Tech Talk 2 by Ken Baker
Feel the Pulse – Part Two
Novell Pulse: Real-time, Ad hoc Collaboration in the Cloud
As a real-time collaboration platform that combines communication, document authoring and social messaging tools with robust security and management capabilities, Novell Pulse occupies a unique niche. As the first enterprise-class solution of its kind, Novell Pulse aims to boost enterprise productivity and innovation by making it easier to communicate digitally, generate ideas and share information. With planned availability in mid-2010, this in-the-cloud collaboration solution will come in two different flavors: free and enterprise.
The free version of Novell Pulse makes it easy for you and your users to try it out to see what it can do for you. (See Figure 1.) You can easily move from the free version to the enterprise version if you decide you need more groups or more storage space, or if you want to take advantage of more robust management features. The enterprise version of Novell Pulse is especially helpful if you want to implement the solution for your entire organization. With its ability to leverage directory services and identity-based policies, the enterprise version makes it easy for you to manage the solution throughout your organization to strengthen security and support the way people work.
It's easy to move from the free to the enterprise version of Novell Pulse, so you can adopt and implement the solution at your own pace and according to your unique needs. Another aspect of the solution that not only facilitates implementation, but distinguishes it from most other cloud applications, is its flexibility. Cloud applications typically come in two varieties. The first variety, exemplified by applications like Facebook, takes a very open approach, where there is no notion of organization and individual users have fairly complete control over who can see their profiles and content. The second variety, including applications like salesforce.com, features a more closed, multi-tenant approach, where viewing and accessing content is confined within a specific organization.
Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, Novell Pulse offers a more flexible, multi-instance design. This allows you to have some aspects of your implementation very open, while others can be completely locked down. For example, you might decide to let users expose their blogs publicly, while keeping contact information or other sensitive content hidden. You can make Novell Pulse as closed or as open as you want, and deploy it within any scope that is appropriate. (See Figure 2.) This flexibility also lets you move beyond your own organizational boundaries—exchanging information and ideas more easily with partners or customers, while giving you the ability to limit access to certain areas as needed. You can even leverage Novell Pulse to securely and easily co-author and co-edit documents with those outside your organization. (See Feel the Pulse—Part One.)
The flexible nature of Novell Pulse also makes life easier for your users and IT team. It provides a whole host of self-service management capabilities, while allowing IT to exert as much management influence as they want. For example, users don’t have to wait for IT involvement to create their own profiles and groups and start taking advantage of the solution's real-time collaboration benefits.
To create a group in Novell Pulse, users simply click on the Add People and Groups button on its navigation pane, and then click Add Group. From within this interface they can easily control the “who, what and how” of the group. They can define the group's basic attributes, such as its name, a description of its purpose, its leadership and member contact information. They can decide if they want the group to be open for the whole world to see, open just within their organization or limited to a select (“private”) group of invited individuals. The solution provides even more granular settings to help you define who can follow or contribute to a group, who can add followers, who can e-mail the group and more. (See Figure 3.)
If you want greater control over who in your organization can create groups and how they can create them, the enterprise version of Novell Pulse will give you this level of control through its ability to leverage your directory and identity-based policies. First of all, you can easily provision users and groups (along with their sign-on and permissions) by leveraging your directory servers and enterprise identity and access management systems. This allows you to use your established security and management processes to keep your content safe.
You can also set the visibility and access levels for messages and documents within a group, such as "open" (anyone can see it), "organization" (only people in same company), or "private" (only invited parties). Using roles and identity-based policies, you can limit the creation of groups that extend beyond the organization. You can control how a participant joins a group or requests entry into one. You can even restrict who can follow whom at the individual or role level.
To safeguard your identity infrastructure, Novell Pulse offers a variety of ways to manage provisioning and sign-on. First, it can make calls from the cloud to your directory environment using Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to dynamically provision users when they sign on. For added security, Novell Pulse can leverage the Novell Cloud Security Service for accessing your directory service.
Subscribe to Connection Magazine
The Cloud Security Service essentially annexes a segment of a public cloud to hold your enterprise identity information securely behind your firewall, while still making it safely available to Novell Pulse. See Cloud Security Service article. As another option, Novell Pulse provides a separate provisioning utility that you can run on-premise to periodically query the directory service and push updates out to the Novell Pulse cloud.
Even though Novell Pulse leverages enterprise-proven Novell security and compliance capabilities, some organizations might still be wary of relying on an in-the-cloud service to enable real-time interactions among their users and colleagues. To address this need, Novell plans to develop an on-premise version of Novell Pulse. Once again, since Novell Pulse is a multi-instance implementation, this would give you the flexibility to run the product both on-premise and in the cloud. So if you had highly sensitive content or interactions that you simply didn’t want hosted in the cloud, you could host them internally with the on-premise version, while allowing other interactions to be hosted by instances of Novell Pulse in the cloud.
Another exciting aspect of Novell Pulse is that it’s a federated technology. This is a significant game changer in the cloud space. Consumers view many popular cloud applications as the product of one virtual uber-company that owns everything, doesn’t share with others and leaves users entirely dependent on them. That type of scenario creates a lot of inherent risk.
As a federated technology, Novell Pulse will be able to interact and share content with other cloud services. In fact, at Enterprise 2.0 in San Francisco this past November, Novell demonstrated the ability to federate with Google Wave. This interoperability, the result of a technical collaboration between Novell and Google, leverages the Wave Federation Protocol (WFP).
WFP enables messages to be shared in real time, character-for-character, as they are being created or edited between two or more separate systems. Similar to e-mail addressing, you can place addresses from different domains on a message, allowing the message to automatically become live for sharing and co-editing among users of the different systems. As a result, Novell Pulse and Google Wave will be able to operate in tandem so that users of the two platforms can work together in real time, each using their tool of choice.
In addition to its federation capabilities, Novell Pulse will be able to interact in real time with other cloud services, traditional collaboration solutions and mobile devices using a new data synchronization technology being developed by Novell. This synchronization technology will enable Novell Pulse users to easily receive and act upon messages and content updates from multiple sources—all from within the Novell Pulse interface.
Whether you’re looking to the cloud as a means to enhance user interactions or lower IT expense, Novell Pulse makes it easier to communicate digitally, generate ideas and share information—within your organization or well beyond it. Novell Pulse leverages the extensive experience Novell has in developing enterprise collaboration and communication tools, as well as its industry leadership in identity and security management solutions. As a key component of the Novell collaboration strategy and open collaboration architecture, Novell Pulse can be deployed stand-alone or in concert with the broader Novell product portfolio, including the Novell GroupWise and Novell Teaming collaboration solutions.
To learn more about the day-to-day benefits that users can derive from Novell Pulse, read the first article in this two-part series. (See Feel the Pulse—Part One.) To learn more about Novell Pulse, or to be notified of its availability, visit Novell Pulse.