posted 18 May 2005 in Volume 8 Issue 8
Trend tracker: Microsoft and Groove Networks
By Chris Harris-Jones, research director, information management, Ovum
Microsoft’s acquisition of Groove Networks in March was not a big surprise – Microsoft has been a major investor in the company since 2001. Microsoft’s collaboration offering should be bolstered by the acquisition, as the company has struggled to pull together a coherent approach across its multiple technology offerings in this space.
The acquisition should mean that customers will be able to get two fundamentally different types of collaboration software from the same organisation. Microsoft has traditionally focused on the conventional model of centralisation, whereby all content is stored and managed at one centralised point. Where this needs to be distributed, facilities are available for replication, but this is a replication for convenience rather than the principle mode of operation.
Groove Networks, however, operates on a totally decentralised basis, founded on the model of peer-to-peer computing.
All the information for a collaborative project is held remotely on local machines and is replicated when others are attached to the network. This model means that it is very easy for a user to work locally, in either a connected or disconnected mode. If users have been working remotely, all relevant information is synchronised when they reconnect.
The arguments for and against the centralised and decentralised models are as old as the operating models themselves. The obvious argument in favour of the centralised model is that it is much easier to control – at least, it is much easier to give a semblance of control. Consequently, auditors, compliance officers and many managers are much happier with this model. Even if not totally accurate, at least content is held in one place (apart from the information stored on personal drives, of course) and can more easily be accounted for. That said, remote workers (and how many of us these days actually spend every working day in the office?) have a tendency to make copies of files for use outside the office – a practice which is increasingly easy with the ubiquity and rapidly falling cost of memory sticks and the like.
A system like Groove Networks, which incorporates automated synchronisation, can potentially overcome the problems this can cause, by ensuring that all newly changed content is replicated and distributed. While this will not get over the problem of the rogue memory stick, it at least means that remote workers have a simple, automated mechanism for ensuring that their remote devices are kept up to date without having to manually transfer files.
Of course, deploying both centralised and decentralised approaches in tandem can deliver considerable benefits to workers on the move, while contributing to greater overall efficiency.