ActiveSync Update

I can finally share a lot more information about our support for ActiveSync in our replacement for GroupWise Mobile Server. To get you up to date with a lot of the direction I urge you to first read my prior blogs on the subject:

GroupWise and Nokia Intellisync

GroupWise Mobility Update

Replacement for GroupWise Mobile Server, and more

To summarize, we are creating a new technology, separate from GroupWise and Teaming, which will synchronize data between any of the connected applications. Once of the connectors will be an ActiveSync connector, to support ActiveSync enabled devices. Another connector will be for GroupWise.

These blogs set the scene for where we are today, so let me now tell you about release plans, feature set and supported devices. Let’s start with feature set – ActiveSync is a protocol and data access method and, as such, we are limited to things that we can support to whatever ActiveSync supports. At a high level that is synchronization of Email, Calendar items and Contacts. ActiveSync does not support tasks, so GroupWise tasks will not sync to devices out of the box – though there is a way that you can make them, which we will cover at a later date.

Synchronization Features

2-way email sync

Delete items



Smart forward

Attachment support

Mark (un)read

Sync content of all folders

Sync calendars

Accept and decline appointments

Send appointments

Contact sync

Support all contact fields

Sync contact photos

Search system address book

Kill pill

This list is not exhaustive, and there are even more features coming in subsequent releases around some of the additional things that ActiveSync supports.

The technology works by syncing data from the device to the central cache server, which in turn syncs it to the other connected applications. These applications then do whatever needs to be done with that data – and vice versa.


Our first milestone is to roll this out internally. We are working on defining the schedule for that with our IS&T department. I get lots of mail from people internally who volunteer themselves to be beta testers, so I know that it is as well anticipated internally as it is in our customer base.

We will then release the product to a closed beta group. We anticipate doing this in October, which is right around the corner. If you have not already applied to be a beta site do so at We normally take about 50 sites into a closed beta group and I can tell you that we have far more applicants than that already – so don’t be too upset if you don’t get in.

Whilst the closed beta program is running we also plan to release a feature limited technical preview publically. It will likely synchronize contacts and the contents of calendars only. The reason it is limited is that we need more bake time on some of the other features – we do not want to release unstable code to the broader public, but feel very confident that contacts and calendar sync will be robust. The goal is to release the technical preview in November

We will then refresh the closed beta program with the final features, around administration and bug fixes, though schedule will be determined by the amount and types of issues that get reported.

Finally, we expect to release the connector in late January and then move our engineers onto the next revision, as well as GroupWise 8 SP2 and GroupWise “Windermere”


We do not plan to change the entitlement for mobility support much from what it is today – in fact we will make it a little more broad. The goal is that anyone on GroupWise and/or Teaming maintenance will be entitled to four products – the sync engine from “Gradenko”, the Teaming connector when it ships, the GroupWise connector and the ActiveSync connector. This is similar to the entitlement today, where anyone on GroupWise maintenance gets GMS.

Supported devices

I am getting questions on what devices are supported, and the short answer is “any device that supports ActiveSync”. Our solution means that we are not installing a client on the device, we will leverage what is on there already, as long as the communications protocol is ActiveSync. To spell out a couple of the devices and/or manufacturers that ship, or have shipped native ActiveSync devices or platforms:


Windows Mobile devices (which many vendors ship on their devices) – Like HTC, Samsung etc. Microsoft have a site for WMS devices

Palm Pre and Palm Treo

Nokia E and N series devices

There is also an ActiveSync licensee site

In addition to this list there are ActiveSync client downloads available for many other devices, though Novell will not provide those clients. These include Android, UIQ and Blackberry. If your phone is not listed it likely resides somewhere under one of the categories above, so check your docs for specific mention of either ActiveSync or Exchange support.

GroupWise Mobile Server

Once the ActiveSync solution ships what happens with the current GMS? We have support from Nokia for GMS until the end of 2010, though that support is limited to critical bug fixes and security updates only – it does not include new device support. The time between the ActiveSync connector shipping and GMS support ending is about a year, and we expect that most of our customers are going to be able to move over in that year. We do not plan on a migration tool at this point, as the master data repository is the GroupWise store – we do no need to migrate the data at all. It is likely going to be necessary to touch some of the devices, to remove the old Intellisync software and replace it with the factory ActiveSync software – application management is not part of the ActiveSync protocol, so this will either need to be done manually, or with some form of Mobile Device Management software.

That’s it for now, though we will continue to keep you up to date as things progress


How To-Best Practice
Comment List
  • Since ActiveSync is a protocol did you consider adding this to the GWIA? The solution you are pursuing will require another server. True, this will eventually supplant GMS and free up that server but not many will be able to turn GMS off and install this product in its place. I'm curious to know what obstacles led you down this path.

    Novell got caught flat-footed on ActiveSync. This should have been out the door by now. I'm not looking forward to another volley of holiday-induced iPhone gift giving and telling the users we can't support it.

    Yes, yes, I know. Go third party. We tried it. Didn't like it.
  • If you refer to my previous blogs on this topic you will see that the aim of this product is more than just GroupWise mobility. We are going to have many 3rd party application connectors on this new product (codename Gradenko), ActiveSync being only one of them. Out first release is going to be around Sharepoint, SugarCRM, and GroupWise, followed by Teaming and ActiveSync, and then SAP. There are also a number of other partners looking to create connectors for Gradenko, creating an entire suite of interconnected applications. The technology is not tied to GroupWise, it is not a GroupWise component and it's scope is much broader than GroupWise - which is why we did not tie it to GWIA.

    As mentioned, there will be a public technical preview before the holiday period for customers to try - with the full release shipping just after Christmas.
  • In technology, history has shown, some trends can be ignored longer than others without significant detriment to the product. Activesync is not one of those technologies. gmail, Lotus Notes, Zimbra - all of GroupWise' major competitors have had native Activesync support since at least March of 2009. Novell STILL has nothing and you seem to not understand just how damaging this is. Take a look at the current Mobile OS distirbution:

    As I'm sitting here typing this message the new boss walks in and proudly hands me his new iPhone to configure to use with GroupWise. I tell him we can do that but he can't get his calendar info on it. The look on his face is shock and dismay. It's been the same story all year long with our users.
  • Maybe you should at least offer your boss these options:

    instead of saying you can't do it. If he doesn't like those options, it sounds like something will be available next month.
Comment Children
  • We haven't looked at CompanionLink but we have looked at NotifyLink. The customers who tried it registered reliability complaints. In either case, you're suggesting that I spend money to get functionality from a third party that other vendors supply today at no additional cost. We're currently paying a rather high premium for 1) a third party solution to expose email to 2) another third party solution that can check for viruses. I run 3) a BES server for the crackberries. Now you say I should just happily run 4) another third party solution just for iPhone and activesync support. Seriously, how many of these things do I need?

    Not to be too harsh here but expecting customers to go out and purchase third-party solutions for basic functionality (such as EXPOSURE to an anti-virus scanner) or to support the latest trends in technology is a flawed business model at best. Novell should be lighter on its feet than that and looking for ways to outshine the competition - not failing under the same business models they use.

    And they are failing. Look at the popularity of the iPhone in the US for the past nine months. It occupied as much as 70% of the US market around April '09!

    Today Novell can't support 1 out of 2 mobile phones in the US without relying on a fee-based third party solution - and it's been that way or worse for the past nine months.
  • I'm pretty sure that Novell was first to market with a *FREE* mobile sync solution. It was the best decision at the time. They provided us with the most widely used product on the market, with support for the broadest array of mobile devices at the time. Microsoft released Activesync support for Exchange a little later, and it supported fewer devices than did GroupWise through Intellisync. Apple - in traditional fashion - chose to support only the Microsoft solution, with Activsync. Some day I hope to see some of the Apple zealots hold them to the same standard of interoperability as Novell is held to. In any case, Nokia made a surprise announcement that they were dropping Intellisync, which put Novell in a spot. From that time, they've responded with a pretty good plan of action, and you should see a product soon. It's not like they've been leading you on for five years with empty promises. This is all a pretty recent occurrence. You still have support for most things through Intellisync to get you through until Activesync support is ready, and for iPhone users, you have third party options, which can be hosted services if that makes things even easier. This isn't a bad reflection on Novell's agility or vision, in my opinion.

    So that relates to your #1. For #2, does Microsoft provide free anti-virus for Exchange? I know they're just releasing their personal virus protection product, but that's pretty recent. I would think you'd need a third party in either case. For #3, you have to have BES for Exchange too. That's a Blackberry thing, not a Novell thing. Although, you can use Notify's product for Blackberries as well, but it's not as good as BES - but nothing is, really.

    We saw the iPhone wave coming, and decided to address it upfront by being very specific about what we can support, and why. Android - same deal. If you have to, pay for the iPhone support through a third party in the short term. You'll still spend less than if you switch to Exchange.