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GroupWise: First Internal Ascot Demo…



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June 3, 2010 10:01 pm

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The first week of May, the GroupWise Engineering team demonstrated several pieces of technology that they have begun to work on in preparation for the Ascot release. I admit that some pieces were still very early in the design/prototype phase, but others were well down the implementation path and will be very well received.

Engineering uses these types of milestone demonstrations to make sure we are meeting Product Management’s expectations as well as allow a broader cross-section of individuals the opportunity to comment, critique and provide input.

Here is a list of some of the things that we demonstrated with some of my personal commentary.

Calendaring – Windows Client
– Appointment ‘place’ field updated properly
– Remember most recently used resources
– Auto-select available time
– Busy Search as attendees are added
– Recurrence UI changes

This set of features was just in the design stage. We have a very lengthy discussion and a follow up design meeting to talk about some of the interaction, impact of the changes and to make sure everyone understood final expectations. This particular set of changes/enhancements will be very positive and well received. They are things that have been requested by many many customers. These enhancements still need some additional design work, but the overall direction and intention is very positive.

Calendaring- Multi-user calendar overhaul – Windows Client

We discovered when we introduced multiple personal calendars, that many of our administrative assistance liked the interface so much, that many requested we allow them to put ‘Proxy’ calendars within the same infrastructure. The demo included functioning code that had Proxy calendars mixed in with the rest of your personal calendars with the ability to optionally select which calendar data you aggregate together. It will allow the user to overlay Day, Week, Month data from multiple proxy calendars in a single view. It also allows you multiple levels of calendar folder containment. Tons of flexibility!
VERY COOL!

Share entire folder tree with other users – Windows Client
This is a feature that has been requested for some time. We finally heard you! Now if you have shared folders within shared folders and you share the outer folder, all of the sub-folders will also automatically get shared with the same distribution list and rights. There have been some 3rd-party products that accomplished essentially the same thing – one of them was called Treecast – if I remember right. Now this functionality will be part of GroupWise. This was demo’d with what I would call – public beta ready code. Completely functioning and with several use cases already implemented. Things like what happens if I unshare the entire tree or one folder within the tree. What happens if I move a folder to another place in my folder tree?, etc. etc.

Switching to WebAccess, there were also a lot of very good progress. In addition to the features I will mention here, I will also share that all of these features have already been migrated, along with the majority of the WebAccess code base, to our new architecture – WebAccess servlet talking directly to the POA via SOAP. No GWINTER!

WebAccess – Sort Columns
The number one requested feature for WebAccess is the ability to easily and quickly sort columns within the mailbox or any folder. Sorting by ‘From’, ‘Date’, ‘Subject’, etc. was very slick – just like the FAT client :)

WebAccess – Signatures
One of those nagging issues that the WebAccess client will finally catch up to. We have consolidated signatures between the Windows Client, Linux/Mac Client and the WebAccess Client. Now we only have one set of signatures, all stored in the same place and support for multiple and HTML signatures – exactly like the Windows Client.

WebAccess – Recurring appointments and Simple Forward
Need I say more? Yea baby! Finally, the ability to create recurring appointments from the WebAccess Client. This feature still needs additional work because the recurrence experience in the Windows Client is also changing for Ascot. However, the plumbing is done and the state of this feature is much more certain. I would say this feature is currently in an alpha state.

Although ‘Simple forward’ has nothing to do with recurring appointments, I mention it here because it is catch up work and a feature that is fairly well understood. Now it will simply be available in this client.

WebAccess – Contacts
A few new changes with Contacts and Address Books were also demonstrated. New interaction with a legitimate ‘Address Selector’. Adding Pictures to a Contact and improved Group/Distribution List management capability. These features are simply following the design that currently exists in the Windows Client. I would also say that this set was alpha ready.

WebAccess/Cal Pub Install changes
The last topic worth mentioning was a demonstration of the changes required to the install for WebAccess, Monitor and Calendar Publisher. Required because of the removed dependence upon GWINTER and for several other reasons, the install for these components has changed quite a bit. It will be simpler, less configuration during the install and more predictability with the final outcomes for each platform where these components will be installed. The biggest change….no more objects to create and configure in the directory. No more configuration management handled in multiple places with the susceptibility of getting out of sync. Config files will be the standard.

The engineering teams did a great job and have made significant progress so far on Ascot. Of course, these are not the only features or changes that you can expect, but they are the first installment. Design, project plans, prototypes, reviews, demo’s and finally functioning code. We will begin to share many of these changes in up-coming events around the world. Stay tuned – the next internal engineering milestone demonstration is scheduled for mid-July and I will blog again about the progress and new set of functionality that is taking shape.

Congratulations to Jay Parker and his team. The leads like Kent , Scott , Bob , Kiran , Ron , Juan Pablo, Arnulfo and Nidia – fantastic work!!

Dean

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14 Comments

  1. By:paulvandercruyssen

    Well Dean, I you like what you see, then I just cannot wait to start using the new version!

  2. By:tmstone835

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for making these improvements. As you mentioned, many of these improvements have been requested for quite some time. If only these were implemented years ago I would not have lost so many customers. However, I will take gladly take this progress and be thankful that Novell finally listened to its customers. Keep up the good work.

  3. By:elarsson

    Dean,

    It’s great to hear about so much progress already on Ascott. Of course, the end user features are going to be great, but for the moment I’m very interested in some of these behind the scenes changes you are making with WebAccess.

    Is one of the goals of the WA re-architecture to make the web tier of GW essentially stateless? That is, with no dependence on GWINTER, there’s no “gateway” and hence no need to create a domain on the WebAccess boxes just to contain these objects? No WebAccess domains would mean that scaling up WebAccess no longer means adding a bunch of MTAs to your GW system which now have domain databases that need to be maintained and need to participate in user sync, etc.?

    Is my surmise correct? Essentially WA will now just be a servlet and web server which will get all of its directory info by querying the POAs via SOAP — they will no longer need their own individual replicated GW domain? Scaling up and scaling down WA just means dropping in more web servers, or if they are VMs, cloning or retiring VMs?

    Question: Without GWINTER, where are the functions of the Document Viewer Agent going to be handled? If the answer is to rely on the GWDCA that is now part of POA, I think there are a lot of improvements to the stability of this component that are needed. The last thing people are going to want is WebAccess document conversions taking out their POs.

    Also, good move removing the eDir objects for the WA application. The ConsoleOne interface to this was always clunky and I think that many experienced GW admins just learned to edit the config files directly and ignore the snapins. I do think you will need to provide some GUI interface to the config files to provide an easier to setup alternative, however.

    • By:dlythgoe

      These answers are coming from Kiran – the lead engineer on WebAccess….

      Is one of the goals of the WA re-architecture to make the web tier of GW essentially stateless? That is, with no dependence on GWINTER, there’s no “gateway” and hence no need to create a domain on the WebAccess boxes just to contain these objects? No WebAccess domains would mean that scaling up WebAccess no longer means adding a bunch of MTAs to your GW system which now have domain databases that need to be maintained and need to participate in user sync, etc.?

      We won’t be making the web-tier of GW stateless. In the past, the state information was maintained in the “servlet” (or the Application) and the GWINTER. With this new architecture, we will maintain all the state information in the “servlet”. As there is no GWINTER, there is no need for a domain to serve this gateway (a problem that’s more prominent on NetWare). There is no need to create a domain/MTA for WebAccess needs.

      Is my surmise correct? Essentially WA will now just be a servlet and web server which will get all of its directory info by querying the POAs via SOAP — they will no longer need their own individual replicated GW domain? Scaling up and scaling down WA just means dropping in more web servers, or if they are VMs, cloning or retiring VMs?

      That’s correct. There is no need for any domains to serve WebAccess specific needs. Create as many WebAccess servers as needed.

      Question: Without GWINTER, where are the functions of the Document Viewer Agent going to be handled? If the answer is to rely on the GWDCA that is now part of POA, I think there are a lot of improvements to the stability of this component that are needed. The last thing people are going to want is WebAccess document conversions taking out their POs.

      The WebAccess “servlet” will interface with the GWDVA for document conversions/viewing. We will not overload the POAs with this responsibility.

      Also, good move removing the eDir objects for the WA application. The ConsoleOne interface to this was always clunky and I think that many experienced GW admins just learned to edit the config files directly and ignore the snapins. I do think you will need to provide some GUI interface to the config files to provide an easier to setup alternative, however.

      Yes, after a detailed study on the benefits and drawbacks of the eDir objects and ConsoleOne based administration, we realized the drawbacks were more significant. So, we simplified the architecture to having simple config files. You did mention a good point about providing a GUI interface to the config files, and we have that on our roadmap. Not sure if that would happen for Ascot though :)

      Dean (mostly Kiran)

  4. By:mwerts

    Where is the linux client updates, Novell wants more SLED10/SLED11 but the Linux client is always far behind do this once, similar to the Windows Client, I would like to see here again progress.

    • By:dlythgoe

      I have discussed our plans for the Mac/Linux client in a previous blog:

      https://www.novell.com/communities/node/11289/groupwise-ascot-details

      “- Linux and Mac Client will not be enhanced. We will focus our efforts on providing full feature functionality and rich experience on all platforms through WebAccess.”

      I have received lots of feedback on this decision and Alex and I have discussed options and alternatives. We are critically aware of the impact of our direction on these platforms and are looking for ways to mitigate the concerns. Nothing more to say just yet, but if anything changes, I will certainly blog about it :)

      Dean

      • By:tmstone835

        The way I see it is that GroupWise is under terribly competitive pressure and needs to continue making itself stand out from the crowd. The Mac/Linux client, as flawed as it is, gives GroupWise a significant advantage over others when targeting or keeping customers using mixed operating systems. Putting development resources toward those clients makes sense because of that advantage. I feel that way about the Outlook Connector as well.

        I do not know if you see appreciable GroupWise revenue that can be tied directly to Linux and more so Mac clients but many times just having that perceived advantage makes or breaks the overall deal. Offering features that the competition doesn’t have, welcoming a breadth of customers, and giving high value are not bad things. Consolidating and getting smaller is not a path to success.

        I suppose what concerns me the most is the seeming lack of available resources in the GroupWise development group. While I appreciate the hard work, innovation, and new features coming along, I have a suspicion that your group is always robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to make any progress. Core features appear to completely stagnate or drop out at times because R&D resources are locked at a fixed amount or possibly eroding. Then those stagnant features get less used because they haven’t shown any progress and ergo they get dropped. The pattern then repeats itself. My conclusion with all of this is that Novell needs to realize how great a product GroupWise is and needs to put more investment into GroupWise in order for it to remain viable.

        Keep up the good work but Novell management needs to appreciate the gem that they have in GroupWise.

      • By:lowalcohol

        you sell Open workgroup Suite, it contains Groupwise and SLED … It only seems logical this combo should support all features of Groupwise. Why stop improving the linux client? it has tons of bugs and missing features:

        – busy search: ajust the search beyond 7 days (can’t set this in settings)
        – busy search: see the contents of appontments
        – recurring events (just a datepicker. anyone want to schedule lunch on every weekday?)
        – multi user calendar (also month view)
        – “no password required when logged into edirectory”
        – no properties of items when running SLED11_x64 and LUM users

      • By:dlythgoe

        Thanks for the feedback. We recognize that there is more work to be done to give Linux users a more acceptable experience.

        These items have already been captured.

        Thanks!

        Dean

  5. By:bgibson

    Some things the users here would like to see:

    1. Ability to have an out of office reply sent only internally and not to outside email addresses.
    2. Access archive through Webaccess.
    3. Allow CAC login into Webaccess
    4. Allow some kind of automatic backup of an archive. Many times users do this themselves and end up missing a file and their archive is gone. Exchange does it better with 1 file.
    5. Ability to open backup through web access just like the client.
    6. Address book needs a major overhall
    7. Get off of Console One. It still uses old Java 1.4 and that is end of life.
    8 Ability to control mailbox sizes regardless of what client is being used (pop client, etc.)
    8. If you look at Exchange WebAccess, it looks just like the Outlook client. Groupwise Webaccess is much farther away from looking and functioning like the client.

    Groupwise is pretty solid on the backend minus that fact the gwpoa, gwmta, etc..stop functioning sometimes. I had to write a script to check the processes every 5 minutes and restart if not functioning.

    When users come from an Exchange environment, how do you sell them the Groupwise product? When new users come here, they say well Outlook does this and that. I have to tell them Groupwise doesn’t have the feature..doesn’t make them happy.

    I also wonder why Blackberry Enterprise for Exchange 5 came out some time ago and Groupwise is still on version 4? Also, why does Tumbleweed not support Groupwise? CAC login is essential for a DOD environment.

    • By:bbecken

      I totally agree on:
      1. Ability to have an out of office reply sent only internally and not to outside email addresses.
      2. Access archive through Webaccess.

      4. Allow some kind of automatic backup of an archive. Many times users do this themselves and end up missing a file and their archive is gone. Exchange does it better with 1 file.

      >>> In Jan 2010, I submitted an enhancement request some time back for an IP based GroupWise Archive Agent. You could simply install it on a server and the clients could connect. Centrally managed using the clients caching mode to connect when the internet is available. It could also have management tools to expire/reduce the Archive store and be searchable if you get into a legal discovery. Simply need to point the GroupWise client to the IP Address and be done with. Sounds better than the current best practice of putting your archives on the network volume and implementing disk quotas.

      Novell’s response: Novell had determined that there is insufficient business case to pursue this request.
      Request ID: 16309

      I’d love to see a list of the top 100 GroupWise suggestions for enhancements and be able to vote/prioritize the suggestions. I’d even be ok with limiting the voters to Novell clients with active subscriptions to the GroupWise product line.

    • By:fsaban

      my 5 cents worth…

      1. Vacation rule to reply internal only – I’m pretty sure you can mod your vacation rule so that it only replies to emails where ‘From’ {Does not contain [x]} ‘@’ which should in effect do what you need. I too would like to see this as a simple switch though.

      2. Archive from webaccess – This is one of the things that GWArchive (called MXArchive now) from Messaging Architects will give you. It adds an archive button to webaccess that allows users access to their archive. Does tons of other useful stuff also.

      3. CAC – no comment – not come across this requirement before

      4. Automatic backup – not necessary if you have Messaging Architects MXArchive or GWAVA Retain

      5. With MXArchive and Retain – lost/deleted emails are a thing of the past. No need to open backup location to find emails – it will exist in the archive through the archive button.

      6. Address book – Personally I need the ability to rebuild personal address books in case of disaster. i.e. if the post office is destroyed and I have to bring up one quickly for biz continuity sake. I can rebuild the domain and post office and get the users connected to new/empty mailboxes, but I can’t rebuild the personal address books needed by these users to continue working properly. MXArchive backs up personal address books, so I have a copies, but still a chore for people to get going.

      7. I still have fond memories of the old DOS tool. I would love to see a new management tool that works and can auto-update and warn you of old plugins etc.

      8. Yep – we need to be able to restrict mailbox sizes period – access method shouldn’t matter. We should be able to at least throw a generated nag message at clients that don’t support size limits saying – your mailbox limit is exceeded, any new messages you create will be discarded or a warning that you are approaching the limit.

      9. Personally, I like that the webaccess looks different. It gets the job done – not had any complaints. I have had users getting confused between the outlook client and owa client – on the odd occasion complaining that a feature they had is gone 😉

    • By:dlythgoe

      Great list! Thanks. All of these items have been captured and I appreciate your specific feedback. It is very helpful.

      Dean

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