Novell Overhauling GroupWise

Platform to support Web services and Java and gain enhanced client.

Novell Inc. is updating its GroupWise messaging and groupware platform with support for Web services and Java, as well as an enhanced client.

The release, code-named Hawthorn and due in December, should make GroupWise a more viable alternative to the top-selling messaging platforms, Domino from IBMs Lotus Software division and Microsoft Corp.s Exchange, according to GroupWise users and Novell officials.

The support for Web services and Java in the update, whose version number has not been determined, will allow customers to embed GroupWise collaborative applications in business applications. This kind of integration is often called "contextual collaboration."

For one GroupWise user, this feature is key for keeping the software competitive with Lotus, which will offer similar Web services and Java support in Domino 6.0 later this quarter, and Microsoft, which promises comparable functionality through its .Net Framework.

"Without something similar to a .Net strategy to tie applications into their product, I dont really see where Novell can go with GroupWise," said Joshua Van Berkum, senior systems engineer at SourcePath Consulting LLC. The Farmington Hills, Mich., IT services company switched from Exchange 2000 to GroupWise 6 internally, although it performs Exchange consulting and implementations for its customers.

The client in Hawthorn will feature enhanced capabilities for calendaring, scheduling and contact management, designed to bring the GroupWise client up to speed with Microsoft Outlook. Hawthorn will introduce secure instant messaging; Novell, of Provo, Utah, now offers little more than a custom America Online Inc. Instant Messenger client known as Instant Me. Other new features include server-level anti-virus and anti-spam protection.

Gareth Wright, technical director at Carlton Communications plc., a television broadcasting company in Plymouth, England, which uses GroupWise 6, said the current application integration capabilities of GroupWise largely meet his companys needs. But he added that any new capabilities would be welcome, such as the new secure IM planned for Hawthorn.

"Using IM to contact a person is another unique feature of collaboration," said Wright. "A secure IM application would be a welcome addition [to GroupWise]. Otherwise, you have some employees downloading AOL [Instant Messenger] and some downloading MSN [Messenger], and before you know it, youre without a standard in your organization. Adding IM to GroupWise gives you a standard."

And that standard would be a secure one, too, Wright said. In fact, security was a key reason Carlton made GroupWise its companywide messaging server, after it acquired another media company that had been using Exchange 5.5, said Wright. "Theres quite a large number of Exchange-targeted viruses out there," said Wright. "That really doesnt apply with GroupWise."

Nevertheless, according to David Ferris, president of Ferris Research Inc., in San Francisco, there arent as many GroupWise users either. Ferris pegs GroupWises share of the enterprise messaging space at just 2 percent and said Novell is losing market share, mostly to Exchange. "The [GroupWise] products are quite good, but theyre increasingly being marginalized in the marketplace," said Ferris.