Users fiercely loyal to their wise selection

While Microsoft spent last week promoting the latest cutting edge enhancements to Exchange Server 2007 at TechEd 2006, users of Novell's GroupWise, which is marketed as an alternative to Exchange, remain firmly loyal to their product, citing its simplicity as key to its survival.

According to Joe Bertnick, vice president of products at GroupWise's third-party developer GWAVA, one of Novell GroupWise user's main problems is the silent contentment of end users.

"The real problem as GroupWise admins is that we don't evangelize our product... because it just works," Bertnick said.

Though the end users might be silent, a recent four-day GroupWise conference in Sydney called GWAVACon sold out completely, showing that local support for the messaging server is still strong.

Bertnick said looking after GroupWise was just one component to a sysadmin's day job.

"You don't spend all day thinking about GroupWise. This is not like the life of an Exchange admin who is thinking Exchange all the time."

He said the larger implementations of GroupWise in Australia, such as Queensland Health with 40,000 users, and a University in Victoria with 4000 users and 85,000 NetMail -- the light-weight Web-based version, are all managed by a single administrator.

This view was echoed by end users at the conference.

"I used Exchange 5.5 as part of my MCSE and noted it is structurally more complex as well as being harder to maintain," said the GroupWise administrator at one university who wished to remain anonymous.

Bertnick's view on the topic was unashamedly slanted. His presentation was titled Defence Against Microsoft; Protecting your GroupWise and Novell investment.

From a security standpoint, he said comparisons to Exchange were important. Last year CERT reported four virus outbreaks against GroupWise; while 287 attacks were reported against Exchange.

Despite many attendees acknowledging Novell's local support for the product to be poor, many have stuck by it, and were planning to, or have already migrated to the latest version, GroupWise 7.

In his presentation, Richard Bliss, organizer of GWAVACon, asked his audience to raise their hands if they have been running GroupWise for more than 10 years. He said 80 percent of hands went up.

This is largely due to WordPerfect, he said.

"WordPerfect had an e-mail application called WordPerfect Office that these organizations were loyal to 10 to 15 years ago, and they have stayed with the e-mail platform. Wherever you see that WordPerfect was strong years ago is where you see GroupWise strong today: legal, health, education and government."

This was true for one such user, Sydney-based The King's School.

It has been using GroupWise for close to 10 years. Currently it is on GroupWise 6.5 but has already started its migration plan for version 7 once the patch is released.

"The reason we still have it is because I find Novell very stable," said Michael Eggenhuizen, the school's director of ICT. "It has never gone down; no viruses. But the functionality is very similar to Exchange."

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