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Blown Away

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Richard Bliss

01 Apr 2005

Novell GroupWise has been under constant attack and intense competition over the past few years. Many skeptics and loyalists alike are watching and wondering about the role it will play in the future of the Novell Linux story and the messaging market as a whole. To get a good look at what role GroupWise plays in the emerging messaging landscape, let's start by looking back at the past.

In 1987 the Iran-Contra affair dominated the US News. For the first time, e-mail as a powerful tool of discovery caught the attention of the masses. A few highranking US government officials were caught lying when some of their past emails were brought to light.

IBM PROFS was used by the US Federal Government and was the dominant e-mail system on the market at the time. It was a unified calendaring, e-mail and scheduling application that ran on mainframe hardware and software. PROFS' biggest weakness was its inability to make its product more accessible to much of the smaller business community as well as the general public. This weakness was exploited in the mid 1980s and the IBM PROFS system was dethroned as the dominant e-mail application.

It wasn't another mainframe system that supplanted it, but rather a low-end LAN system called cc:Mail. With cc:Mail, its low cost and flexible deployment meant that you didn't need to invest in the high cost of a completely integrated system like PROFS, where new hardware, new software and new training meant that a smaller organization couldn't take advantage of email. cc:Mail wasn't as robust as PROFS, but its low cost and flexibility meant that many more organizations could take advantage of e-mail.

IBM, having lost the e-mail advantage to cc:Mail made a strategic acquisition by buying Lotus, the owner of cc:Mail. Then owning two of the most powerful e-mail applications, cc:Mail and Lotus Notes, IBM encouraged the millions of cc:Mail users to move to Lotus Notes by slowly phasing out cc:Mail. The strategy succeeded to some degree because millions moved to Notes, but millions moved to other platforms as well.

Two major platforms emerged during this migration from cc:Mail. The major player to emerge was Microsoft Exchange. With its flexibility of the client, Outlook, Exchange became a user friendly application used by millions of individuals as well as many small companies. However, one of its biggest assets was the fact that Exchange and Outlook were separated on the back end. Since Outlook was available through Microsoft Office, individuals, small business and Enterprises all could use the Outlook client anywhere to get their email. The popularity Outlook enjoyed soon catapulted Exchange to the front of the email market. Although Exchange was complex and expensive, the Outlook client provided a new level of flexibility. The second major platform to emerge was Novell GroupWise. GroupWise brought different characteristics to the market that made it a desirable alternative to Exchange. Three of the main characteristics were security, stability and low cost of ownership. Because of these alternative characteristics, GroupWise popularity grew steadily. It found popularity with law firms, federal and state government, health care and financial institutions. But its biggest market was the education market, both higher education and secondary schools.

Beginning in 1997, a series of events began to occur that started yet another shift in the e-mail industry. First was the Melissa virus in March of 1997 that struck millions of unprotected e-mail servers around the world. Soon after, a slew of new viruses like I Love You and Code Red made their appearances. These virus outbreaks grabbed the attention of e-mail administrators and CIOs. E-mail security was now a high priority. While Exchange servers were crashing from the onslaught of regular virus attacks, GroupWise administrators were experiencing something else: secure systems that were not affected by the viruses. GroupWise, which has always been known for its attention to security, now gained popularity with organizations extremely concerned about protection.

In 2000, two more events, the Millennium Bug and the bursting of the dot-com bubble, occurred simultaneously and shrunk the size of IT budgets, particularly in the area of email infrastructure. Organizations were reluctant to install new complex messaging systems without a direct return on investment. Looking for low cost of operation and maintenance, many of these organizations turned to Novell GroupWise. They found that GroupWise significantly cut down their cost of operation and maintenance without sacrificing the security that was desperately needed.

Because security threats to GroupWise were minimal, often an extremely complex GroupWise system with remote sites, remote users and multiple platforms was maintained by only one administrator. Some organizations with 7,000 to 10,000 employees maintained the entire e-mail system with a single individual. Many organizations, especially those with smaller IT budgets, began their own migration toward Novell GroupWise. Airlines, banks, police departments, fire departments and other organizations that focus on security and low cost were deploying and using GroupWise.

With its popularity on the rise, Novell made one last move that solidified itself as the number one alternative to Exchange. Needing a client similar to Outlook and control of the desktop and server OS, Novell acquired two companies which allowed it to focus on two different markets simultaneously. Acquisition of Ximian gave Novell the Evolution client it needed to work with enterprises and the general public. Acquisition of SUSE LINUX, gave Novell the desktop and server OS it needed to work within the enterprise environment. Suddenly all the pieces were in place for Novell GroupWise to emerge as a strong contender to the dominant market players.

For 15 years Novell GroupWise has been built on the idea that security and low cost are what makes it unique. Currently, many companies are looking for an alternative to the Microsoft Exchange/Active Directory/Windows migration path. Just like the challenges faced by IBM in 1984, companies are put off by the complexities and costs of creating a single monolithic infrastructure that does not allow flexibility and compounds costs across each application. GroupWise has shown remarkable growth and resilience as it emerges as a strong competitor for the future of the messaging market and as the alternative for Microsoft Exchange/Active Directory/Windows. Consider the data that supports the growth of Novell GroupWise. Microsoft Exchange is reported to have about 103 million users world-wide while Novell GroupWise has 35 million users. However, 40 percent of the 103 million Exchange users are considered to be on Exchange 5.5 which was released in 1997. Exchange 5.5 also runs on NT which is also being phased out. So, out of the 103 million Exchange users, 40 million users are on a product that is close to eight years old and will be discontinued in 2005. Additionally, 46 percent of the 103 million users are currently on Exchange 2000 that came out five years ago. That leaves approximately 17 percent, or 17 million users, of the current Exchange install base that are using Exchange 2003, a product which is two years old.

In contrast, of the 35 million Novell GroupWise users, more than 80 percent have migrated to GroupWise 6.5 which came out at about the same time as Microsoft Exchange 2003. That is approximately 28 million users on Novell GroupWise 6.5 versus 17 million users on Exchange 2003, or almost two to one in Novell's favor. (See Figure 1 and Figure 2 respectively.)

Figure 1

Figure 2

GroupWise and the Future

Over the past 20 years, the e-mail industry has shown a recurring theme. A dominant player locks everyone into a single method of delivering a messaging solution, the market changes, technology changes, needs change, and the dominant player is unable to adapt allowing another solution to move to the forefront. This theme occurred when PROFS lost its dominance. PROFS was not unseated by another mainframe/monolithic application; rather, it was unseated by cc:Mail, a small, cheap, flexible application that allowed many more people to inexpensively deploy e-mail using LAN. cc:Mail was not unseated by another LAN solution, but by Outlook, an e-mail client that everyone adopted because it was small, cheap, flexible and allowed users to do e-mail almost anywhere. It is evident that the future will require a change. The question becomes who or what will be ready to provide the solutions of tomorrow's problems. For the next messaging solution to win the market, it must contain certain characteristics:

  • a flexible back end that is secure and inexpensive to deploy

  • a flexible client that allows multiple platforms to share the experience

  • a deployable directory that allows the management of the entire system across multiple platforms and applications.

  • an OS that allows services to be built on top of it.

Novell, through strategic acquisition and internal development, has positioned itself to take advantage of this future. Earlier it was explained that the two chief characteristics of Novell GroupWise are its security and low cost of operation and maintenance. The Ximian Evolution Client and SUSE LINUX, for the first time, deliver true independence for users. The Evolution e-mail client allows the user experience to be separated from the IT management back-end system. SUSE LINUX ensures that users are not locked into a single platform. GroupWise 6.5 has been deployed to Linux, providing three platforms for a strong, secure, flexible back end to support multiple configurations inside an organization. Also, eDirectory has been the market leader for years in cross platform directory integration, and lastly SUSE LINUX meets the needs of organizations looking for low cost and flexibility for the desktop and server OS.

Deskless Workers

There are many different pieces to the Messaging infrastructure. One new, dynamically changing need is the role of the deskless worker. A deskless worker is a professional whose job does not require, or allow, a computer on a desk to be part of their everyday routine. Good examples of these kinds of workers include airline pilots, flight attendants, firefighters, police officers and city service workers. The list of professional workers who still need access to e-mail has grown. Roughly 60 percent of the US work force is considered deskless workers. Traditionally, these deskless workers have been unable to effectively communicate.

GroupWise has recognized the communication barrier that exists among the deskless workers and has provided a variety of means by which they can communicate with the rest of the organization while at work. Traditionally, Novell WebAccess has been the primary means for mobile workers to access their email away from a desk. For example, traveling airline professionals have been able to access their e-mail via a kiosk or a computer in a commons area that allows them to stay in touch. However, WebAccess lacks in its ability to provide immediate communication. GroupWise, working closely with wireless device vendors has created a special category of licensing that allows an organization to deploy PDAs like Blackberry to their organization and then purchase GroupWise licenses under the Deskless Worker Pricing. This gives a firefighter the ability to have a Blackberry device with them at all times, plus have a dedicated e-mail address just for them. They are able to receive and send e-mail from the device, instead of needing a PC to handle all their e-mail. This initiative has allowed organizations around the world to begin deploying a cost effective, robust solution.

This is one of many examples of the ability of Novell GroupWise to adapt to the changing environment to provide a solution that is easily deployed and relevant to the situation.

GroupWise, #1 Alternative

With nearly half of the Microsoft Exchange user base on Exchange 5.5, that install base has resisted the upgrade path laid out by Microsoft. Only in 2004 did half of the install base finally move off of Exchange 5.5. One of the major reasons for not upgrading has been cost. Exchange 5.5 is relatively easy to maintain and is lower in cost. These two values have kept tens of millions of users from moving to a more expensive, less stable and less secure platform.

But this year, Microsoft is pulling the plug on NT and Exchange 5.5, forcing those tens of millions of users to finally make a choice. However, many of them are not choosing the upgrade path with Microsoft, but instead are moving to GroupWise. Organizations recognize Novell GroupWise as a needed asset in maintaining their security and its low cost is a just another bonus. It is not a coincidence that over the past few years GroupWise revenue has remained strong, some of the strongest revenue quarters in the history of the product. It is apparent that as Exchange users continue to look elsewhere for answers, Novell GroupWise will see more success and growth in the e-mail market because Novell GroupWise is the number one alternative to Exchange.

Getting Here from There: Exchange to GroupWise--a Case Study

In the summer of 2004, MeritCare Health Systems of North Dakota was ready to migrate its 7,000 Exchange 5.5 users to GroupWise using the GWMigrate Exchange to GroupWise utility as the basis for the migration. GWMigrate helps you easily perform a bulk migration of users from Exchange to GroupWise as well as the bulk migration of PSTs from a centralized location.

You can configure GWMigrate to use multiple migration workstations to perform any variety of migrations from Exchange server accounts, PSTs or public folders. You can also migrate a single Exchange account to GroupWise. (See Figure 3.) (For more information on the GWMigrate utility, visit

Figure 3

A system as large as MeritCare provides very interesting statistics and guidelines for Exchange to GroupWise migrations of all sizes. This case study examines some of the preparatory steps that can speed up the migration and give you some information on the actual migration of MeritCare Health Systems.

Preparing the Exchange System

One of the most beneficial things that the administration at MeritCare did was prepare their Exchange system so that migration was faster and more effective. The administrators instructed e-mail users on proper e-mail housekeeping prior to their migration. The following are things that MeritCare found especially helpful in speeding up the migration.

  • Clean out the system: Often users keep everything in their mailboxes simply because they can. A migration is the perfect time to get users to clean up the users' mailboxes and the rest of the system. Suggest that only a certain amount of items or items from a specific time period will be migrated. Giving users guidelines up front can generally save a considerable amount of time during migration.

  • Remove the old users: If you have users who are no longer with the organization, now is the time to delete them and clean up your system.

  • Turn off Deleted Item Retention: Don't migrate the trash.

  • Off Line Defrag

Preparing GroupWise

In addition to preparing their Exchange for migration, MeritCare prepared their GroupWise system to accept the migration. MeritCare found that the GroupWise import/export tool made this preparation especially easy and fast. To prepare your GroupWise system as MeritCare did, take the following steps:

  • Define the Domains

  • Define the Post Offices

  • Create the Users

What to move?

As a health care provider, it was vital that MeritCare experience a fast migration in order to minimize downtime. Various items in the Exchange system can be left alone, without migrating them to GroupWise. If you are short on space or time, or simply want to start with a cleaner GroupWise system, MeritCare said they would monitor the following:

  • attachments

  • sent Items

  • deleted Items

  • reoccurring appointments that stretch for more than a few months into the future

Any of the above that your organization can afford to leave behind will reduce not only the time it takes to migrate, but also the clutter you bring with you.

The Migration

Consider the following statistics that will help you plan for your migration. MeritCare had multiple machines running at the same time migrating different subsets of users to increase the throughput.

Equipment Used:

Each GWMigrate migration PC was a 3.0 GHz processor with 1 GB RAM. Each workstation used a 100 MBit NIC. If your organization can provide GBit to the workstation, the performance will be enhanced. Although faster processors are often useful, memory seems to be the key for the migration.

The Exchange Servers were 2.8 GHz machines. For the migration, the Exchange Servers were being hit by 20-36 GWMigrate processes at any given time. Although this activity slowed down the Exchange Servers, they were able to keep up with the processing. Base the number of migration workstations you will want to use on various factors, such as what you have available and the ability of your Exchange Servers to handle the load.

During the migration, MeritCare had almost exclusive access to the network (done off-hours with few, if any, other active users). The following statistics can give you a good indication of how your migration might run.

Migrating most recent 90 days of data and no Sent Items folders

  • 1.2 GB/hour

  • 102 K items/hour

Last 90 days with sent items

  • 759 MB/hour

  • 62K items/hour

Previous 1 year with no Sent Items folder

  • 753 MB/hour

  • 61K items/hour

Previous 10 years with no Sent Items

  • 715 MB/hour

  • 58K items/hour

As you can see from the above, the larger the dataset to migrate, the slower the process. Additionally, the Sent Items folder takes more processing power and prevents the same throughput as inbound messages. If your organization is looking for the fastest migration, these factors are worth taking into account. If you migrate everything there will be a performance hit. MeritCare was able to do their entire migration in a weekend, with the new system up and running when the employees returned to work on Monday morning.


Organizations of all types are making the move to GroupWise. Some organizations that are under pressure from well-meaning CxOs to move off of GroupWise are finding the cost, the complexity and the security risks to cause them to reconsider. Seldom is the decision made to move away from GroupWise for a technical reason, but most often a political one. Microsoft Exchange numbers, when looked at without analysis look dominating. Because of this, upper management decides that they must follow the wrongly perceived market movement and move to Microsoft. But when upper management is faced with the financial and security risks that it involves, as well as the lack of increase of productivity on the part of their employees, most reconsider. Recently, an organization of more than 8500 users, with 260 post offices and 21 MTAs was forced by management to consider moving to Exchange. The current cost of their GroupWise system is under $200,000. The cost estimates to migrate to Exchange was in excess of $1 million--without an increase of productivity. Migrating from Exchange to GroupWise often can be accomplished at a reduced cost to migrating from Exchange to Exchange. Moreover, a GroupWise migration allows the organization to cut cost and increase productivity under an umbrella of security. MeritCare found that the migration was successful and now enjoy the low cost of running and maintaining their e-mail system as well as enjoying the security that GroupWise provides.

Every organization needs applications to run their business. But across the board there is a single application to which every individual in an enterprise needs access. It isn't a word processor. It isn't a spreadsheet. It's e-mail. From accounting, engineering and manufacturing, to executives and service personnel, every individual needs to communicate with every other individual for an organization to function properly. That's why messaging has become so critical to every organization and why GroupWise plays such a pivotal role in the future.

* Originally published in Novell Connection Magazine


The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.

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