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Groove to ship next version of collaboration tool

Jul 09, 20043 mins
Collaboration SoftwareEnterprise ApplicationsSmall and Medium Business

Groove Networks next week will ship its revamped and renamed collaboration software with an eye on providing tighter integration with corporate back-end systems and boosting performance.

Groove Virtual Office, previously called Groove Workspace, includes new file-sharing and navigational tools in the client software and new security and auditing capabilities in the Groove server software. The software also is tuned to work in the background more efficiently, improving its performance.

Groove’s software is finally starting to turn the corner and head for the finishing stretch in terms of founder Ray Ozzie’s plan five years ago to create software that would truly allow users to work together with the tools they choose.

“I would describe this software with the word ‘chameleon,’” says Peter O’Kelly, an analyst for the Burton Group. “Some think of it as file sharing or as an asynchronous tool. Some think of it as Web conferencing and sharing documents online or look at it for its offline capabilities. It is all that and more.”

Groove officials say the new features provide more of a “last mile” for connecting workgroups with each other and with back-end systems regardless of the location of either.

“Enterprises have existing processes, and they need to get information into users’ hands and provide access over the WAN and Internet,” says Andrew Mahon, director of strategic marketing for Groove. “We are using Groove for the last mile to connect users to systems.”

Virtual Office 3.0 includes a new Launch Bar, a single location from which to access workspaces, contacts and other activities. The software also has a folder synchronization capability, which adds a Groove button into Windows Explorer and allows uses to share the folders on their hard drives. Users also can right-click on a folder and share it using Groove. Different from Windows file sharing, the Groove tool actually replicates the folder to other users’ hard drives, synchronizes versions and allows offline use.

Groove also has beefed up the alerts feature, allowing users to set more fine-grained controls and a wider number of variables to see when users come online, access workspaces, and work with content.

Another major improvement comes in the Forms technology, which Groove has turned into a robust development environment for creating business process applications linked to back-end systems. Version 3.0 ships with 10 customizable forms templates, and the Web services API has been enhanced.

Those improvements are on the client side; Groove also has added features to its Management Server, adding support for digital certificates generated by third-party PKI systems. Groove also is addressing regulatory issues by adding auditing capabilities that capture workspace activity and data. The Relay Server has been improved with load balancing features that improve throughput.

Groove Virtual Office 3.0 runs on Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 5 or later), Windows, XP, 2000, 98 and ME, and requires Internet Explorer 6.0.

Virtual Office Professional Edition is priced at $179. The Project Edition is $229 and the File Sharing Edition is $69. Enterprise Relay Server is $14,995, while the Enterprise Management Server is $19,995 and the Enterprise Integration Server is $9,995.