GroupWise 7 has an eye on Outlook

Novell says the latest version of GroupWise will look so like Exchange that users won't notice the difference - not even if they migrate again through the Hula Project

Novell took the wraps off GroupWise 7, the latest version of its proprietary mail and collaboration server, on Friday.

Interoperability is being promoted high on the agenda, as Novell seeks to attract Exchange users — particularly those still on Exchange 5.5 and NT 4, according to Ed Anderson, vice-president of global product marketing for Linux and open source services.

With that migration in mind, a lot of the changes and additions to GroupWise 7 are intended to make it look and behave more like Outlook and Exchange.

One major job was to support the Outlook client against the GroupWise backend, said Anderson. "Our standard was that an Outlook client user should not be able to distinguish between the back-end, and we think we got pretty close," Anderson told ZDNet UK.

The purpose, he said, is to support customers who use Outlook for whatever reasons. "Also, customers looking at migration to GroupWise might want to do it in stages," he added.

Plus, there are more political reasons. "In the past we might have had a strong GroupWise account but then a new CIO would come in with Outlook experience and that caused big disruption in our accounts. We can now let them continue using Outlook in a GroupWise environment and they won't know the difference. It's a tactical issue," said Anderson.

Novell is promoting GroupWise 7 with a $49-per-seat (£27-per-seat) licence (though the final version will not be available until the autumn) and a free version of SuSE Enterprise Server.

"One barrier to users buying GroupWise has been the additional servers required for the migration," said Anderson. "We'll just give one to you." Migration of users from Exchange to GroupWise has been "sparse and sporadic" in the past, admitted Anderson, though he believes that the upcoming version is coming at the right time to make a difference. "We do think the market is absolutely prime for this to happen now," he said. "There are many Exchange users still on Exchange 5.5 and Windows NT and they have to make a decision."

Responding to recent concerns over long term support for GroupWise , Anderson reiterated that Novell is committed to support for the next ten years. But in parallel to GroupWise development, Novell is also pushing the Hula Project to create an open source collaboration server.

"Our long term plan as we look at GroupWise and Hula is to have the technologies very liberally crossing between those two so that GroupWise customers get a smooth migration and eventually end up with a pure open source offering," Anderson said.