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Novell to Play Catch-Up with GroupWise 5.5 Internet Enhancement Pack

Written By: P. Hayes
Published On: December 1 1999

Product Background

Novell announced the general availability of the GroupWise 5.5 Internet Enhancement pack on November 1st 1999. The enhancement pack allows for enhanced GroupWise "WebAccess" through any JAVA enabled browser, enhanced NDS integration for simplified administration, enhanced remote access and a Windows NT Server enhancement which allows GroupWise to run as a Service and not merely as an application. According to Terry Ulanch from Novell's Collaboration Marketing, "The Enhancement Pack simply makes the Web client better. Now GroupWise WebAccess, though accessible through any browser, is more like the Windows client in its functionality: Each message pops up a new window, so users don't have to go back and forward with their browser; users can select and delete multiple messages without opening them."

The challenge with the 5.5 Internet Enhancement Pack is that it needs a service pack, which has not yet been made available. GroupWise newsgroups are overflowing with web access issues, spell check issues, disappearing folders and various administration concerns. We spoke to one of Novell's reference sites, supported by Jaime Shifrin. Mr. Shifrin has not as of yet implemented the enhancement pack and does not expect to do so for several quarters, indicating that the present web access release "is functional but needs help." When asked if the firm makes use of either the integrated document management or imaging features, Mr. Shifrin said " As we do not use them I would like to remove them from the product." Furthermore, Mr. Shifrin stated the primary reason for the GroupWise implementation was its tight integration with NDS.

The enhancements included in the GroupWise Enhancement Pack are overdue and some feature functionality, such as the enhanced web interface with spell checking, will give the competition a reason to be concerned. GroupWise is in direct competition with both Microsoft's Exchange and Lotus Notes Domino Servers. Both Lotus and Microsoft recognized the demand for enhanced Internet access and administration over two years ago, and implemented e-mail based Internet solutions. Microsoft released the Outlook Web Access e-mail client two years ago, which allows a user to access his or her e-mail from any Java enabled Internet browser; Lotus released its Internet rich Domino Server in the same time frame.

GroupWise has had a solid presence in the messaging market since the early 90's. Unfortunately, GroupWise is consistently functionally behind the competition and will have to make larger strides to regain lost market share. The Internet Enhancement pack is a first step that targets existing GroupWise 5.5 client sites to prevent a migration to a competitive e-mail system. The demand for messaging is growing rapidly, and the big three of Lotus, Microsoft and Novell are scrambling for market share.

GroupWise 5.5 Enhancement Pack Pricing
Product Name
GroupWise 5.5 Enhancement Pack 5 User
GroupWise 5.5 Enhancement Pack 50 User
GroupWise 5.5 Enhancement Pack 100 User

Product Strategy and Trajectory

Novell is positioning GroupWise to compete head to head with Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange by enhancing its Internet and administrative functionality. However, with the advent of Microsoft Exchange 2000's "WebStore" and the current functional strengths of Lotus Notes Domino, the future for Novell looks bleak. Lotus Notes Domino offers an integrated and stable web server capable of integrating with the Notes E-mail system and able to handle a production web site with Notes database integration. GroupWise is the second most expensive of the three messaging platforms at approximately $120 per client seat. The GroupWise 5.5 enhancement package retails for $20 per seat, increasing the overall total cost of ownership to just shy of $150 per seat, approximately $20 per seat less than Lotus Notes.

In the future, Novell will continue to enhance GroupWise in an attempt to catch up to Lotus and Microsoft by securing NDS integration, improving administration utilities and developing multiple platform support. GroupWise Servers will run on UNIX, Windows NT and NetWare servers, but not Linux.

Product Strengths

The strength of Novell's GroupWise lies in its existing 20,000,000-seat customer base. Unfortunately, after polling numerous Solution Providers, the overwhelming choice for either new or migrated message systems is either Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange, with just a small splattering of GroupWise. Novell will try to maintain its foothold by enhancing the current revision of GroupWise and providing clients with the Internet functionality demanded by its corporate clients. Novell will also continue to stress its above average document management capabilities, which offer support for revision tracking, workflow routing and document imaging via digital input. While the Internet Enhancement Pack is Novell's next step to creating a truly Unified Inbox, we believe that Novell may be too late to maintain a truly competitive position within the messaging leadership race. However the next release of GroupWise, code named "Bulletproof", will be built around XML technology to allow for an open interface.

Product Challenges

GroupWise had one of the best "out of the box" packages available during the early 1990s. As messaging systems have developed, GroupWise has rested on its laurels, and Novell is now tasked with catching up to Lotus and Microsoft. The product continues to be comparatively weak in Internet utility areas such as an Internet/Intranet access client and a URL addressable object structure, areas that Microsoft and Lotus have virtually secured.

Novell must dedicate a strong team of developers to provide GroupWise the following functional improvements:

First, it must improve the current database structure to allow for a distributed architecture while improving availability and stability.

Second, all objects within the GroupWise directory must be able to be directly URL accessible from any point.

Third, GroupWise must be able to run out of the box, offering a turnkey solution that is easy to install and administer.

Fourth, Novell must offer a lower entry cost to appeal to cost conscious organizations. While the GroupWise server component is priced competitively, the client access license must be shaved down to no more than $40 (USD) per seat.

Twenty million seats provides a good deal of upgrade and support revenue, but ultimately, if the product is not revamped those seats will migrate to a new platform within 2 years (probability 60%).

Vendor Recommendations

GroupWise will need more than a facelift to compete with Lotus and Microsoft. A team of experienced, user-savvy developers must be dedicated to revamp the GroupWise messaging system. Some of the correct steps are being taken, such as Internet enhancements, cross-platform support and enhanced remote access, but cost may be one of the mitigating factors in Novell's messaging decline. Novell must make a strong effort to not only improve the actual software, but to also improve the image of the software through advertising and a lower entry cost into the marketplace. Novell should consider expanding the once a year "BrainShare" conference and holding a separate, dedicated messaging conference, to not only educate consumers and resellers, but to attract more attention to the product itself.

User Recommendations

Users considering a new mail system should not purchase GroupWise unless the existing Network Operating System (NOS) is primarily Novell and the client would save funds on an expanded support contract. Users should always evaluate either Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange as an alternative enterprise messaging solution, as both Microsoft and Lotus are greater than 24 months ahead of GroupWise in database structure and high availability, and both messaging systems will integrate seamlessly into a Netware environment. Users strongly concerned with document management should be aware that although GroupWise is a viable candidate, it is the most expensive alternative, and Lotus and Microsoft offer a plethora of efficient and cost effective 3rd party document management add-ons. Simply because you may be a NetWare shop does not mean that you are limited to a Novell messaging solution.

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