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Concentrico (TM) Reach (TM) for NDS ®, GroupWise ® Edition

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench
By Kendell Sorensen

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Posted: 14 Mar 2001
 

Current Version: GroupWise 5.5 EP

In 1999, Concentrico was asked by a client to solve a business problem: allow everyone in the office to share address book data while providing these benefits:

  • It should allow browse/read/write access control down to a specific property, not just a specific address book.
  • The back-end should be inexpensive, robust, scalable, and easy to maintain.
  • The GroupWise Name Completion feature should be able to use it.
  • Integrated faxing solutions such as Tobit FaxWare and Cheyenne FaxServe should be able to access the shared address book data.
  • Third-party GroupWise applications should be able to access the shared address book data through the GroupWise APIs.
  • It should be extensible, allowing custom fields that are searchable and easy to use.
  • It should synchronize with other "address lists" in use in the company, such as vendor, partner, and customer lists in the accounting system.

GroupWise 5.5 was still fairly new, and Concentrico thought that the new Shared Address Book feature would fit the bill. Indeed, it had proven a useful feature in many other cases. But it failed to meet more than one of the requirements listed above. In addition, access control was limited to entire address books, and there was no easy feasible way to keep shared address book data in-synch with other lists in the company.

Concentrico went shopping for a third-party solution. In every instance, potential solutions failed seriously in one or more of the requirements.

So Concentrico turned to its seasoned developers and tasked them to craft a solution that fit the bill. And the result is Concentrico Reach for NDS. Reach for NDS was designed by GroupWise users to solve real business problems.

This article will introduce you to Reach for NDS and its features.

Reach solves the problem

Concentrico's Reach™ for NDS, GroupWise Edition provides a compelling mix of solutions to the problems surrounding the need for a central address book.

The diagram below shows the general architecture of a sample Reach for NDS system.

Figure 1 : Reach for NDS Architecture

Reach for NDS shared address books and address book entries are stored in NDS. This data is made available to GroupWise users through the Reach for NDS client, which is a MAPI Address Book Service Provider that snaps in to the GroupWise Address Book. Through this client, the Reach for NDS shared address book data is available to the GroupWise client, as well as third party applications that work with GroupWise.

Note also that because the Reach for NDS data is stored in NDS, DirXML can be used to synchronize Reach data with other directories like GoldMine.

The Reach Database

NDS -- the perfect Directory Database

Let's begin by looking at how Reach stores its data. Concentrico chose Novell's eDirectory v8.5 as a data store for shared address book data. The reasons for doing so are outlined below:

Robust, Scalable, and Inexpensive

Versions of Novell Directory Services after, and including, version 8.0 are based on the same database technology used by GroupWise since version 4.0 (when it was owned by WordPerfect). This database is called FLAIM, and is a very mature database. It is self-healing, very scalable, and has been ported to every important business-computing platform that exists today.

Because NDS can be partitioned, portions of the NDS database can be stored on different servers, allowing administrators to place NDS data close to the users who use it. Furthermore, multiple copies or replicas of these partitions can exist, and are automatically synchronized. This scheme allows all shared address book data to be stored in its own partition, and replicas of that partition can be placed in strategic places on the network, including on servers in remote offices. This allows all users to have local access to shared address book data, ensuring performance and keeping network "chatter" to a minimum. This capability is sure to be a big benefit to any organization with multiple locations.

Of course, NDS is very scalable in size. At BrainShare in 1999, Novell demonstrated just how scalable the NDS database is by populating an NDS tree with a billion objects. The indexing capabilities of FLAIM allow instantaneous searches in heavily populated trees. Every organization that uses GroupWise will find this suitable to their needs.

Another big benefit of using NDS is its price. While client/server SQL databases can often incur a cost-per-user of several hundred dollars, NDS users are currently licensed at a mere $2/seat. What's more, since NDS runs on multiple platforms, branch offices that may not have their own NetWare server can deploy NDS on a Windows 2000 or Windows NT machine for this very reasonable price.

The Power of Novell's DirXML®

With eDirectory v8.5, Novell is bundling its DirXML technology that allows application "shims" or "drivers" to be developed that keep NDS data synchronized with other directories.

For instance, an application driver can be developed that will keep Goldmine data synchronized with NDS data. Since Reach address book entries are stored in NDS, these entries can be synchronized with Goldmine entries. Sales organizations that use Goldmine's powerful contact management features (which are not accessible in the GroupWise Address Book) can continue to do so, and will also find that contact information for entries in Goldmine's database are also accessible to GroupWise.

That way, if they try to mail a message from within GroupWise, they can simply type a user's name and GroupWise will find them (just like with personal address books). Furthermore, if a user modifies an entry's phone number while in the GroupWise Address Book, that modification will automatically be replicated to Goldmine's database, making the change available to all Goldmine users as well.

Concentrico is currently developing a series of DirXML drivers for other contact management products, including Goldmine, Act!, Siebel, and others.

The Reach Administrator

Reach for NDS is currently administered with a standalone tool. Snap-ins for NWAdmin and ConsoleOne are under development.

The Reach Administrator is used by system admins to create shared address books and to moderate access to them. Users are associated with shared address books and granted rights to view them through NDS ACL conventions used for other NDS objects.

Figure 2 : Reach for NDS Administrator

Users are associated with shared address books either directly or through membership in an NDS group that is associated with a shared address book. NDS groups provide a very powerful way to manage access to shared address books, their entries, and entry properties. Because of this, the Reach Administrator also provides a simple interface through which the system administrator can create and manage NDS groups.

The Reach Administrator is also used to create additional "display tabs" and custom information fields that are visible on those display tabs in Address Book Entry information screens. When custom fields are created, the NDS schema is automatically extended. In addition, the admin can link a custom field with any of the pre-defined MAPI fields, or custom MAPI fields can be created and linked with custom NDS fields.

For instance, an "Additional Information" display tab could be created, and custom fields such as Web Address, Additional E-Mail Address, etc. displayed on it. The display tab and its custom fields would be available to all users who can see the address book (subject, of course, to NDS rights -- as are all Reach fields).

The Reach Client for GroupWise

Reach is designed to store contact data in NDS, and because NDS is an open data store, its data can be accessed by any application developed to manipulate NDS data.

Concentrico's first client application that accesses this NDS data is a MAPI Address Book Provider that is compatible with the GroupWise Address Book client. This MAPI Address Book Provider is added to the "Novell Default Settings" MAPI profile when Reach is installed. When the Address Book client is launched, the Reach AB provider searches the NDS trees that the user is authenticated to for Reach Shared Address Books that the user is configured to view (see the Administration section above).

Figure 3 : Adding the Reach Address Book to the Novell GroupWise MAPI Profile

These address books show up in the GroupWise Address Book client as if they were native GroupWise personal address books. They are fully searchable, just like native GroupWise address books. Furthermore, the column display can be manipulated and customized, just like any other GroupWise address book, without any special steps or configurations.

They look and behave just like native GroupWise address books -- with one big exception: they are completely shared with other GroupWise users.

In the screenshot below, the "Partners" address book is a Reach Shared Address Book. You can tell that it's not a native GroupWise address book by looking at the address book icon in the upper-right corner of the table view. Native GroupWise address books show a blue icon, while non-native GroupWise address books show a green icon. Note also that this address book is part of the "name completion search order". Reach shared address books are accessible to the GroupWise client and its APIs just like any native GroupWise address book.

Figure 4 : A Reach Shared Address Book

Reach for NDS allows administrators to define unlimited additional information "tabs" and fields. These tabs appear on the information screen for an Address Book entry. This allows organizations to customize how data about Address Book entries is entered.

For instance, you might want to store the URL of a company's web site or an additional e-mail address, etc. Custom fields are added to the NDS schema and mapped to a MAPI field.

The GroupWise Address Book application will only allow sorting on certain "base" or pre-defined MAPI fields. The administrator is free to associate new or existing NDS fields with base MAPI fields so that custom data fields in use by an organization can be used for sorting and searching in the Address Book application. Or, the administrator can associate a custom NDS field with a custom MAPI field, if desired.

Reach for NDS uses NDS "access control lists" or ACL's to control who has access to Reach data, and what kind of access they have. Sensitive contact information can be exposed only to those with the authority to see it. Other data can be configured as "viewable" by all people and "editable" by only a few people.

The screenshot below shows the "Information" screen of a Reach address book entry:

Figure 5 : The Information Screen for an Address Book Entry

The "Correspondence?" button allows you to search your GroupWise mailbox for all e-mail sent to and from the person in the entry, as well as documents that mention the person. It's a handy way to quickly access correspondence with individuals in your address book.

Conclusions

Reach for NDS, GroupWise Edition is a powerful, yet simple, shared address book product that fills a need for GroupWise users at a very reasonable price. There is no learning curve for end users because a Reach shared address book looks and works exactly like a native GroupWise personal address book.

Reach for NDS solves the business requirements listed at the beginning of this article in the following ways:

  • It should allow browse/read/write access control down to a specific property, not just a specific address book.
  • Because Reach for NDS uses NDS to store its data, NDS Access Control Lists allow limitations down to specific attributes.

  • The back-end should be inexpensive, robust, scalable, and easy to maintain.
  • Novell's NDS is very inexpensive, robust, and scalable. And it is virtually maintenance-free.

  • The GroupWise Name Completion feature should be able to use it.
  • Because the Reach for NDS GroupWise client is a MAPI Address Book Service Provider, GroupWise uses its address book data just like any native GroupWise address book. This allows GroupWise to use Reach data in name completion controls.

  • Integrated faxing solutions such as Tobit FaxWare and Cheyenne FaxServe are able to access the shared address book data.
  • FaxWare and FaxServe both can use GroupWise to launch faxes, and will use the GW Address Books (including Reach).

  • Third-party GroupWise applications should be able to access the shared address book data through the GroupWise APIs.
  • The GW API's can access any GW Address Book, including third-party books like Reach.

  • It should be extensible, allowing custom fields that are searchable and easy to use.
  • Reach allows administrators to create custom fields and custom displays. These custom fields can be linked to "base MAPI properties" which are searchable in the GW Address Book application.

  • It should synchronize with other "address lists" in use in the company, such as vendor, partner, and customer lists in the accounting system.
  • Because Reach for NDS stores its data in NDS, the DirXML event system allows Reach data to be synchronized with nearly every other database system through the creation of a simple "shim" or driver.

Visit http://www.Concentrico.net to learn more about this innovative product and to download a 30-day trial copy.


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