Groove modifies P2P underpinnings of its products

Bowing to customer demand for centralized systems, Groove Networks Inc. is modifying the peer-to-peer approach the company took when it launched its collaboration software a year ago.

The Beverly, Mass.-based company plans to announce Monday that it has three centralized servers in the works: its Enterprise Integration Server and Relay Server, which are in beta testing, and the Enterprise Management Server, which will enter beta testing in January.

Groove launched its first product a year ago yesterday (see story), touting its peer-to-peer capabilities, which let users share documents, chats and applications in real time while storing the data on their hard drives and with little reliance on a central server. Now, Groove is moving some of its user identification, authentication and version control functions over to a centrally managed system.

"Our Fortune 1,000 customers consider Groove to be in the same class of software as other enterprise systems and, as a result, have plans to integrate the platform with existing business and technology infrastructures," Ray Ozzie, CEO of Groove, said in an announcement. "Our enterprise-class servers give IT managers centralized control of application integration, a single point of integration for connecting Groove with back-end and Web-based systems and centralized services for the deployment, monitoring and licensing of Groove software and tools."

"I think we've been seeing them downplay [peer-to-peer] for the last few months," said Robert Mahowald, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "They believe in peer-to-peer. It is just not the engine pulling them in the market. Various technical problems have [also] led them to move more in the direction of moderating the peer-to-peer environment."

Mahowald said Groove lacked five key features in its first release that are necessary to work in a corporate environment: Lightweight Directory Access Protocol integration; local (on the premises of the customer) location of the relay server; a Bot server; better integration with Microsoft Corp.'s Office software; and document version control.

"It's bringing peer-to-peer into the enterprise in a way that the enterprise is used to doing things," said Dana Gardner, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. "The thing here is to use decentralized where it works best and use centrally managed [functions] where they work best.

"You don't want to run into the problem of having runaway 'versionitis,' " he said, referring to the possibility that each user could be working on a different version of a document on his PC, without the edits or additions from the other users with access to the document.

Groove on Monday is also expected to announce a license deal with Dell Computer Corp. under which the PC manufacturer will buy 10,000 software licenses to run on its internal networks.

Two weeks ago, Groove and Microsoft announced a financing deal in which the software maker paid $51 million for a minority stake in the company (see story).

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