Novell Cool Solutions

ActiveSync Update



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September 15, 2009 11:30 pm

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I can finally share a lot more information about our support for ActiveSync in our replacement for GroupWise Mobile Server. To get you up to date with a lot of the direction I urge you to first read my prior blogs on the subject:

GroupWise and Nokia Intellisync

GroupWise Mobility Update

Replacement for GroupWise Mobile Server, and more

To summarize, we are creating a new technology, separate from GroupWise and Teaming, which will synchronize data between any of the connected applications. Once of the connectors will be an ActiveSync connector, to support ActiveSync enabled devices. Another connector will be for GroupWise.

These blogs set the scene for where we are today, so let me now tell you about release plans, feature set and supported devices. Let’s start with feature set – ActiveSync is a protocol and data access method and, as such, we are limited to things that we can support to whatever ActiveSync supports. At a high level that is synchronization of Email, Calendar items and Contacts. ActiveSync does not support tasks, so GroupWise tasks will not sync to devices out of the box – though there is a way that you can make them, which we will cover at a later date.

Synchronization Features

2-way email sync

Delete items

Reply

Forward

Smart forward

Attachment support

Mark (un)read

Sync content of all folders

Sync calendars

Accept and decline appointments

Send appointments

Contact sync

Support all contact fields

Sync contact photos

Search system address book

Kill pill

This list is not exhaustive, and there are even more features coming in subsequent releases around some of the additional things that ActiveSync supports.

The technology works by syncing data from the device to the central cache server, which in turn syncs it to the other connected applications. These applications then do whatever needs to be done with that data – and vice versa.

Schedule

Our first milestone is to roll this out internally. We are working on defining the schedule for that with our IS&T department. I get lots of mail from people internally who volunteer themselves to be beta testers, so I know that it is as well anticipated internally as it is in our customer base.

We will then release the product to a closed beta group. We anticipate doing this in October, which is right around the corner. If you have not already applied to be a beta site do so at www.novell.com/beta. We normally take about 50 sites into a closed beta group and I can tell you that we have far more applicants than that already – so don’t be too upset if you don’t get in.

Whilst the closed beta program is running we also plan to release a feature limited technical preview publically. It will likely synchronize contacts and the contents of calendars only. The reason it is limited is that we need more bake time on some of the other features – we do not want to release unstable code to the broader public, but feel very confident that contacts and calendar sync will be robust. The goal is to release the technical preview in November

We will then refresh the closed beta program with the final features, around administration and bug fixes, though schedule will be determined by the amount and types of issues that get reported.

Finally, we expect to release the connector in late January and then move our engineers onto the next revision, as well as GroupWise 8 SP2 and GroupWise “Windermere”

Entitlements

We do not plan to change the entitlement for mobility support much from what it is today – in fact we will make it a little more broad. The goal is that anyone on GroupWise and/or Teaming maintenance will be entitled to four products – the sync engine from “Gradenko”, the Teaming connector when it ships, the GroupWise connector and the ActiveSync connector. This is similar to the entitlement today, where anyone on GroupWise maintenance gets GMS.

Supported devices

I am getting questions on what devices are supported, and the short answer is “any device that supports ActiveSync”. Our solution means that we are not installing a client on the device, we will leverage what is on there already, as long as the communications protocol is ActiveSync. To spell out a couple of the devices and/or manufacturers that ship, or have shipped native ActiveSync devices or platforms:

iPhone/iTouch

Windows Mobile devices (which many vendors ship on their devices) – Like HTC, Samsung etc. Microsoft have a site for WMS devices

Palm Pre and Palm Treo

Nokia E and N series devices

There is also an ActiveSync licensee site

In addition to this list there are ActiveSync client downloads available for many other devices, though Novell will not provide those clients. These include Android, UIQ and Blackberry. If your phone is not listed it likely resides somewhere under one of the categories above, so check your docs for specific mention of either ActiveSync or Exchange support.

GroupWise Mobile Server

Once the ActiveSync solution ships what happens with the current GMS? We have support from Nokia for GMS until the end of 2010, though that support is limited to critical bug fixes and security updates only – it does not include new device support. The time between the ActiveSync connector shipping and GMS support ending is about a year, and we expect that most of our customers are going to be able to move over in that year. We do not plan on a migration tool at this point, as the master data repository is the GroupWise store – we do no need to migrate the data at all. It is likely going to be necessary to touch some of the devices, to remove the old Intellisync software and replace it with the factory ActiveSync software – application management is not part of the ActiveSync protocol, so this will either need to be done manually, or with some form of Mobile Device Management software.

That’s it for now, though we will continue to keep you up to date as things progress

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26 Comments

  1. By:sjt4423

    Will there be support for multiple address book syncs? Most of our users would like to sync system AB as well as some personal AB’s…

    Thanks,
    Steve

    • By:aevans

      Out of the gate it will support the syncing of all address books, expect the system address book. Users will not be able to select which books as the devices seem to do a good job of segmenting them. You will also be able to search the system address book from the device.

      In future revisions we will add the ability for users to select which books to sync, including the system address book

  2. By:wadrian

    is Groupwise 7 Supported?

    thanks,

    Adrian

  3. By:jokerz440

    We are still running our Groupwise system on Netware and probably will until next summer (2010).

    • By:aevans

      The sync engine and connectors will not run on NetWare, but they can connect to POAs running on NetWare. This will be a Linux and Windows release only, with Linux shipping first. In previous blogs I had said that they would ship together, but we felt better served getting the Linux release out earlier.

  4. By:bluebeagle

    Since ActiveSync is a protocol did you consider adding this to the GWIA? The solution you are pursuing will require another server. True, this will eventually supplant GMS and free up that server but not many will be able to turn GMS off and install this product in its place. I’m curious to know what obstacles led you down this path.

    Novell got caught flat-footed on ActiveSync. This should have been out the door by now. I’m not looking forward to another volley of holiday-induced iPhone gift giving and telling the users we can’t support it.

    Yes, yes, I know. Go third party. We tried it. Didn’t like it.

    • By:blntskul

      Did Novell say somewhere that Activesync Protocol support will require a dedicated server? Maybe they did, but you can run an MTA, POA and GWIA on the same box now if you choose. Maybe that will be the case with this component as well. Even if it does require a dedicated server, you have plenty of free and commercial virtualization options that you should be looking into for this kind of thing anyway.

      I doubt that obstacles have anything to do with this choice. The GWIA has its purpose, and synching to mobile devices isn’t it. With that logic, why not make the MTA, POA and GWIA all the same process too? Different processes for different tasks.

      Novell was caught off guard by Nokia’s public announcement that they were dropping Intellisync, with no forewarning to their partners. They’ve worked pretty quickly to add a complex component to GroupWise. Quality of the deliverable is crucial in this case. If your primary concern is supporting iPhones, the third party option does work. You can go with the hosted option if it’s an interim solution for you. You could also enable POP/SMTP/IMAP for those iPhone users to give them some level of support.

      • By:bluebeagle

        Yes, it requires another server. Yes, we run virtual servers (who doesn’t?). Servers, be they virtual or physical, have overhead and have to be maintained. IMHO, Novell missed an opportunity here to reduce their product’s footprint for the majority of their customers. We need ActiveSync but will never use the additional functionality of this solution.

        Adding ActiveSync protocol support to the GWIA, literally a gateway to the Internet, would have been consistent with the idea of handling Internet communications and not far removed from SOAP, POP, or IMAP support. The GWIA certainly handles more than just SMTP. The MTA and POA, on the other hand, deal primarily with message routing (internal to the system) making them odd choices for implementing Activesync. (The POA duplicates some of the same protocol support, like IMAP, found in the GWIA so your “different processes for different tasks” isn’t always the case.)

        Nokia did what all business do. They made business decisions based on what was good for them, not Novell. It was a questionable decision to outsource such vital functionality and Novell, unfortunately, is paying the price for it now. Hopefully they will avoid making similar mistakes in other areas but what I’m hearing about “India Support” isn’t encouraging.

        Again, as for third party support, we tried it and our users didn’t like it. It was simply not reliable and fell far short of the performance we got and continue to get with our rock solid BES server. Currently, reluctantly, we support iPhones via IMAP. Of course there is no calendar functionality since the protocol doesn’t support it.

      • By:blntskul

        Well, the point of the virtualization question was that you seemed to be concerned with the server you’d have to buy in the interim until you remove GMS. We tend to have plenty of virtual capacity on tap rather than sizing our virtualization platform to match precisely what we have running at the moment. I would think that most people could squeeze an interim solution in without too much trouble.

        Why it requires a separate server and isn’t intergrated with GWIA just isn’t important enough to argue about, or to question Novell’s decision making process. If you have enough clients that need this kind of service that it’s an important issue for you, having a server for it probably won’t prove to be a big deal. I am surprised that they’ve announced that it will require a dedicated server though – taking your word for it on that – I haven’t bothered to verify. It’s fine with me, because every other solution I’ve looked into has that requirement, but still surprising. I would expect it to be in the form of an agent that can run alongside other agents. But again, it doesn’t bother me either way.

        I think that GWIA is the wrong place for ActiveSync. It’s a completely different type of process. It is a gateway, like GWIA is a gateway, but it deserves its own agent. The functionality of what GWIA does and what ActiveSync will do doesn’t overlap enough for a union of the two to make sense. Also, I know that the POA supports SOAP, and we use it, but I wasn’t aware that GWIA supports SOAP. Good to know.

        Nokia did not do what good businesses with parterships do. It announced an end of life of a product to the public at the same time that it announced it to its partners. Nokia dropped the product because it made sense for their bottom line, and Novell certainly wasn’t their key consideration in doing so, but there’s generally some forewarning and planning involved. And the decision of Novell to partner for that solution rather than to develop one was the best decision at the time. The provided their customers with a solution based on the biggest player in that market at no additional cost, which gave immediate benefit. They didn’t charge you extra then pull the rug from beneath you. I’ve seen Novell and other companies criticized for not partnering enough, partnering too much, and in this case, they’re being criticized by some for going the way of Microsoft with Activesync protocol. They made the best decision at the time, and I think they’re making the best decision at this time. Will it be the best thing in three years time – who knows?

        Anyway, there’s certainly no harm in disagreeing with them, but I personally agree with them in this case and in the case of their choice to outsource with Intellisync at the time, and I’m most concerned with them delivering a functional and quality product.

      • By:bluebeagle

        I agree that a separate ActiveSync Agent would also have been a good choice.

    • By:aevans

      If you refer to my previous blogs on this topic you will see that the aim of this product is more than just GroupWise mobility. We are going to have many 3rd party application connectors on this new product (codename Gradenko), ActiveSync being only one of them. Out first release is going to be around Sharepoint, SugarCRM, Salesforce.com and GroupWise, followed by Teaming and ActiveSync, and then SAP. There are also a number of other partners looking to create connectors for Gradenko, creating an entire suite of interconnected applications. The technology is not tied to GroupWise, it is not a GroupWise component and it’s scope is much broader than GroupWise – which is why we did not tie it to GWIA.

      As mentioned, there will be a public technical preview before the holiday period for customers to try – with the full release shipping just after Christmas.

      • By:bluebeagle

        In technology, history has shown, some trends can be ignored longer than others without significant detriment to the product. Activesync is not one of those technologies. gmail, Lotus Notes, Zimbra – all of GroupWise’ major competitors have had native Activesync support since at least March of 2009. Novell STILL has nothing and you seem to not understand just how damaging this is. Take a look at the current Mobile OS distirbution:

        http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_os-ww-monthly-200808-200909

        As I’m sitting here typing this message the new boss walks in and proudly hands me his new iPhone to configure to use with GroupWise. I tell him we can do that but he can’t get his calendar info on it. The look on his face is shock and dismay. It’s been the same story all year long with our users.

      • By:ketter

        Maybe you should at least offer your boss these options:

        http://www.notifycorp.com/products/documentation/nl_iphone_ds.pdf
        http://www.companionlink.com/products/iclink-groupwise.html

        instead of saying you can’t do it. If he doesn’t like those options, it sounds like something will be available next month.

      • By:bluebeagle

        We haven’t looked at CompanionLink but we have looked at NotifyLink. The customers who tried it registered reliability complaints. In either case, you’re suggesting that I spend money to get functionality from a third party that other vendors supply today at no additional cost. We’re currently paying a rather high premium for 1) a third party solution to expose email to 2) another third party solution that can check for viruses. I run 3) a BES server for the crackberries. Now you say I should just happily run 4) another third party solution just for iPhone and activesync support. Seriously, how many of these things do I need?

        Not to be too harsh here but expecting customers to go out and purchase third-party solutions for basic functionality (such as EXPOSURE to an anti-virus scanner) or to support the latest trends in technology is a flawed business model at best. Novell should be lighter on its feet than that and looking for ways to outshine the competition – not failing under the same business models they use.

        And they are failing. Look at the popularity of the iPhone in the US for the past nine months. It occupied as much as 70% of the US market around April ’09!

        http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_os-US-monthly-200808-200909

        Today Novell can’t support 1 out of 2 mobile phones in the US without relying on a fee-based third party solution – and it’s been that way or worse for the past nine months.

      • By:blntskul

        I’m pretty sure that Novell was first to market with a *FREE* mobile sync solution. It was the best decision at the time. They provided us with the most widely used product on the market, with support for the broadest array of mobile devices at the time. Microsoft released Activesync support for Exchange a little later, and it supported fewer devices than did GroupWise through Intellisync. Apple – in traditional fashion – chose to support only the Microsoft solution, with Activsync. Some day I hope to see some of the Apple zealots hold them to the same standard of interoperability as Novell is held to. In any case, Nokia made a surprise announcement that they were dropping Intellisync, which put Novell in a spot. From that time, they’ve responded with a pretty good plan of action, and you should see a product soon. It’s not like they’ve been leading you on for five years with empty promises. This is all a pretty recent occurrence. You still have support for most things through Intellisync to get you through until Activesync support is ready, and for iPhone users, you have third party options, which can be hosted services if that makes things even easier. This isn’t a bad reflection on Novell’s agility or vision, in my opinion.

        So that relates to your #1. For #2, does Microsoft provide free anti-virus for Exchange? I know they’re just releasing their personal virus protection product, but that’s pretty recent. I would think you’d need a third party in either case. For #3, you have to have BES for Exchange too. That’s a Blackberry thing, not a Novell thing. Although, you can use Notify’s product for Blackberries as well, but it’s not as good as BES – but nothing is, really.

        We saw the iPhone wave coming, and decided to address it upfront by being very specific about what we can support, and why. Android – same deal. If you have to, pay for the iPhone support through a third party in the short term. You’ll still spend less than if you switch to Exchange.

  5. By:chapindad

    Question:

    Is this going to allow 3rd parties such as my IDM vendor to be able to drag and drop emails into the IDM solution from Groupwise? This is a big deal for us and would make us a rock solid Groupwise customer if this is the case.

    And as a side, would SyncSort be able to finally be able to do message level restores?

    Thanks

    • By:aevans

      I am struggling to answer your question, as I am not sure what it is you are trying to achieve. This solution is not IDM and does not plug into Novell IDM – but why would it, as IDM doesn’t sync data, and this solution doesn’t sync identities. Potentially there are ways to link the 2, but the data set, being so different, doesn’t map well.

      As for single item restore – probably not in their solution as it is today

      • By:sveld

        I guess the an Gradenco connector could be build that mirrors the activity in the GroupWise mailbox and puts that in a database (like Timestamp/Activitity/…). Mow at any pont in time am event can be rolled back, eg restore a message/appointment/task, also like an ‘undo’ function in GroupWise. Or a backup can be restored from that mailbox (show my mailbox as is was yesterday at 10:00). This mirror of the mailbox could be backed up.

  6. By:acollins1

    Are there any updates on how the beta testing is going? Any news on when it will be ready for prime time?

  7. By:ketter

    Is the technical preview still on schedule for a November release?

  8. By:bluebeagle

    Alex, earlier you said, “we expect to release the connector in late January” but promised an open public beta in December. Are you still on-track for that?

    iPhone market penetration for November was 51.9%. (http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_os-US-monthly-200909-200911). So, unfortunately, while Novell supports a large number of devices most of them are sitting on shelves having been replaced by the iPhone. The holidays are fast approaching and I fear that without ActiveSync support 2009 may become the year the iPhone killed GroupWise – at least around here.

  9. By:ecyoung

    Has there been any [further] discussion regarding potentially adding the Identity Manager for GroupWise Driver as a free entitlement for existing GroupWise customers, at least until GroupWise becomes eDirectory-agnostic?

    • By:sveld

      I’m also still wondering why this isn’t the case. My customers get an AD-Edir connector with their Open Wokgroup Suite, but still no connector for GroupWise… Now iManager is the preferred tool (to be able to enable a user for LUM), but I’ve top tell them to switch back and forward to C1 to get the new user a mailbox.

  10. By:jokerz440

    Just curious if you can give an update on ActiveSync/GW.
    Thank you!! Its tough telling a new president he can not sync his phone.

    JB

  11. By:valveamp300b

    Can you confirm that this definition of “anyone on GroupWise and/or Teaming maintenance will be entitled to four products” includes customers on NOWS maintenance?

    Can you also confirm whether this includes customers on NOWS SBE maintenance?
    – NOWS SBE 2.5 currently includes an entitlement to GMS so it would be logical that the GMS entitlement is replaced with the new Gradenko entitlements.

    Simon

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