Groove Teams With Microsoft for Enterprise Collaboration

Peer-to-peer technology part of HailStorm; rivals are largely in client/server space

Peer-to-peer technology got another boost from Microsoft last week. Groove Networks Inc. in Beverly, Mass., struck a development agreement with Microsoft Corp. as part of the HailStorm project. Starting now, the deal allows Groove users to invite others who are off-line to a collaborative session through Microsoft's instant messaging tool, MSN Messenger.

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Get Together

While Groove is making the biggest waves, there are a number of real-time collaborative tools:

Vendors of Peer-to-Peer Collaborative Tools

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Groove Networks Inc.

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Novient Inc.

Client/Server Vendors

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Parlano Inc.

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Viador Inc.

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Blue Barn Interactive

HailStorm lets Microsoft Windows users open and use numerous applications over the Internet through a single sign-on. HailStorm stores personal information and preferences so that end users can more easily make purchases at eBay or buy tickets on Expedia, for example.

Groove users will eventually be able to use central database information in a Groove session and put new or updated information from the session back into the database, according to Groove spokesman Richard Eckel.

Instead of being strictly peer-to-peer, Groove will allow end users to access their companies' central servers.

Peer-to-peer technology essentially means that users keep all information on their desktops and the information is distributed directly from desktop to desktop, instead of through a server. Groove does this in real time, with multiple applications running on different panes in one window.

Groove lets users create workspaces at the edges of the network, without relying on central administration or centralized servers.

No Need to Replicate Apps

Instead of creating a database application for a few people, end users can start their own Groove sessions to collaborate. That eliminates the need to replicate those applications across the enterprise when only a small percentage of employees need to access them, according to Robert Mahowald, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. This reduces network traffic and frees up some storage space on the server.

However, much of a company's critical information is in centralized databases, not at the edges of the network where Groove resides. Customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other line-of-business software is, at present, outside of Groove's domain.

Soon, that will change, Eckel said. Groove will be able to take data from an ERP application in a central database, for example, and put new information resulting from a collaborative Groove session back on the central server. Other users could then access that data.

Several real-time collaborative applications already do this inside the enterprise, using the client/server model.

Companies like Viador Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., Parlano Inc. in Chicago and Blue Barn Interactive in New York sell portal applications that search databases and pull out data for small group collaborative applications, as well as post companywide intranet applications. Lotus Development Corp.'s Sametime and QuickPlace do this as well.

Viador can cull structured and unstructured data, and Parlano can work with partners or customers outside the company firewall. There are also other peer-to-peer competitors that offer similar services.

Novient Inc. in Atlanta has been working on collaborative software delivered through an application service provider model since 1997, according to an IDC report released earlier this month, and it's built for large enterprise use.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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