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The Groove

The Groove.http://www.groove.net

Livelink is a system that promotes collaboration between individuals where all the data is stored on a central server. An alternative approach, taken by Groove networks is to store data on each participant's own personal computer and to synchronize their workspaces. There are some major advantages in this new approach.

The first is that a lot of what passes for data is only work in progress and if this is stored on a central server, then this server will need ever increasing amounts of disk space for storing ever more temporary files and other information. Historically, it has proved very difficult to get people to purge their personal unwanted files and easier and cheaper to just purchase more disks.

The second disadvantage is that all the participants in a Livelink environment can only work on the Pfizer network. This eliminates others outside the firewall who may wish to participate in a collaborative project. Yes, it is always possible to send e-mail but e-mail has its own limitations.

Groove is a software application and a platform that sets up a secure peer to peer network that can operate within and across the firewall. An individual may set up a workspace for a project and invite others to join. The workspace provides a number of standard tools, like file management, calendar, discussions, forms and so on, including the ability to browse the web together and to review documents. Other tools can be downloaded, and developers are invited to develop new tools using the API. Whenever two or more participants are on line together, then the system automatically synchronizes their workspaces. It is also possible to work in the workspace off-line and all the changes made off-line will be automatically synchronized at the next connection to the Internet. Each person using the software can have a number of identities which can be targeted for different collaboration groups, and each person can work in a number of different workspaces. Each person can also have a number of computers, so the software has been used by individuals to transfer data between machines. At the end of a period of collaboration on a project, it might be appropriate to move the final key products to the company system, like Livelink. Then the workspace is deleted, removing all the temporary files that are no longer required.

This new method of working and sharing on-line seems to be a natural progression from the large centralized systems that we have been used to so far. Perhaps the technology is still a little in advance of the capabilities of the infrastructure as the system would obviously work best when most people have an 'always on' Internet connection and the voice communication features would work best on a faster connection that the starboard 56K modem. Nevertheless, I like the idea and feel that it has a big future.

Groove is produced by Ray Ozzie. His web log at http://www.ozzie.net/blog/ is an interesting read on the subjects of communications and disconnected computing.

Set up and manage work groups who have access to some very useful collaboration tools.

Richard Blazek


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