which have been developed quickly in bursts, and both of which I have found very refreshing and impressive. So perhaps things are changing. Your barbecue accelerated this trend, I am sure. But what of the core product? The evolution of GroupWise from version 6 to 8 has not been dramatic. Certainly there are good signs under the hood -- all those SOAP APIs to support BES and Data Synchronizer are really something -- but it has taken you a very long time to move away from ConsoleOne, I'm worried about the age of your FLAIM fork, and there are some pieces like user moves that are creaking under load. The cross platform client, though a good straightforward piece of work, is hardly inspiring in its design and utility. Will Ascot and Windemere change our minds about the core engine? Brainshare may have the answers.

    This conversation goes both ways. We say we want a true Mac client (and Outlook Integration, and a pony -- no, better make it a unicorn). But what do we do other than demand things? It is perhaps the case that we should talk less and execute more on our end -- which is what I am suggesting in my previous post. If we want a GroupWise client for Mac so much, then why don't we do something to indicate how much we want it? Why don't we put a little more skin in the game? I have some thoughts here, though nothing to say yet.

    But please understand, though we seem to have the same conversation repeatedly, that we are saying these things to you because we still respect GroupWise enough as a product that we want to see it improved. And most of all, I appreciate your willingness to make these blog posts. Your timely updates on various GroupWise advances is greatly appreciated, as is your willingness to respond to these comments.

    Yesterday I had lunch with my Apple reps. They were among the group who still believe that Novell's primary product is Netware. And I did a tremendous job trying to explain to them how fantastic Novell's products are -- how they can handle any Enterprise load, how well NetStorage and Data Synchronizer work with iPads and other iOS devices, how much more scalable eDirectory is than any other directory service. I think they went away with an interest in investigating further, but at the start the usual Novell/Apple blind spot was well in place -- their Novell customers are mainly small, rural, and migrating so to see a large Apple-invested school disti/rct also running Novell solutions was interesting to them. Apple has the best clients, and Novell has the best servers, and I still want to bridge that gap so that I can use them both together without friction.

    So, I'll see you at Brainshare. Until then, good luck with the Ascot beta.


    * I had an interesting thought in the car today -- with a sufficiently advanced web interface, GroupWise will be able to do everything that GMail can. However, because of Google's lack of a good end user support infrastructure and the feature requirements for its advertisement revenue engine, GMail will never do the more sophisticated and organizationally interesting things that GroupWise does. Just an idle musing.
  • Dean,

    I know you are in the hot seat as it were and it is not a comfortable place to be, trust us we know since we are the ones who get shot, not shot at, by our clients.

    I tried to shoot at the top here and I have no idea if he is listening or not, I hope he is.

    You are "Director, Product Management for GroupWise" are you not? If you are only the messenger then tell us whom do we shoot at, Alex? Force the person you are delivering the "message" for to come out and face the bullets themselves instead of cowering behind you.

    GW 6.5 was released 7 long years ago which was when I started to talk about x-plat client, API's and the like and damn near nothing has been done about anything I have mentioned as far as I can tell.

    Lets face facts you have a small core group of hardcore Groupwise supporters who fight tooth and nail to keep GW installed at clients and to get them to pay for upgrades, so excuse the heck out of us if when we read things like your interview and just about pull the rest of what little hair we have left out of our heads and start firing at you. But we will until things change or you give us a target higher up the food chain.

    If I had a decent set of API's I would be writing all sorts of add on software for groupwise and so would a lot of other people. I would be writing Oracle modules for crying out loud. Hell I would write a client using Qt and cross compile it for Linux, Mac and Windows.

    If we could get the complete API documentation for things like Messenger we would be adding all sorts of cool things there too.

    But I can't because the API just flat out sucks and because it sucks no one else will either.

    I sent you an e-mail, to at least what I think your email address is and since it hasn't bounced I can only assume that you don't consider it worthy of a reply or there is more then one

    In this time of massive uncertainty and our clients asking questions like, "Uhmm should I really stick with this when everyone and their brother is telling me to switch to OL/E but you?" you really really need to start communicating on a very frequent basis so that we can have something to tell our clients because this acquisition has made almost all of them really nervous.

  • It seems I continue to fail at some fairly basic communication techniques.

    First of all...please don't shoot the messenger. I guess I should just accept the fact that the bullets are going to fly and I am a reasonable target :)

    Simply said: I understand that you don't think you are being heard. I can only tell you what the current plan is until the current plan changes and then I will be able to tell you a different plan/strategy.

    Believe ARE being heard! Your reasons, justifications, requests, ideas and even proposed solutions are welcome and add to our decisions. Change takes time and things are not going to change for Ascot. Therefore, our current strategy is not going to change for Ascot.

    Will it change in the future? Probably - seldom has it stayed the same :) Will our strategy change? Believe me, as soon as I know - you will know!

    This may be hard to believe, BUT....we do completely understand the issue, the market, and the opportunity.

    That's all for now...


  • I have seen some tech stories end sadly (ask me about the sad fate of OpenVMS sometime) but I have seen others end very well ( I was around for this issue of Wired. ) I know never to be too optimistic or too pessimistic when we are talking about the future of a technology. Overall, I feel optimistic about Novell right now. But I am not going to put my hope on the certainty of a decent Mac GroupWise client.

    That said, it isn't going to happen until suddenly it does.

    What is clear is that there is pressure on the GroupWise team to deliver a Mac client. Until this point, they have resisted this pressure -- whether it be because of their culture, their projected numbers of users who would actually use the client, prioritization of other features while Novell is trying to hold the beaches, a lack of adequate engineering, or a sheer belief that WebAccess will one day be the primary client on all platforms. But if the pressure continues, eventually it will become greater than whatever stands against it.

    What would probably help is if everyone who wants a Mac client did more than just mention it to Dean and Alex. A bit of code, deployed appropriately via Cool Solutions, might help. Some strong words to Bob Flynn whenever he shows up to ask about your customer needs might help as well. Novell gets a lot of idle requests for features. Backing this one up with some time and attention would go a long way to show that we are serious. I do not think the GroupWise team has ever understood how important this is in a visceral way.

  • client that is feature complete on Windows / Linux / Mac here is your answer....
    It aint gonna happen
    Read this:

    Dean will continue to try and convince us that the browser is the end all be all.

    At this point I am to stunned to form sentences that adequately express my feelings.
  • Patrick,

    Thank you for your feedback and votes. I have recorded them!

  • I have responded to most of the comments on this blog and several of you I have notified that I sent you a 'private email'.

    Many of you did not respond and I think I may know think I sent email to your 'real' email address.

    Sorry - I mis-communicated on this. I sent you a private message from within the Cool Solutions system. So - to see my message to you.. please login and "Messages' in the right 'My Links' space from within this blog or Cool Solutions.

    Hopefully more will respond :)

  • It seems to me that a lot of your opinions are actually just the things that make customers trade Groupwise for Exchange.
    Unified messaging is hot in a lot of places and one of the driving reasons people go with MS.
    Client integration issues are one of the main reasons customer leave Groupwise, a 100% supported Outlook integration will fix that.
    You speak like a techie and I think one of Novell's problems is that they listen too much to techies and don't have much access to management where the decisions are made. This gives Novell the wrong picture and techies evangelizing a userbase won't help much I'm afraid.
    Quote: "Customers that switch to Windows for file and print are already MS centric clients and they WILL go with OL/E and very few will continue with GW."
    It could well be that Groupwise market share is slipping just because every company is a MS client these days and when they review their landscape Groupwise just does not fit in the picture anymore for many reasons. To keep Groupwise around there has to be a very compelling reason since collaboration is a mature market with competitor that have a larger userbase and thus eco system.
  • Quality - I agree with floort's comments about product quality. The ZCM and OES (and maybe Data Sync too) v1 products were horrible. I've been very fearful about all the changes that are supposedly in the works.

    WebAccess - Many apps are moving to be web-based. This seems to me like a critical place to put alot of energy. Potentially, it can eliminate the use of the client all together, right? I've used Gmail heavily for years and have been very surprised how well I do without a mail client. I've been surprised how many Google Apps users are quite happy with it as well. I really think that everyone (including Mac and Linux) will be happy if WebAccess is robust enough.

    AD Support & WebAdmin - I've heard from a few customers in the last year asking about if/when AD will be supported.

    Outlook and 3rd-Party Integrations - This seems like a big dance between the two. In my mind, it isn't realistic to think you can effectively do both really well. So you we need a good long-term strategy. I definately agree with Joe Marton that the Cx0 likes Outlook. I also know that many third-party apps plugin to Outlook. Is it feasible for them to tie into GroupWise as well via Outlook? I'm certainly not an expert in this area. There certainly is a need to be able to have third-party integrations.

    Mobility - This is critical. If there isn't a good mobility solution, GroupWise will not maintain market share. Period.