Novell sets GroupWise direction

Novell last week week tried to dispel rumors of an imminent demise of its GroupWise collaboration platform by laying out a three-year road map for the product.

Customers welcomed the news.

The perennial No. 3 player behind IBM/Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, GroupWise is slated for a host of makeovers and upgrades over the coming years that include interface enhancements, new collaborative features, expanded back-up capabilities, and cross-platform support.

Speculation has been circulating that Novell's aggressive Linux strategy would consume GroupWise, but the company insists that is not true.

"There has been speculation outside that GroupWise would disappear," says Kevan Barney, a Novell spokesman. "This was a good time to let people know that GroupWise is not going away."

Some customers say Novell can make all the client-side changes it wants, which includes using its Linux-base Evolution client as its standard front end, but GroupWise should remain the back end.

"What I do care about is that Novell keeps maintaining and improving the GroupWise server-side components," says Jim Michael, IS manager for the city of Chesterfield, Mo.

"I haven't seen anything from Novell to make me worried . . . yet. As long as they stick with the GroupWise back end, and provide a good cross-platform client experience, I'm satisfied."

Others express more concern about a major transition to a Linux-based platform.

"If we have to deal with an unknown support system, we will go somewhere else," says Mark McMurray, technology coordinator for the Frenchtown School District in Huson, Montana.

With Novell's new road map, it appears GroupWise is not going anywhere but forward.

The next release, code-named Sequoia, is slated to ship this summer. Another version, code-named Aspen, is scheduled for fall 2006 and a third upgrade, code-named Cedar, is slated for 2008.

Sequoia is expected to focus on interface and application programming improvements, and will be unveiled next month at the company's annual BrainShare conference.

Aspen is expected to get team collaboration upgrades, new data back-up capabilities and improvements for deploying third-party applications.

Cedar is anticipated to focus on cross-platform support and will add improvements to team collaboration and administration.

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