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Groove bolsters IT management in p-to-p platform

News  Friday, Feb. 9, 2001 2:11 pm PT   
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Groove bolsters IT management in p-to-p platform

By Ed Scannell and Martin LaMonica
GROOVE NETWORKS, THE peer-to-peer startup founded by Lotus Notes inventor Ray Ozzie, is developing a central console for its upcoming platform that will allow enterprises to manage a range of IT-related services.

The Beverly, Mass.-based company will not be making any formal announcements at this week's The O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference in San Francisco, but Ozzie said that Groove is building in capabilities that address IT's concerns about security and control.

"We can't expect enterprises to support our product without this [management] software," Ozzie said. "In deference to the enterprises, we can't expect them to just introduce chaos into their organizations. We have to be respectful of the way enterprises evaluate and deploy software," Ozzie said.

Expected to be included in the first release of the product by the end of the first quarter, the management services software subsystem will allow administrators to set security policies for their organizations, administer software licenses to individual users, and manipulate names within a directory.

Groove will sell the management services software on a per-seat basis, according to Ozzie, charging users depending on how many services they want or need. Groove will offer other centralized services, such as its Relay Service for synchronizing Groove client software, installation, and component hosting, over its Web site and charge on a pay-per-usage basis.

Ozzie said the management software should gives companies a balance between autonomy for end-users on the edge of the network and control to IT administrators.

Ultimately, the console will link into SNMP-based network management platforms such as Tivoli's, where in some cases it can serve as a complement

"There are aspects to our management console that are very specific to our product that you can't do in central environment systems. Most of these central systems are conceptualized around asset management," Ozzie said. Groove's management console is built around usage, with tools for managing end-users and security policies, he said.

Groove will sell management services on an "N-dollar, per seat basis," according to Ozzie, depending on the number services they want or need.

After the product's first release to early customers in the first quarter of this year, a general availability version will ship around mid-year.

By the end of the year, Groove will start rolling out enhancements to the commercial client.

The company will start testing an application framework for offering capabilities such as document management, workflow, polling, and project management, officials said. They will also start building connectors, or tighter integration based on XML to enterprise applications, such as ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management), and supply-chain management.

Ed Scannell is an InfoWorld editor at large. Martin LaMonica is an InfoWorld executive news editor.

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Groove delivers on groupware's promise

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Groove delivers on groupware's promise
By Steve Jefferson , InfoWorld Test Center

Groove Preview Edition


Groove has the potential to create an enterprise-class groupware environment without servers. Increasing users' ability to work together, regardless of their location, means shortened development times and increased productivity.


Groove's use of peer-to-peer technology eliminates the need for expensive, redundant servers typically required to support groupware platforms. One Groove client installed on all participants' PCs is all you will need to jump into the fray.


+ Eliminates need for servers
+ Allows several users to work in the same environment simultaneously
+ Boasts an impressive list of tools


- Fails to address the possibility of corporate firewalls that could hamper communication
- Requires much more advanced tools to edit corporate documents and files


Pricing not yet available


32-bit Windows; Linux coming soon


Not yet available

Groove Networks, Beverly, Mass.; (978) 720-2000; www.groovenetworks.com

Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie launches exciting peer-to-peer networking program that may finally revolutionize the way employees work together

AN ALBATROSS the size of the Grand Canyon must have dropped from Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie's neck this week. Years ago, Ozzie envisioned a killer application that would allow employees to share files and use group-based software so that several people could work on the same project at the same time.

Although Notes is nothing to sneeze at, the client server model on which it is based has hampered it from becoming the killer application that revolutionizes the way we work together. Likewise, the file sharing concept behind Napster is laudable, but the tool has little to offer big business in its present state.

This week, it finally seems that Ozzie's Groove Networks is onto something potentially as big as the Web browser itself.

Simply called Groove, this new application allows users to share files, create group workspaces, and communicate over the Net to get work done faster. After a quick look, we're happy to report that this is an exciting product with enormous potential.

Not only does it represent the first viable use of peer-to-peer networking for the corporate world, but Groove could also be the long-awaited answer to the groupware idea that got a lot of attention but never really took off.

Like Napster, Groove is a peer-to-peer application that resides on a local machine. (A preview version can be downloaded at www.groove.net.) Users, after creating an account, can then either choose to work from a predefined workspace or to create a new one by deciding which member to invite and which tools to use. This is a unique product, stripping the baggage from groupware, and employing the brilliance of peer-to-peer.

Some of the tools include a white board, a chat utility, a file sharing utility, picture viewer, a contact manager, and even a couple of games, tic-tac-toe and chess. Participants can opt to navigate together or work on their own.

For example, Joe can put up a Word document for everyone in his company to see. Mary can then open it -- provided she has Word installed on her machine -- cut the portion of the text she wants to work on, and then paste it in Notepad so that her co-workers can view and edit it . Once done, Henry, who has quietly been playing tic-tac-toe by himself, can paste the new section as soon as Mary notifies him that she is done with her task in the process.

Also available is the Groove Developer's Kit (GDK), which allows developers to create, for example, a much more robust word processor that allows group editing of Word files in their native format.

As is to be expected in an early release, we had a bit of trouble. First, we could not get it installed on a number of Windows-based machines supposedly supported by Groove, and we could not find out the reasons for this before press time. We did get it successfully installed on two Windows 2000 Server machines on the same LAN and were able to use all of the tools between the two. We tried unsuccessfully to connect to another machine running Groove via the Internet. We suspect a firewall may have prevented the connection.

The most significant bug we found was that Groove allowed more than one person to have the same username. This caused untold frustration when we realized we were asking someone in NY to join our workspace when we thought we were inviting another computer residing on our network.

Also the instant messaging tool is a little clunky, so we had to use AOL Instant Messenger instead. The file-sharing tool allows entire directories to be shared, but only if you drag and drop them. If you use the "browse" function, you must select the files one by one.

Despite the glitches, we have already found ways Groove would be useful to the Test Center -- not bad for a beta product. The ramifications of widespread adoption of Groove for the way enterprises conduct business could be enormous. We believe it will deliver on the promise shown in Napster and Notes.

Related articles

Interview with Groove's Ray Ozzie

In the peer-to-peer groove

Former Notes guru gets back in the Groove

Steve Jefferson (steve_jefferson@infoworld.com) is a senior editor in the Test Center.

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In the peer-to-peer groove

By Ed Scannell and Ted Smalley Bowen
THE POSSIBILITIES of peer-to-peer (p-to-p) computing hit home with this week's splashy announcement of a p-to-p platform from Groove Networks, but IT executives and observers said the technology faces an uphill battle with corporate users.

Many observers said that they were impressed with the p-to-p platform and development tools that Ray Ozzie, Groove Networks founder and Lotus Notes creator, demonstrated. But they think Groove or any other small p-to-p company has multiple barriers to hop over, including distribution, security, technical support, and the slightly tarnished image p-to-p technology has received thanks to the legal actions taken against Napster and Freenet.

Ozzie may have to do the same sort of extended missionary work among corporate users with Groove that he had to do a decade ago with Notes to make people fully understand the technology's benefits.

Peer-to-peer systems in which end-users' machines communicate directly over a network are not new. Technologies such as IBM's Token Ring network and a variety of different LAN technologies have all been characterized as p-to-p. But many of these efforts were neither financially nor technically successful.

Groove, however, enables PCs to act as a legitimate server to other PCs, such that it can serve as a development platform on which others can build applications.

Although many desktop users would love some of the freedom p-to-p might give them, their IT managers may see it as a license to access software that would never make the list of standardized software products.

Ozzie contends that Groove addresses corporate concerns.

"We need to be there in a way that respects IT's needs," Ozzie said. For business deployment, Groove Networks has packaged a version of the software that can be centrally administered and managed. The central administration allows IT managers "to throttle the nature of how Groove is deployed in their organization," he said.

To link into corporate networks, Groove supports offline work, bandwidth optimization, and firewall transparency. Whatever foothold p-to-p computing gains in corporate settings will be "totally integrated" with the server-based model, Ozzie said.

Some of IT's apprehension over p-to-p's image may be softened by Ozzie's reputation coupled with the strong endorsements from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Intel Chairman Andy Grove.

Still, Groove may encounter difficulties simply because of the company's size and resources.

"The problem I have with Groove is not the technology, which is clever, but with how they are going to distribute and support it," said Jeff Tarter, editor of The Soft Letter, an industry newsletter based in Watertown, Mass. Tarter and several other observers believe Groove will need the support of a larger network of distributors and support organizations than the ones it announced this week.

Microsoft's and Intel's endorsements of the technology could serve to validate p-to-p once and for all. But the duopoly's adoption would not be out of the goodness of their hearts. Some unabashedly say both need to adopt it to keep their products and strategies relevant during the next few years.

"It is a distributed world that is emerging with tons of different things you can use to hook up to [networks], everything from cell phones to MP3 players. Suddenly Microsoft and even Intel are not that relevant any more," said Malcolm Maclachlan, a media e-commerce analyst at IDC, in Mountain View, Calif.

Another not so altruistic reason for endorsing something such as Groove's technology is that given its fat-client requirements Microsoft and Intel could pull some of the focus away from server-based strategies sanctioned by their major competitors and push it toward a client-focused strategy.

"This model resonates well down the halls of Microsoft and Intel, where anything that justifies more processing power and software at the client will be met with open arms," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Technology, in Seattle.

Related articles

Interview with Groove's Ray Ozzie

Review: Groove delivers on groupware's promise

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Ray Ozzie: The creator of Lotus Notes and CEO of Groove Networks touts the benefits of peer-to-peer computing

By Michael Vizard and Ted Smalley Bowen
AS THE DRIVING force behind the creation of Lotus Notes, Ray Ozzie has become an industry icon. Now Ozzie is back as the CEO of Groove Networks, a company launched last week that promises to bring the benefits of peer-to-peer computing to corporate environments. In an interview with InfoWorld Editor in Chief Michael Vizard and Editor at Large Ted Smalley Bowen, Ozzie talks about the impact that peer-to-peer computing -- technology that is most frequently associated with Web sites such as Napster -- will have on IT organizations.

InfoWorld: How will corporate customers actually make use of peer-to-peer technology applications such as Groove Net?

Ozzie: In the b-to-c [business-to-consumer] space, there's definitely interest. There's definitely a strong uptake in a certain set of customers -- either in marketing or [those] having a relationship with a small group of people who have a natural affinity to one another. As for [intracompany] ad hoc workgroups, I don't know if there's interest because we haven't actually been talking to customers in that realm. But to be as blunt as I can, I don't believe that Lotus or Microsoft is going to leave holes in their product line [that allow us to target the market] for internal collaboration. We're focusing essentially on external collaboration in terms of customers or supply chain applications.

InfoWorld: Are you worried about competing with Microsoft or Lotus in the external collaboration space further down the road?

Ozzie: My challenge is to make our platform relevant as soon as possible. I'm going to use every resource at my disposal and every bit of experience that I have to do that. Microsoft will be using every resource at their disposal to either treat this as friend or foe, depending on how it suits them.

InfoWorld: What's the distribution plan for Groove? Is the client free?

Ozzie: There is, and will be, a free version of the client. Part of our challenge is to become a relevant thing on most people's desktops as quickly as possible. We've also identified two versions of the product that ... have substantial value to the individual or to the enterprise [and] that will represent a valid, reasonable purchase that we aren't going to have to twist somebody's arm to buy.

InfoWorld: Can you identify those value points?

Ozzie: If you start to be a heavy user of the product and you're dealing with lots of relationships or lots of projects, you'll want features that bring activity in those things up to your consciousness more readily. For instance, when something happens in this tool, put a notifier on my bottom line, put it up on the screen, [or] send me e-mail. We can also [provide a version with] much better Microsoft Office integration than [in the standard version]. On the enterprise side, there's enterprise systems management: If I'm an enterprise IT guy and I build a directory infrastructure, I don't want people making up names in Groove and starting to use new names to identify each other -- I want to deploy my naming infrastructure. I want to make sure that I control what tools they can use in these clients. [For this reason, Groove has] the ability to centrally manage distributed clients. And then there are certain services that we provide, that essentially mean we'll be selling service-level agreements to companies that are interested in them.

InfoWorld: What role will handheld devices play in the architecture?

Ozzie: It depends on how you conceptualize the future of phones and PDAs and [other handheld devices]. I am a skeptic in terms of increasing the level of functionality of what we refer to as a phone -- I just use the phone to call people. So I'm not really focusing on that as a platform for Groove. I'm really big on things like Blackberry pagers; I think they're great devices. But I actually think the real interesting stuff is [a device that falls] somewhere between the laptop and the PDA, maybe something in the form of a tablet with a foldout keyboard. That is a perfect device for Groove.

InfoWorld: Will peer-to-peer computing usurp existing architectures, or will it become integrated with other, more server-based technologies?

Ozzie: It's totally integrated. I think that there is an expectation among consumers that there's an increasing level of commodity function that they should get for free. [So] if you really want to have something that is sustainable, it has to have solution capability -- solutions where a third party can connect to the other [relevant] things in the enterprise. Transaction systems, sales force automation systems, [and] document management systems are the enterprise systems that have relevance and have data. We have a client-side technology, but it's supposed to integrate with the server side, not just exist.

InfoWorld: How will this be accomplished?

Ozzie: There are two basic mechanisms. The first one is just to use [available] APIs. Our programming environment is Windows, so it's very easy to take any COM-compliant language and tie it in. The second one is that we have this toolkit, called a Knowbot toolkit, that lets you essentially create a bot that has a certain level of function and runs on a server. Individuals just invite the bot in, just like it's another person. The goal of this bot is to suck information from the server, put it into this knowledge repository, and make it available for people to query.

InfoWorld: At the core of Groove Networks is an XML object store that was developed by your team. Is there any standards work going on this area?

Ozzie: I've never seen anybody, in the whole database business, standardize how bits should be stored on disk and so forth. That's how Oracle and Sybase and Microsoft compete. Our goal is to make sure that we've factored our product in the right way so that we can be aligned with standards efforts as they emerge.

InfoWorld: Is there any connection between Groove and Java?

Ozzie: We don't have an integrated JVM [Java Virtual Machine]. You can build Groove applications in J++, but you can't build them in Sun Java, because in order to do that [we would have to include] a JVM. [Users can also] embed the Internet Explorer component and write Java within that.

InfoWorld: How flexible is the Groove environment?

Ozzie: Unlike any other product I've worked on, the Groove client is actually nothing more than a component framework that's offered up to a developer. So you can develop a completely different UI [user interface] that looks nothing like what we've got. We've even experimented with what would it be like to take some of the controls and move them out to hardware on a tablet device, as opposed to being in software on the client. And if someone wanted to take that client functionality and move it into a different client, it would be easy to do.

InfoWorld: What are the intellectual property issues associated with Groove?

Ozzie: We're shipping an information sharing [technology]. Can it be used for bad? Absolutely. ... I'm not trying to thumb my nose at intellectual property holders -- my whole business rests on intellectual property, [and] if my source code is out there, it damages me just like it damages an artist or a publisher. I respect intellectual property, but I'm not going to make Groove so that it can't share my source code.

InfoWorld: What's the next big thing you are waiting to see happen?

Ozzie: Somebody's going to hack the OS of TiVo devices so that you can do peer-to-peer sharing of TiVo drives. Once you do that, anybody could record [a television] show, and then anybody else could watch it. [I don't know] why that hasn't happened yet.

Michael Vizard is editor in chief at InfoWorld. Ted Smalley Bowen is an InfoWorld editor at large.

Related articles

In the peer-to-peer groove

Review: Groove delivers on groupware's promise

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