Messaging And Groupware A Collaboration

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Discussions about groupware tend to start out with more questions than answers. Is ite-mail? Document management? Messaging? Calendar sharing? While most users have differentideas on the specifics, almost all agree on the collaborative nature of the groupwareprocess. Dataquest, the market research firm, breaks down the collaborative computingmarket into five categories: messaging systems, e-mail/user agents, electronicdocuments/workflow, group scheduling/workflow and finally, groupware.

The treatment of messaging, e-mail and groupware as distinctly separate entities withinthe collaborative process is the key point. It's a subtlety often lost on many ITmanagers. While the list of companies usually associated with groupware products readslike a who's who of networking technology, their products can be defined only in thebroadest term of what groupware really is. The Dataquest report defines messaging systemsas products that, "provide the software platform providing the infrastructure orbackbone required for the development, deployment and management of collaborativeapplications," and e-mail/user agents as products, "focused on the sending,receiving and reading of electronic mail messages."

Finally, groupware encompasses, "products that combine a number of collaborativefunctions -- that is, message transfer agents, directory, gateways, e-mail clients,collaborative tasks and scheduling, among others." HP's OpenMail, Lotus' Domino,Microsoft's Exchange and Novell's GroupWise are, in the strictest sense, messagingsystems. Specific application products such as calendaring, that sit on top of, and relyon, the foundation laid down by the messaging engine fall into the groupware folder.

"Some people are using the word collaboration," says Richi Jennings, HP'sOpenMail technical product manager. "In terms of mind share, Lotus is seen asdefining what the groupware market is. And I think rightly so with the Notes and Dominoproducts."

"A lot of people view groupware as the classic definition of people solvingproblems within groups and communities of interest," says Arthur Fontaine, Notes andDomino marketing manager for Lotus. "While that still applies, the market in generalnow views what was classically viewed as groupware as more of an enterprise infrastructureproduct and category. You're seeing that a lot -- the way the products got used changedthe definition and consequently changed the requirements of the products."

OpenMail, designed with the X.400 protocol, was originally aimed at large, 5,000 orlarger user installations and now serves almost 8 million seats. But, Jennings adds, asthe X.400 and Internet standards fought each other in the messaging arena, HP didn't wantto wait for a victor to emerge. "So we built a system that can cope with both of themand added a few bits of our own which we think are important."

As the only hardware vendor in the group, Jennings emphasizes that HP does not seeOpenMail as a tool to sell more servers. "We don't care if you run OpenMail on HP-UXor AIX or Solaris. Contrary to what may be the popular belief, he says that HP "isnot trying to leverage hardware sales. We're strictly a software business." OpenMailis a separate division within HP's Software and Services Group (SSG).

Jennings also touts the client side of OpenMail as well, listing cc:Mail, MS Mail, MSExchange, MS Outlook as well as Netscape Messenger as client software providing access toOpenMail post offices. He says that a recent HP survey found that a majority of installedOpenMail clients are using cc:Mail clients. "cc:Mail is getting a bit creaky thesedays. Most of them are moving to Outlook. That's probably the client that's getting themost interest from our customers these days."

Other OpenMail enhancements include updates to Outlook client support that will provide"extremely rich Outlook functionality when connected to OpenMail ... very similar tofunctionality you get when connected to an Exchange server." Included for Outlookclients is a fully automatic meeting scheduler for use over a WAN. "That's notsomething that Exchange does or any of our other competitors do."

He adds that HP is working with the Internet Messaging Consortium to help customers putbarriers in place to prevent the delivery of spam. That feature should be in the nextrelease, due by the end of 1998.

Seibe Environmental Controls (Rockford, Ill.) migrated from a Unisys A Series mainframein order to incorporate open systems into their environment. They chose a HP 9000 T/500and OpenMail as their messaging platform. "Our client e-mail is divided 50 percent MSOutlook and 50 percent OpenMail," says Louis True, director of IS at Seibe. Trueplans to migrate Seibe's 1,000 clients to Outlook "to incorporate a server-basedcalendaring/scheduling system with OpenMail."

He adds that the move to OpenMail (messaging was not used by Seibe with the Unisys) hasrealized thousands of dollars in savings in copier paper, mailing labels, postage, phonecharges and productivity. "No more mailing diskettes with sensitive spreadsheets,memos, or faxing," he says. In a common lament, he adds, "It took a while to getupper management on board, but now our executive staff can't function without it."

Finally, the recently released OpenMail Product Roadmap touts upcoming features such asHierarchical Storage Management (HSM), which allows for the automatic archiving of older,less frequently accessed messages and Parallel Queuing Architecture (PQA), which"makes better use of machines with a large number of processors."

At its inception, Lotus Notes entered the world as a small workgroup messagingapplication server in the late 80's. As user's fascination with the Internet surgedthrough the 90's, Notes customers expressed concern about the long-term health of aproduct built on a closed environment.

But Lotus developers discovered that it was a fairly simple process to add Internetconnectivity. As they added protocols such as MAPI, HTTP and POP3, over time theenhancements became so pronounced that it made sense to re-brand the server.

"We never changed the server product or what you got in the shrink-wrapped box,but we did change the name of it from Notes server to Domino server," says Fontaine."Call it Notes with Internet extensions." As developers listened to the Internetmantra of Notes users, they found that forward thinking customers were taking Notes toplaces they never expected. For example, Fontaine says that Notes users, working withinthe development environment of Notes and workflow capabilities of Domino, opened up theclient as a window into relational databases, transactional systems, the Web and externaldata sources to "extend their internal business processes outside of thefirewall."

Only two years old, Exchange can be considered the hard-charging prodigy in a maturingmarket. Their installed base of 16 million seats has grown by over six million in 1998'sfirst two quarters and has pushed it past GroupWise's foundation of 13 million seats totrail only Domino's 25 million. "Exchange is a messaging and collaborationserver," says Dave Malcolm, Microsoft's product manager for Exchange Server,"that essentially allows you to work more efficiently and effectively with your team,with your company, with your partners or with your customers."

Malcolm says that Microsoft isolated three areas when talking to their customers aboutwhat was important in designing Exchange: the system must be built for the enterprise; itmust be interoperable with the Internet and their existing systems; it must be afoundation for developing collaborative solutions. He adds that earlier messaging systemslike cc:Mail and MS Mail weren't built to scale across the enterprise, but were designedfor departmental or workgroup mail solutions. "Exchange was architected from theground up to solve the needs of the enterprise."

"Our first goal was to provide them with a solid messaging infrastructure. Oncethat was in place, we focused energies on building up the application developmentcapabilities of Exchange."

Novell's GroupWise was a natural offshoot of Novell's popular Netware NOS. It wasspawned in 1986 as an e-mail platform with calendaring, scheduling and task management asseparate applications. Initial attempts to support their messaging post office under allUNIX flavors were eventually reduced to HP-UX, AIX and Solaris along with NetWare andWindows NT. A full text index version of document management was integrated in release 5.

"Our definition [of groupware] is tools that people use to communicate with eachother and share with each other that we determine now is closer to collaboration,"says Novell's Bill Mangum, GroupWise product manager. "Working on things together inan office environment with a LAN or WAN or over the Internet. Lotus has taken anadditional spin to that with knowledge management."

GroupWise users can publish their documents from the document management system bymarking them for Internet access. He adds that the dynamic HTML is not an add-on."Adding that as an integral part was very strategic for us and continues to be so.[It] sets us apart in many ways from our competitors -- the fact that it's included rightin the box -- is integral to the product."

Novell's developers, like Lotus' developers, also listened to their users chorus ofInternet interoperability and Mangum ticks off a list of other enhancements to GroupWise'slatest release, version 5.5.

First, is Internet addressing. GroupWise does the DNS lookup, allowing forbusiness-to-business or GroupWise-to-GroupWise communication without having to find theother system. It also transports information in rich format for calendar and taskscheduling. It can perform busy search, do message status tracking across the Internet andit allows for retraction of a sent message.

OpenMail's incorporation of the X.400 standard naturally places it at the top of the"users supported" category. "OpenMail runs very nicely on midrange UNIXboxes. We've got people running 2,000 or 5,000 users on one of those without breaking asweat," says HP's Jennings. He adds that the technology is there to allow OpenMail toscale to 16 or 32 processor machines.

While UNIX OS servers have always provided greater scalability and reliability, WindowsNT running on Intel platforms is closing the gap, at least in marketing hype (seesidebar). Lotus' Domino supports the same UNIX platforms as well as NT, but goes furtherwith AS/400 (native 64-bit) and System 390 versions, which lets those shops connect toback-end systems at channel speed. "We're seeing a lot of people either stagingmainframe or using excess mainframe capacity to extend Domino services to users,"says Fontaine but he adds, "We install a ton of it on HP-UX."

GroupWise, along with the obvious support of Netware servers, "also works verywell with NT. But, you have to have a Netware server for administration purposes,"says Mangum. "But, your post offices and domains can exist on the HP 9000 or the IBMRS/6000 or with Sun's Solaris."

Not surprisingly, Microsoft pushes the improved scalability of Windows NT as a plus forenterprise messaging/groupware infrastructures.

"When you start to ask the scalability and reliability questions, you realize thatthere are hundreds, if not thousands of companies around the world who have proven thatExchange on NT is a scalable if not the most scalable and most reliable messaging systemavailable," says Microsoft's Malcolm. He lists customers like Lockheed with over95,000 users, the U.S. Airforce with 285,000 users and the U.S. Army with 315,000 asevidence.

Microsoft has lab-benchmarked Exchange at 10,000 users on a single, 4-way CompaqProLiant, 11,000 on a NetServer and 17,000 to 18,000 on an Intel Xeon-based server. And,with support for NT Clustering Services, they are approaching the "five 9s"threshold of high-availability. "We're not there yet, but we are reaching numbersthat are keeping our customers happy."

The aforementioned Dataquest study actually defines messaging systems as products that,"provide the software platform providing the infrastructure or backbone required forthe development, deployment and management of collaborative applications," ande-mail/user agents as products, "focused on the sending, receiving and reading ofelectronic mail messages." Finally, groupware encompasses, "products thatcombine a number of collaborative functions -- that is, message transfer agents,directory, gateways, e-mail clients, collaborative tasks and scheduling, amongothers."

Because the messaging service is the foundation on which the groupware applicationrests, the application library available for that platform then plays a key role in anydecision. Lotus, with the most market experience in the messaging application field claims"17,000 business partners using Domino ... to solve business problems, automateprocesses and build workflow applications that add a lot of value to messaging platform.At that point e-mail almost comes free for these customers," says Lotus' Fontaine.

He adds that Lotus partners are adapting an extranet model where the Domino server actsas the middle tier in a three-tier system. "They're grabbing information from backend data sources like RDBMs and transaction systems, adding value to them in the Dominolayer, things like filtering and aggregating and massaging data and extending them out toany number of clients from Web browsers to Notes clients."

Microsoft's Malcolm, while admitting to the breadth of third-party collaborativeapplications for Domino, adds "the gap between Notes and Exchange in terms ofcollaborative capabilities has decreased significantly to where there are only a fewsimple differences." In their competitive analysis, Microsoft is finding most Notesapplications can be built on top of an Exchange infrastructure. "The 5 or 10 percentthat can't, typically would be better suited for a relational database."

Novell lists, among others, add-on products in workflow, imaging, Web publishing andmobile computing in their family of GroupWise product categories. HP, meanwhile, coupleswith calendaring, document management, gateway, fax/telex, network management and securityapplications for OpenMail.

At one time, e-mail was just e-mail and applications were just stand-alone softwareproducts designed for a specific task. The OS platforms they resided on was easilydetermined by counting users and considering the legacy environement.

Messaging systems and sophisticated groupware products have blurred the distinctions --where does one product end and the platform begin? And, as Exchange grows into anenterprise engine, the choice there is more difficult to make.


"Many of our customers take what we've offered and extend it to ways you might not expect when you design the product," says Lotus' Fontaine. This, he adds, is leading to more advanced uses of the technology and spurring knowledge management as a new growth area. Knowledge management is a new name for a relatively old concept in which an enterprise comprehensively gathers, organizes, shares and analyzes its knowledge base.

Few enterprises actually have a knowledge management function in operation, choosing to focus instead on trying to bring existing processes together. Some aspects such as data mining and push technologies are new; others, such as data entry and OCR are very familiar. This according to Fontaine, will put more "focus on supporting more users in larger environments. [Products] must move beyond a specific niche, or problem solving tool to an infrastructure which goes beyond e-mail to making these platforms the window to a ton of new and disparate information and data sources."

Though not using the phrase "knowledge management," HP's Jennings sees some of those functions as being important for OpenMail users. "Sharing information in not just a pull model, like e-mail, but also in a push model like a public folder or bulletin board is becoming important to messaging clients. That's functionality that OpenMail has had for many a year."


What started as a battle of titans over the hearts and minds of e-mail users the world over may be progressing into a footrace to see who can install or migrate to the most Microsoft Exchange seats. A declaration from HP dated May 13,1998 headlined "HP And Microsoft Announce Worldwide Exchange Messaging and Collaboration Solution for Enterprise Customers," details how the two firms are "working together on end-to-end solutions based on Microsoft Exchange designed to enhance electronic messaging and collaboration in large corporations."

The upshot of the news is that HP is teaming with Microsoft on installing Exchange on top of HP NetServers optimized for Exchange-based applications. A goal of adding 1,000 Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE) and 250 pre-sales technical consultants to its staff was announced. HP's Exchange-focused services include project planning, design, installation, implementation and support. Later that same day, Compaq (nee Digital) returned fire in a press release entitled "Digital Response to the Microsoft/Hewlett Packard Announcement to promote MS Exchange."

It starts by asserting, "Today's announcement from Hewlett Packard only reinforces what Digital Equipment Corporation has been doing for the past two years: implementing and integrating Microsoft Exchange in businesses around the world." It goes on to champion Digital's "experience and expertise in integrating Microsoft Exchange." In support, it lists some telling statistics: 800 mail and messaging specialists and nearly 2,000 MCSEs.

Then, on June 3, in a direct frontal assault, Compaq formally announced a program aimed specifically at migrating HP OpenMail users to Exchange (see August HP News & Views). Jacqueline Kahle, Compaq's vice president of messaging and collaboration, in a description that sounded vaguely familiar to HP, said the program is "essentially a service offering," and that it would consist of five steps: planning, design, architecture, integration and maintenance.

With HP and Compaq/Digital going mano-a-mano over Exchange, several obvious questions need to be answered. Is Microsoft Exchange, in fact, the de-facto industry standard? What's to become of OpenMail? "HP is not trying to convert -- kicking and screaming -- happy OpenMail users to Exchange," says HP's Jennings. "In many different ways HP operates as lots of separate companies, each with their own agenda that sometimes can appear to compete with each other." Jennings looks back to when HP announced it was going into consulting with Lotus Notes, "and some people said, 'Does this mean that OpenMail's dead?' Well no it doesn't. It just means exactly what it says -- HP is doing work around Lotus Notes."

"If the customer is a dyed-in-the-wool UNIX customer we would be foolish to sell them Exchange. We're not going to ram a solution down their throat." The result, he adds, is that "this just gives the HP consulting folks another product to sell. It does not mean that HP is going to stop selling OpenMail. We've got a lot of happy users and we're very pleased with the way we're selling OpenMail now."

Jennings says that HP is aware the "ex-Digital folks" are talking to the OpenMail installed base about migrating. But, referring to the Digital announcement he adds, "How can I put this charitably? There are a number of places where they clearly got the OpenMail business wrong." The Digital offer refers to migrating "small- to medium-sized OpenMail users to Microsoft Exchange on Digital hardware platforms."

"That's really not the OpenMail market -- there really aren't an awful lot of those [shops with less than 1,000 users]," explains Jennings. "They're attempting to capitalize on any churn in any marketplace. It's not something we're particularly concerned about." - KD