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How Dave Does It: Extending GroupWise

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench
By Dave Muldoon

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Posted: 24 Nov 2004
 

So your GroupWise system is running great. No major (or minor) problems...

Each morning you start your day with your feet up, a newspaper in hand and a hot cup of coffee on your desk. This is your typical day because you've got GroupWise ?tuned? perfectly. The system is highly-available, it's consolidated, completely monitored, trending data is gathered daily, a full disaster recovery solution is in place, web access is running smoothly and remote client access works even better. And that's just the backend of the system! Based on your finely crafted user training documents, your end users are extremely skilled when it comes to GroupWise. They utilize every available feature "out of the box". They've mastered document management, routing slips, resource management, proxy access, calendaring, rules and so on.

So each day you spend your morning reading the newspaper, and as you finish the last of your coffee you wonder to yourself aloud "What else can I do with GroupWise?"? sound familiar?

Okay, maybe your day doesn't go as smoothly as I've theorized. Maybe the reality of it is that you're dealing with problems and projects, managing other network and server components aside from GroupWise and on occasion you're asked questions pertaining to GroupWise. These questions often range from "Why can't GroupWise do this?", "How come GroupWise can't do that?" to "How do I do this in GroupWise?". If this situation sounds more realistic compared to reading the newspaper every morning, than you may want to be aware of some options that allow you to take GroupWise beyond what came in the little Red and White box. There are various third-party products on the market and many ways to enhance the GroupWise system. These products and solutions enable you to extend the GroupWise system to meet the needs of its users and answer those questions with confidence.

My next series of articles will cover the concepts within this article in more detail. For now it's important to briefly understand some of what can be accomplished with GroupWise.

Extending GroupWise - Mailbox Access

As you may be aware Novell provides gateways that allow integration to the GroupWise message store through core protocols. These protocols are POP3, SMTP and IMAP4. As you may or may not be aware, many applications can utilize these protocols to access the GroupWise gateway. Understanding the gateway functionality allows administrators to open up additional access methods for end-users. These access methods may not always provide the same functionality as the GroupWise client application. They do, however, allow for any email client capable of communicating via one of these protocols to have access to GroupWise. For example, if someone really wanted to utilize the Outlook client against the GroupWise system they could. Although, not all of the features and function of either GroupWise and/or Outlook would be available. This same concept can also be applied to any non-windows PC clients such as MAC and Linux (although Linux is being enhanced rapidly for full GroupWise functionality).

These gateways also allow for third party applications to integrate with GroupWise on a more global scale. Some examples of this are; problem management systems, contact management systems, voicemail integration, and fax capabilities. Typically, these solutions require purchasing third-party software solutions and integrating with the GroupWise gateway via SMTP or IMAP4. Once complete, this integration is seamless to the end-users. They may then see a fax in their GroupWise mailbox, or tracking information on problem or updated contact information in a contact management solution and are never required to login to a third-party system.

Mailbox Compliance

Certain industries have been targeted by legislation when it comes to email communications concerning customer data, personal data, and transaction information. This comes through legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, SEC 17a-4, NASD 3010, 3110, NYSE 342, 440 and HIPPA to name a few. Some of these regulations now require an organization to encrypt, retain, monitor and provide data to the regulatory agencies based upon request.

Encryption - A few of the aforementioned pieces of legislation require email traffic containing customer or corporate sensitive data to be encrypted. Although GroupWise does come with S/MIME capabilities built into the GroupWise Internet Agent, this is a less than simple deployment. Aside from which the solution requires the recipient to have an S/MIME compatible client, which is not always a guarantee. Given these two items alone your organization may or may not deem an S/MIME configuration viable (especially when taking into account the regulations that your organization is to comply with). Often this is simply based on the fact that it cannot guarantee that all mail will be functional when it reaches the recipient. If S/MIME isn't a valid solution you may need to look into third party-party solutions.

Retention - Some of these regulations also require email traffic containing customer, patient, or corporate sensitive data to be retained for a set amount of time. In some regulations this data must also be stored in specific format to prove the data integrity. These requirements can range from simple software date/time stamping, to extracting the data and storing it in another system. Some requirements go even further specifying storing the data in another format such as XML or PDF. And finally, there are even some regulations that go to extremes and specify specific storage methods and media.

It is wise for both the GroupWise administrator and the organization, as a whole, to have a thorough understanding of the regulation(s) that mandate how email is to be treated within their industry. Along with having this understanding it is important to know what third-party products are available before making a decision on any specific solution. This is because, no matter which regulation applies, these solutions tend to range widely in functionality and ease of use. Aside from the fact that they are typically expensive.

Wireless/Mobile Access

I'm sure you're aware that the "out of the box" GroupWise application comes with the ability to provide a WebAccess gateway and user interface to the GroupWise mailbox. This interface is in simplest terms a GroupWise client installed on a web server which allows simultaneous users to access their GroupWise account. This is a truly great solution, as anywhere a user can get on the Internet, users can access their mailbox. At one time this was considered almost a "luxurious benefit" by the users but with the availability of cellular technology and smart-phone devices, users have clamored for more... "Give me my email, whenever and wherever I am. Deliver it right to my cell phone."

The first thing to understand about wireless access integration with GroupWise is the fact that there are two data delivery methods to the wireless device; push and pull. Push methods typically have a third-party server agent that has access rights to the GroupWise mailbox. This server agent scans the specific user mailboxes for new items at set intervals such as every 5 minutes. Upon finding new items the server agent sends the message to the mobile device via SMS. The agent also tracks the GroupWise item in such a manner that it knows that the item has been sent to the device to avoid sending the entire mailbox each time it scans through it.

The pull method used for GroupWise integration can be done in two different ways. Generally, the pull method requires a client to be installed on the mobile device. This client then "wakes up" based upon a set interval and connects to a third-party server agent over the Internet, requesting new items. Of course, this method also requires the server agent to have access to the user's mailbox to scan for new items similar to the way the push method works. The second method is directly related to GroupWise Web Access. This allows the user to utilize the wireless device to login to WebAccess. WebAccess then recognizes the connection device and displays a client interface that is more appropriate for the device. This includes smaller frames and reduced graphics to reduce the amount of data to be downloaded.

Both of these connection methods have their advantages and disadvantages. From my experience, people tend to like the functionality of a push technology solution as opposed to having a pull solution. This is mainly based on what I'll call "convenience time". This is where a user may have 2 minutes while waiting to for a train, cashier or other limited time situation. Having the data already on the device (even in it's simplest form) makes the solution more useable. Of course, this is not to say that a solution where the user can spend 5 minutes in traffic or while sitting on the train to pull down what's new in their account is something unusable. In fact, pull solutions too, can be downright awesome, along with providing the cursory benefit to the organization of increased productivity of the user.

Another very important item to understand when choosing a wireless solution is the device types supported by the application. Some solutions only support a handful of devices while others support almost every device on the market and then there are some that only support a single device. In many instances this alone is a key factor that makes the decision for the organization. Having at least a minimal understanding of the options and vendors available will of course allow for a more educated decision.

Administration

Of course, GroupWise administration has also had built-in extensibility "out of the box". This mainly comes with the older API Gateway still functioning today (NOTE: The API Gateway requires NWAdmin for administration, it cannot be managed by ConsoleOne). Given the fact that this gateway still remains functional in GroupWise 5x and 6x, third-party vendors have built applications around it that can be very useful. Some of these vendors have the ability and expertise in-house to customize applications based on your needs, while others may have "off the shelf" applications that require this gateway for functionality.

GroupWise administrators may also want to consider customizing GroupWise the client application. This can be accomplished through third-party applications and developer tools. Concepts for customizing the GroupWise client application generally fall into two categories; adding features to the client or removing features from the client depending on the needs of the organization. There are also free solutions provided by vendors and hobbyists accessible on the Internet that can be deployed to the client desktop.

There are also APIs that allow for developed applications to become more closely integrated with the GroupWise environment. Examples of this are the Trusted API and the Retention Date API. In simplest terms, both of these APIs grant a certain level of rights or ?trust? to the application written to integrate with GroupWise. This trust allows the application to have rights to perform specific functions. These functions can range widely. There are products currently available such as anti-virus products, wireless email polling or mail retention solutions. It is my belief that these solutions are just the beginning of the newest trend to create more of an ?open? programming environment for vendors and developers to increase the capabilities of GroupWise through customization.

Summary

My next series of articles will cover the concepts discussed here in more detail. Providing more in-depth descriptions and information about ways to extend the GroupWise system.

As you can see there are many ways to extend and customize the GroupWise system. The start of this process generally starts with thinking outside the traditional or pre-packaged usage of GroupWise. Ideas and requests for additional functionality can come from just about anywhere. Understanding the potential of Novell GroupWise, and being aware of third party vendors that can integrate with GroupWise, when those ideas come up is a key responsibility of the GroupWise administrator.

A list of vendors and a brief description of services that they provide regarding integration with the GroupWise client, backend or administrative tools can be found at the following link: www.howdavedoesit.com/vendors.htm

more articles in this series:

How Dave Does It book:

If you like what you've read and want to read more of "How Dave Does It" you may want to consider picking up a copy of my book:

Written for both the beginner and the intermediate GroupWise administrator. This book is packed with many short chapters designed to allow you to read through the entire chapter in one sitting.

  • The "Basic GroupWise Administration" section instills the fundamentals of GroupWise skills.
  • Basic skills are built upon in the second section; "Enhanced GroupWise Administration".
  • The third section of the book is a compilation of "How-Tos", providing practical step-by-step processes and procedures that you will be able to utilize within your system.
  • Also contained is a compilation of all of the Cool Solutions Articles written by Dave Muldoon.
  • And hidden way at the end of the book is a little bit of "geeky GroupWise fun", with a set of questions designed to test your knowledge of GroupWise.


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