Cool Solutions

The City of Los Angeles


October 29, 2009 7:22 am





This week the Los Angeles city council voted to move forward with a proposal to replace the City’s existing e-mail and productivity solutions with cloud-based e-mail, calendaring and document services from Google.

Like the LA Police department and others, we continue to doubt the economics and security of the City’s decision to move to a Google system. The City Council was presented with clear evidence that Google posed a very significant risk to the security of City and citizen data, much of it highly confidential. In addition, independent financial data showed that the new system will actually cost more, not less.

With the City facing a massive budget deficit, the speculated budget benefits of switching to this untested application are enticing, but as a recent independent Los Angeles City Administrative Officer report has stated, the proposed system under consideration will actually cost taxpayers an additional $1.5 million in the first year. There are significant costs to migrating, training and securing Google Apps.

To set the record straight, Novell GroupWise is a world-class product with more than 30 million users in 120 countries around the globe. Over 1,200 US agencies use the product, including 47 of the 50 US states. It is a secure, trusted and proven e-mail and collaboration solution. The latest version of GroupWise 8 includes interactive Web 2.0 dashboards, rich e-mail functionality and robust calendar management capabilities all delivered securely.

The City of Los Angeles should have opted for this proven product to ensure the security of its data and to save taxpayer money. They have taken a risk with no reward. However, as a valued customer, Novell will continue to offer our world-class support to the City of Los Angeles during the transition.

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Categories: Expert Views, General, PR Blog


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  1. This wasn’t technical, it was political.
    I’ve seen it way too many times: Some hotshot new PHB shows up and tears the living crap out of everything, just to make themselves look “valuable.” Not once do they ever look around and say “This place runs great; I think I’ll just leave well-enough alone.”

  2. Ian,

    Thanks for your comments. As a consultant in the industry, I cannot tell you (nor do I have to I’m sure) how many times I have seen this. It is difficult to show apples/apples comparisons to products like GroupWise 5.5 and Exchange 2007, for example. Yet, I have had customers make such a move, and pat themselves on the back for bringing their email system into the 21st century. It’s a shame that the City of Los Angeles did not bring their GroupWise system in line to be able to truly compare it to what they would receive with Google Apps.

    I’m happy to support GroupWise, and will be watching the migration of The City of Los Angeles with great interest.

    Danita Zanre

  3. By:Rob Aronson

    The grass is always greener and politicians have very short attention spans for technical details.

    That being said the city isn’t in the IT business, it’s in the business of providing services to it’s citizens. Like every other business it needs to focus on it’s core competencies. No business wants to be in the IT services industry and if many have the opportunity to relinquish responsibility for something as important, as visible and as complex as a large email system then they will.

  4. It’s not about which is the better product, it’s about which is more widely supported. Market share again. Why is Google getting rave? Market Share and support.

  5. By:don

    wow… way to make your customer feel “valued”. this is why people are leaving novell left and right.

  6. By:Eric Rothweiler

    You speak of core competencies – that has been like a stick in the eye for most full vision business supporting professionals for some time.
    How many Fortune 1000 companies have Accounting & Finance as a core competency? How many of the rest o

  7. By:Keith Neilson

    Maybe it was they didn’t want to pay Microsoft more money for Office on top of it, also allows them to use none Microsoft clients much more easily (no need for the Windows 7 upgrade). It is a new way of doing business – instead of attacking it, maybe look to join it and make it better. Need I bring up IPX.

    As for GroupWise, time to move into the 21st century and work towards a cloud environment that folks can buy what they want, as Exchange has that future.

    As for spending more with Google… err… I would think not in the long run and the integration it provides is awesome. No, I am not a Google Fan Boy.. but a realist.

    It hurts to loose – but learn from it.

    Keith Neilson

  8. By:matt k.

    Obviously, Novell is going to be biased for the move OFF of Novell and onto a competitor (Google).

    Novell states cost in training. Really. Does it cost anything to show someone how to use web based email? It is common and everyday activity stuff. And if LA staff can not use a web browser, I would be afraid to have them as my government!

  9. By:Edvin Aghanian

    I think the City of LA made a smart decision. I have been using Google Apps since its inception, and have migrated a few mail systems to it. I think it is a wonderful product, with an excellent set of features and an very reasonable cost per user. I hope Google continues to improve this wonderful product.

  10. By:Jason

    Being an administrator of your sofware for years. I can understand fully why this happens.

  11. By:mb

    So it comes to this — Novell publicly criticizes their customer who has paid millions in license and maintenance fees over the years.

    I’ll remember how Novell treats their customers when my clients select new messaging and collaboration solutions.

  12. By:Gert

    I wonder if this can be stopped at all.

    If the mind of MGMT is set to change to another file/print/email-system, there is only little – only someone with more power – to stop it.

    I agree that the lack of keeping the GW system up to date helps here a lot. It simply means MGMT can say they’re working with an out of date product.

    And hey, it’s cool to say you start something new, even if the budget for it isn’t there…

    In my opininon an end-user board, a group of users – secretaries, MGMT, helpdesk, other users – can be a good thing to make democratic decisions and to come up with advices concerning the USE of IT. In that case an email policy can be used. This gives users the feeling they are part of the process.


  13. By:Tom Stone

    I have to agree that IT decisions are rarely factually sound and logical. They tend to be trendy, based on a lame brained article in CIO magazine, personal whim, or all of the above. When I look at Google’s offering, I see a huge security risk, a huge liability risk, and hidden costs that can eat up a budget.

    It sounds appealing to government and to schools on tight budgets. Free. Free. Free. However, one lawsuit will wipe out any of that savings and they will find that Google disavows any responsibility or liability for their services. They are big enough to fight the city in court and win.

    I think the police department would be wise to resist the city on this and keep their systems separate. They have much to lose going to Google.

  14. By:Joseph Marton

    I agree that the move by the City of Los Angeles is rather shortsighted and does not make good technology sense. However, this blog entry has not helped Novell’s case and in fact has created quite a stir online–all of which is negative. The move by the City created enough bad PR for Novell on its own without Novell creating any more bad PR.

    Novell should really issue a retraction or at least a clarification and try to limit the damage.


    I’m sure this isn’t what Novell intended with this blog posting but alas this is the result in today’s Web 2.0 world.

    Joe Marton

  15. By:Sam

    Novell are always feeling sorry for themselves (I am however a big user of Novell software and a fan of the company). Novell must start to realise that many people prefer the Outlook or Google Apps interface that users see. Novell must improve the GroupWise interface and, inmy opinion, have a stable and good way to allow Microsoft Outlook to access (with the use of all features!) the GroupWise back end. The GroupWise connector was rubbish. This would give companies a great solution – the stable and virus free backend with the world’s most popular email client.

  16. By:Sean

    I think the post by Sam, above, is a typical perception of the market toward Novell and GroupWise. I work for a small company, 50 users, using GW 8. It is an excellent product and it is bullet proof. We are integrating Teaming to enhance our collaboration.

    However, I attended a Novell event this past summer. The entire event and marketing is geared at very large, Fortune 1000, type enterprises. When I spoke to other attendees, most were not Novell users and some held erroneous perceptions, like Sam, of the Novell offerings.

    And I have to wonder, why does Novell seemingly ignore the SMB market to such a degree? We are small, but from us come the IT pros who eventually migrate into the larger businesses and we tend to take what we know.

    Novell’s large enterprise bias is, in my view, reflected in the price when, matched with Teaming for a new user, competes in cost with MS Office.

    Given that licensing for GW covers subscription and support, maybe its time to open source the product and allow the community to get behind it.

    I would urge Novell developers to have a look at Zimbra. This could be the real threat.

  17. By:Rinz

    I’m new to GroupWise, so I do not have that much knowledge of the product yet. It seems to carry some amount of legacy stuff. The lack of recent good books is evident (which isn’t reassuring). So what is the future of GroupWise? Novell must listen to the customers and keep things simple and at the same time technical advanced from end-user and administration point of view. I think Google Apps is getting big. Google would do wisely to introduce an inhouse version. It’s not there normal way of doing business, but they do already have a search appliance.

  18. By:FlyingGuy

    Before I get going I think it only fair that anyone reading what is to follow read
    my post on Slashdot and then read on…

    I am now going to call out the whole force behind GroupWise. This disaster occurred for some very specific reasons and in no particular order I present what I believe those reasons are:

    Lack of a coherent, fast, lightweight management interface. – Development
    Lack of a coherent sales strategy. Is it GroupWise, is it Teaming and Conferencing just what on earth is Novell’s office information strategy and best of class product? .- Sales and Marketing
    Client software that is clearly not cross platform in feature and function. – Development
    Lack of a coherent Developer Program, is it Client API, WEB API, Server API? Is it Java, is it C, is it .Net? – Development

    That list while small in number is HUGE in scope, I understand that. I also understand that the things that I call out are by no means easy to handle, but we have to start someplace and an accounting of this disaster must be taken.
    When the sales force lets an account as big as the City of Los Angeles slip through their fingers something has to change. Clearly technical sales personnel were not visiting their client, clearly not listening to their client and clearly not getting the point driven home that this HUGE client was not happy for technical reasons.
    If they were doing all of this then clearly Development was not listening, was not sending the best developers out to listen very very carefully to this client. To hear the message that the client MUST have been communicating at more then one level.
    The most senior and most knowledgeable tech support people in the entire company should have had at least a weekly, if not daily task to call the lead of the City of Los Angeles tech support department and asked them if there was anything they could do for them, and question they could answer any anything they could do for them?
    This was a flagship client. How many more of those can we afford to lose? How many more organizations can we afford to get kicked out of? Novell has managed to get NetWare kicked out of pretty much everywhere that mattered, how long before GroupWise is a Wikipedia article of what used to be?
    As to the post, it is an excuse nothing more nothing less. You don’t blame the customer ever even if the customer is wrong!!!! You circle the wagons, figure out what you need to do, even if that is getting on a plane and flying out there, and figuring out exactly what needs to be done to get this client back!
    Let this serve as notice to Novell that it needs to get on the stick, start visiting existing large corporate and institutional clients. Do whatever it takes to get them on the latest and best software Novell has to offer, have a clear and focused strategy to show them that by sticking with Novell they are going to get the BEST OF CLASS in this space, show them how weak GMail is by every measure that matters..
    How many times have I said in these forums that this is a war? Do you need any more proof? Do you believe me now?

  19. Very interesting, I’ve been involved with a small scale move from Windows 2003 to Google cloud, and actually assisted in the reverse!. Major problems come into play when expectations are not met. Sometimes the Google service is not available (does happen), data is lost (has happened), and there are limitations to the service, such file size limits, storage limits per user, compatability and feature issues i.e. complex Spreadsheets. Then theres the integration with in house systems, contacts with CRM for example, single sign on issues, security is a big one – the Authority will have an obligation to maintain archives of mail for legal reasons – I’m sure google will assist with this, but some data needs to be in the pockets of the owner, the owner should not have to visit ‘the bank’ to get data (they may say no, or be closed). And would you really want to be in the situation where you should take legal action for say ‘data loss’ against the organisation that stores all your data!

    My Oopinion, you can make your in house data and applications available on the web just like Google for very little money, with the added security of keeping control of your own data, with in house backups, contingency strategies etc. You are always responsible for your own data, putting it in the hands of a third party just adds to the risk and recovery time. Cloud computing sounds good, but is not all it’s cracked up to be. My advice, if your serious about your data, don’t give it to someone else to look after.

  20. By:Ted

    Novell needs to spend more time KEEPING existing customers. From my perspective they do not do this at all. That in addition to hearing cuts in support and engineers of the Groupwise teams… I am hearing a clock tick that may have me having to make an alternate decision. Novell – Do you hear my silent scream for help?

    I have done the math on Google APPS/Email vs Groupwise and being an ALA and factoring all hardware and people, it is not a cost savings to switch. BUT if users are concerned with Novell direction as I stated above, it is a cost savings vs going to Exchange.

    • By:Ian Bruce

      Thanks to everyone for all the comments. Let me first say that it was never our intention to disparage City of LA officials when we made the original post. Rather, we had seen several hundred news stories covering the contract award, and many of these contained erroneous information that we wanted to correct. I certainly regret if any offense has been taken. Thanks again to everyone for the thoughtful comments and the support.

      Ian Bruce/Novell

  21. By:Linda

    Several good points made here by posters. Made me think of some questions.
    1. How are they going to archive emails?
    2. What if emails are lost?
    3. Legal issues?
    4. Recently seems that Google has had service interruptions
    for their mail services. DoS?
    5. Is this a high-availibility solution?
    6. How secure is this?
    7. Total cost?

    I guess with any service there are PROs and CONs.

  22. By:Bart

    I am a City of Los Angeles employee and a user of Groupwise 7. I also use Gmail, Google Docs and the like for personal business. I can tell you that Groupwise is completely outdated and with significant limitations. Is Google perfect? No, but it’s time to move to a cloud based solution which brings many advantages, costs aside. Typical for Novell and Microsoft to throw up the security scare, it’s a great fallback when all else fails. Let me see….we can use the web for billions of dollars of stock transactions (think Wallstreet) but it’s not secure enough for City email? Puhhhhlease, get real people.

  23. By:Boyd Webb

    Several of these posts, along with Novell’s response are tragic and more than a little hilarious. Having managed and used Groupwise and Google Apps, I can say that they are both great products, but for different reasons.

    Groupwise, like Netware is a mature and stable product that serves some business driven interests well. If Groupwise still works for you… then you don’t have compelling reason to entertain a cloud based service like Google Apps. That point shouldn’t be a problem, but it apparently is for those who have designated themselves as the gate-keepers for the status quo.

    Google Apps is a maturing cloud based service that is reasonably stable and secure, offering basic features, and tremendous collaborative potential. The economical cloud based service is a great fit for some enterprise driven interests. The benefits of Software as a Service, in the cloud are significant for some entities and problematic for other entities.

    Novell, and other self appointed defenders of the status quo need to get off the soapbox and look at where they are in relation to where the world is rapidly moving. We aren’t playing a game of follow the leader anymore. Web 2.0 and low cost services in the cloud are quickly making traditional email services less relevant, PERIOD!

    I’m not surprised with Novell’s reaction to losing a large enterprise client. It’s sad, but entirely predictable. Rather than innovating to meet changing requirements and expectations, Novell’s reaction is always “Do it my way, or you’re stupid!”

    I guess this explains why Novell and Microsoft continue to lose market share to companies like Google.

  24. By:Tommy

    Question for Bart, the employee of the City of Los Angeles. What are the significant limitations of GroupWise that you’re referring to? Chances are you’re not as knowledgeable as you think you are. A great part of an end user’s perception about a system is based on how well it’s run, kept up to date, what features are enabled, etc. I also use Gmail and Google Apps, and I find their apps far less appealing. Maybe you should have consulted with your IT department more often rather than settling for mediocrity.

  25. By:Kevin

    The lack of ActiveSync support at this late date is very troubling. This graph shows the prevalence of the iPhone in the US market:

    All of GroupWise’s major competitors (Exchange, gmail, and Notes) had ActiveSync by March of this year. It is mid-December and Novell’s “Gradenko” solution still hasn’t entered public beta. Plus, in opting for a single all-in-one synchronization gateway, Novell gives the appearance of throwing all of their programming needs at one hapless programmer.

    Looking for a new mail server? In the current environment GroupWise without ActiveSync isn’t an attractive offering. Why buy it if it can’t support half of the mobile devices in use? Clearly this is a huge deficiency in the product and Novell either doesn’t recognize it or can’t address it in a timely manner. This is especially true when you consider that Novell’s agreement’s with Microsoft should have positioned them to become one of the earliest adopters of this technology.

    We like GroupWise, but 2009 seems poised to become the year the iPhone killed GroupWise. I certainly hope that development will be given a higher priority on things that matter in the near future.

  26. By:Holger

    -We like GroupWise, but 2009 seems poised to become the year the iPhone killed GroupWise. I certainly hope that development will be given a higher priority on things that matter in the near future.-
    yes, it seemes that smartphones killed Groupwise alread


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