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Groove to Roll Out New Software

Peer-to-peer (P2P) giant Groove Networks Inc. of Beverly, Mass., says its new version (2.0) of its collaboration and IM software package will include integration with Microsoft Office applications, new project and meeting management toolsets, and the introduction of customer-hosted management and system integration capabilities.

The package, which will be released next Monday, includes "significant enhancements" and new features to both client and server-side software, officials said.

Groove's collaboration system lets businesses communicate internally, as well as with external customers, partners and suppliers via tools like IM, text-based chat sessions, threaded discussions and live voice over the Internet. Content like files, pictures and even contact lists can be shared across the platform as well. Groove also uses "joint activity tools" like co-browsing, PowerPoint presentation walkthroughs and group calendaring.

Version 2.0 improvements to the client side include integration with Microsoft Outlook, which can help users organize multiple-person discussion threads that start as an e-mail exchange. Andrew Mahon, Grove senior director of product marketing, thinks this "E-Mail On-Ramp" feature is one of the best ones in the new software.

"Groove creates a shared space, scours the e-mail and takes the discussion thread that has occurred in the e-mail, and turns it into a discussion thread in Groove," he said in an interview. "It takes any of the attachments that were in the e-mails and puts them in a Files Tool, and scours the `To:' and `CC:' fields with the e-mail addresses" to possibly include them in the Groove thread.

Other new client-side features include real-time editing of Microsoft Word documents and real-time viewing of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, while a new Project Management Toolset helps manage projects and meetings. A Forms Tool creates custom tools to suit specific tasks or processes, and a new Document Review Tool assists with multi-member reviews of documents.

In addition, Groove users now have the option of buying a Standard or Professional edition of the Workspace client. The Standard Edition includes a basic set of tools and collaborative features for project and meeting management, and is best for business users who play a strong contributor or participant role in projects and meetings. Standard Edition users also frequently use Microsoft Office to create and review documents, as well as share them with others.

Groove's Workspace Professional Edition, meantime, offers advanced functionality and personal control for more collaborative and more interactive projects and meetings. Professional is for business users who lead, manage and contribute to projects and meetings, and who use the majority of Microsoft Office applications, frequently taking advantage of their more advanced features.

A Preview Edition that lets business users evaluate the Workspace software is also available.

Another big change is in the area of bandwidth usage, Mahon said. Until now, a shared file had to be pushed out to Groove collaborators each time a change was made. So if a 10 megabyte PowerPoint presentation had a change made to it, the entire file had to be re-sent. With Groove 2.0, only the change in the file itself needs to be sent -- not the whole file.

"With the new version of Groove, P2P changes from being a suspicious citizen on a network to being a highest-performing, network-friendly architecture," Mahon said.

One big change from version 1.3 to 2.0 is Groove's move to have its customers host the decentralized collaboration platform. While Groove will continue to offer Hosted Management Services and Hosted Relay Services, the new version of Groove gives customers the option to deploy three enterprise-class servers within their own environments: the Enterprise Management Server, Enterprise Relay Server and Enterprise Integration Server. By going to the on-premises route, customers gain greater control over service distribution and service levels within their own organizations.

Groove's new Enterprise Management Server lets IT administrators use existing policies and network assets to centrally manage Groove deployments. With the server, Groove user identities can be deployed and managed via integration with existing LDAP or Active Directory services, while Groove clients automatically authenticate others within and across network domains. Component policies can also be administered and managed from a single console.

The new Enterprise Relay Server, meantime, gives network administrators greater control of Groove client traffic within their enterprise. Administrators can optimize network resources and quality of service consistent with the needs of their business.

The Enterprise Management Server and Enterprise Relay Server are designed to work together in an enterprise, Mahon said.

The Enterprise Integration Server is a bit of a different animal, in that it is designed for businesses that want to integrate Groove with their existing business systems. The server securely extends centralized systems, data, and functions to authorized users across company boundaries. Developers can create server-based programs known as "bots" to provide members with task-specific support. A Groove bot, for example, can extend the capabilities of an enterprise resource planning system by securely exception notifications to company suppliers when inventories become depleted.

The Groove Enterprise Relay Server is priced at $9995, the Groove Enterprise Management Server is $19,995 and the Groove Enterprise Integration Server is $9995. Groove Enterprise Servers require the Enterprise License Pack.

On the client side, the new Groove Workspace Standard Edition is $49 per user, while a professional Groove Workspace Professional Edition version 2.0 is $99 per user. Companies and organizations with more than 1000 seats will also require an Enterprise License Pack, priced at $49 per user annually with a three-year commitment. Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.