Years ago, Lotus Development's Notes creator Ray Ozzie envisioned a killer application that would allow employees to use group-based software to work on a project simultaneously. Although Notes is nothing to sneeze at, the client/server model on which it is based hampered it from revolutionising the way we work together.
Now, Ozzie's Groove Networks is onto something potentially bigger than Notes. Simply called Groove, this new application lets users share files, create group workspaces, and communicate over the Net to get work done faster.
Groove is not only the first viable use of peer-to-peer networking for the corporate world but could also be the long-awaited answer to the groupware idea that got a lot of attention but never really took off.
Groove is a peer-to-peer tool that resides on a local machine. (The preview can be downloaded at www.groove.net.) Users can work from a predefined workspace or create one by deciding who to invite and which tools to use. Tools include a whiteboard, chat utility, file-sharing utility, picture viewer, and contact manager. Users can navigate together or work alone.
Also available is the Groove Developer's Kit (GDK), which lets developers create, for example, a more robust word processor that would allow group editing of Word files in their native format.
As is to be expected in an early release, we had a bit of trouble.
First, we could not install Groove on several supposedly supported Windows-based machines. We were successful, however, installing it on two Windows 2000 Server machines on the same LAN and were able to use all of the tools between the two.
We tried unsuccessfully to connect to another machine running Groove via the Internet. We suspect a firewall may have prevented the connection.
The file-sharing tool allows entire directories to be shared, but only if you drag and drop them: If you use the "browse" function you must select files one by one.
Despite the glitches, we have already found ways Groove would be useful to the Test Centre - not bad for a beta product. The ramifications of widespread adoption of Groove on the way enterprises conduct business could be enormous.
The bottom line: beta
Groove preview edition
Business case: Groove can improve users' ability to work together, regardless of their location, decreasing development times and increasing productivity.
Technology case: the use of peer-to-peer technology eliminates the need for expensive, redundant servers typically required to support groupware platforms. One Groove client, installed on all participants' PCs, is all you'll need to jump into the fray.
+ Eliminates needs for servers
+ Allows several users to work in the same environment simultaneously+ Boasts an impressive array of toolsCons:
- Fails to account for corporate firewalls that could hinder communication- Requires much more advanced tools to edit corporate documents and filesCost: Pricing not yet availablePlatform(s): 32-bit Windows; Linux coming soonShipping: Not yet available