Changes Loom for Novell's Groupwise and Netmail

As the usual sniping with Microsoft continues, a reinvigorated Novell is moving its GroupWise and NetMail offerings forward with a multiplatform world firmly in mind.

By Jacqueline Emigh | Posted Sep 6, 2002
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Novell plans to release a new client interface to its GroupWise integrated collaborative environment (ICE) in December. Further down the road, both of Novell's messaging environments - GroupWise and NetMail - look likely to get deeper architectural changes.

GroupWise 6 will receive the enhanced client interface as part of Service Pack 2, said Howard Tayler, Novell's GroupWise product manager, in an interview with CrossNodes. Features will include new contact management tools and an e-mail-based "to do" list, for instance.

"You'll be able to open up your mailbox in the morning and use your messages to help figure out what you need to do today. You can acknowledge your e-mails, or reorder them in the folder," according to Tayler.

Novell first shipped GroupWise 6 in April, 2001. "Our goal with GroupWise 6 was to use technologies like distributed processing and mailbox caching to let customers consolidate more mailboxes on to the same hardware," he said. GroupWise 6 Service Pack 2, released in November of 2001, added Novell's Padlock security fix.

Aside from GroupWise, Novell also sells NetMail, a lighter weight, Internetbased messaging environment, previously known as NIMS, that was first created by Novell spin-off Novonics. Novell renamed the product after Novonics re-entered the company fold.

NetMail gets most of its use from ISPs, universities, and other entities outside of the "enterprise collaborative market," Tayler said

GroupWise runs on NetWare and Windows servers, NetMail, on the other hand, operates on NetWare, Linux, or Solaris servers.

GroupWise can be used with either its own client or with Outlook. Some users prefer one client, and some the other. In one Internet newsgroup, a user said that he needs to run the GroupWise client instead of Outlook, for gaining quick simultaneous access to multiple desktops.

Novell's Tayler squared off against Wayne Dunn, principal consultant for Microsoft partner AimNet, during an online debate held by Intellireach in August. In the follow-up interview with CrossNodes, Tayler took the opportunity to fling a few more barbs at rival ICEs Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes.

"Microsoft makes a big deal out of 'owning the market.' Their response to the messaging market is Exchange. But the reality is that Exchange doesn't fit everywhere. Maybe a customer wants to run Unix. Maybe a customer doesn't want to run Windows," Tayler contended.

"IBM recognized that the Notes product doesn't fit everywhere. So it partnered (with outside Linux developers) to use SendMail (on its servers). Novell didn't need to partner with anyone. We have two messaging products in our arsenal."

In another follow-up interview, Dunn countered Tayler's attack by criticizing Novell's double-barreled approach to the messaging market. "Novell trumpets this as a strength. I see it as a lack of direction," Dunn retorted.

Suggesting that Microsoft may have learned from past mistakes, Dunn theorized that Microsoft is smart to stick with just one messaging product. In some other product categories, Microsoft has at various times "flooded the market with a variety of products, confusing the client base," he admitted.

"You have to look past the (market) statistics," Dunn added. "People out there in the industry know that customers are moving over to ActiveDirectory and Exchange," he asserted.

For his part, Tayler acknowledged that Novell's share of the ICE market dropped significantly during the year 2000 timeframe. He blamed the decline, though, mainly on negative reports from certain analysts. "(These analysts) were saying, "We're not sure where Novell is headed." Now, though, these same analysts have started to issue more upbeat reports about Novell, and Novell's share is on a big upswing, according to Tayler.

"Since (the year 2000), we're been communicating our strategy, and executing on it," he maintained. "Marketing isn't just about magazine or TV ads. It's about getting your message across to key decision makers - and a lot of key decision makers talk to analysts."

Statistically, however, Novell is generally showing stronger growth in terms of installed base, as opposed to the revenue side. "I don't know why that is. Maybe we don't soak the customer as hard," he conjectured.

Meanwhile, Novell is building more security into GroupWise on an ongoing basis, according to Tayler. "Novel has a solid track record, but we keep adding more security where nobody even knew there were layers," he quipped.

For further down the road, Novell is eyeing a "modular collaborative" messaging architecture, Tayler said. "I can't say very much about this, but it could apply to both our (messaging) products. Customers may never have thought about whether they're in the 'GroupWise' or 'NetMail' space. They just know what their problems are, and what they need."

"That sounds like a good idea. GroupWise has some capabilities that NetMail doesn't, and vice versa. The two products are completely separate," responded Matt DeFoor, directory engineer at the University of Kentucky.

"Right now, NetMail is for people who have large-scale environments, whereas GroupWise is more for collaboration. NetMail is standards-based, while GroupWise uses 'proprietary' calendaring and mailboxing systems. I think GroupWise will always be somewhat more collaborative, though," according to DeFoor. The school currently uses a combined Novell NetMail/Microsoft Exchange messaging environment.


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