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Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Grettir Asmundarson

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Posted: 25 Feb 2000

Of all of the beigepapers that I've been assigned to write, this is the one that I've been dreading. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't appreciate GroupWise as the "fully integrated, easy-to-use messaging system that offers a wide range of powerful communication and collaboration capabilities?" that it is. But it's just so darn big that I can't get my hands around it.

For heaven's sake, the GroupWise 5.5 Administration Guide is a 17-volume set. Even the User's Guide is 322 pages long. And it's not just that the technical writers were being long-winded. The product is just so broad and dense that I'm afraid that whatever I write will either be brief and unhelpful or it will turn into a 17-volume set that no one would bother to read unless they had to pass a certification exam. So, which road do I take?

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I chose not to write a 17-volume set.

And now that I've already wasted the better part of two paragraphs without providing a single useful piece of technical information, let's get started.

We Couldn't Get Here From There

Shortly after the Novell/WordPerfect merger, Bob Frankenberg (Novell's interim CEO at the time) wanted to send an e-mail message to everyone in the company. I can't recall the contents of the message he wanted to send. (Probably just the standard post-merger propaganda about "leveraging synergies" and troop-rallying references to "The Greater Novell.") But it didn't really matter what the contents were, because the individuals in the Corporate Communications department had the unenviable task of telling their boss, "You can't get there from here."

That's right. At the most advanced networking company in the world, you couldn't actually send an e-mail message to everyone in the company.

It wasn't for lack of e-mail infrastructure. There was e-mail infrastructure to spare. Novell had grown very large in a very short period of time and, as often happens in start-ups, chaos reined. Without any centralized control/support/clue, every department had set up their own e-mail system, each independent of the others.

For instance, the Finance Department had one system and the Operations Department had another. Neither wanted to give theirs up, so the Finance Department gave everyone in Operations an e-mail account on their system. And the Operations Department gave everyone in Finance an e-mail account on their system.

By one estimate there were as many as 80,000 e-mail accounts at Novell and, needless to say, there were not 80,000 employees working @ Novell at the time. One individual could have fifteen different e-mail accounts on fifteen different systems and the only way they could be sure to get any mass mailing out was to send it to their entire address book on each of the fifteen systems.

The gentleman who was in charge of Novell's internal MHS implementation once made a diagram of the plethora of MHS systems scattered throughout the company. Each MHS system was represented by a single star, the size of the star corresponding to the size of the MHS system. Between each of these stars he had drawn intersecting lines showing how each individual system was connected to the others. I never had a chance to see this infamous "constellation map," but it was so ridiculously convoluted that it has gone down in history in a what's-wrong-with-this-picture sort of way.

We've Come A Long Way

Why am I telling you all of this?

First, to make you feel better. There is something in human nature that delights in hearing about others that are in an even worse predicament than you are.

Second, to give you hope. If we, in all of our post-merger dysfunction, can go from employees snarling, "I'll never use GroupWise," to employees snarling, "GroupWise has been down for 2.3 seconds. When will it be back up?" in less than a year?so can you.

Third, to point out how GroupWise has become an assumed service?like oxygen. A service that is so valuable that we can't do without it. A tool that is so important to our business processes that, the moment it is gone, we start suffocating. And something so ubiquitous and constant that we often take it for granted.

So now that you know where we've been, let's talk about where we are today?

To get the full scoop from Grettir Asmundarsen about how we've implemented GroupWise here at Novell, download (or simply view) the PDF doc "GroupWise@Novell.pdf." Enjoy.

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