Gwava makes Linux move

SALT LAKE CITY – Montreal-based software vendor Gwava announced at this year’s Novell BrainShare user conference that it is porting its e-mail surveillance solution for Novell’s GroupWise collaboration platform over to Linux.

The release of Gwava for Linux comes on the heels of Friday’s announcement at the Cebit trade show in Hannover, Germany, that Novell is releasing GroupWise 6.5 for Linux. The move is part of the Waltham, Mass.-based vendor’s overall strategy to port all of its services over to Linux.

According to Gwava, its solution provides virus protection, spam prevention, content and bandwidth control, archiving and auditing specifically for GroupWise. Traditional file scanning won’t work for GroupWise because the platform encrypts all messages and stores them in an encrypted database, the firm said.

Richard Bliss, Gwava’s Orem, Utah-based vice-president of marketing, told IT World Canada that to address this issue, the Gwava solution “sits right in the (GroupWise) system to scan for spam and viruses. It watches the e-mail go back and forth,” and, based on rules set by the administrator, blocks messages that might have suspicious attachments or that are flagged as spam.

Tom Poitras, head of Gwava’s sales in Canada, added that Gwava’s antispam capabilities are based on heuristics and Bayesian technology. “It intelligently looks for a combination of key words or patterns and rates each [one] with a relative score,” Poitras explained.

For example, the appearance of the word “Viagra” in an e-mail is not enough to block it. Gwava assigns a certain number of points “based on the type of HTML and whether there is a ‘buy now’ or an ‘unsubscribe’ link in the e-mail,” among other criteria; if the number of points crosses the threshold set by the administrator, the e-mail is blocked as spam, he said.

The City of St. Louis originally picked up Gwava a couple of years ago as a content filtering solution for e-mail. Jerry Raske, network systems services administrator for the city, said that over a recent 25-day period, the city’s employees received 1.1 million e-mail messages.

“Between Novell Real-time blacklists (RTB),” a list of known spammer sources that administrators can subscribe to, “and Gwava, we blocked approximately 800,000 of them….Before implementing Gwava, we had users who were reporting 50 junk e-mails a day. The same users are now getting three to four a day.”

Out of all those messages, the city discovered only one confirmed false positive, which had the word “terrorism” in the subject line — it was an e-mail reporting bio-terrorism figures to the city’s health division. “The end user knew that he was supposed to get the message. We looked at the logs and discovered that the e-mail had been blocked because of subject line content filtering.”

The city has looked at archiving messages flagged as junk rather than just dumping them altogether, but has found that too overwhelming, Raske said.

Peter van Nooten, president of Lan-Comm Consulting in Toronto, which peddles Gwava products, said that from a customer perspective, the real headache is spam rather than viruses. “Spam is what the customers see. It’s such a big deal and a hassle that some are reluctant to use e-mail,” he said. “Some customers want to change their e-mail addresses just to get a way from it.”

But implementing Gwava saved his customers the hassle of doing that. “It cuts back on the amount of mail and lets them pick up the legitimate [messages] — and it’s so transparent that they don’t even notice” Gwava doing the dirty work within GroupWise, he said.

Nevertheless, van Nooten emphasized that educating users not to provide their e-mail addresses on Web site forms or open messages that look like spam is a huge part of junk e-mail prevention.

Gwava also said it hopes its newly-ported solution, coupled with GroupWise for Linux, will help position Novell’s collaboration platform as a cost-effective alternative to Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes. Bliss said he expects Linux users, who have in the past been “underserved by not having a strong enterprise-level secure e-mail product,” to now jump on GroupWise as the collaboration product of choice. “People care about cost and security, but Linux users have just not been used to this.” Gwava for Linux will give users of the open source platform the same levels of security that they currently have on Windows and NetWare, he said.

The Gwava/GroupWise combination will provide added reassurance to enterprises that do not use Linux but are looking to adopt it, Bliss predicted. While cost savings might be important, it’s not the new adopter’s greatest concern.

“The Wall Street executive doesn’t want an e-mail system to be free. If it’s free, that means there will be headaches, there will be no one to bail me out, and possibly no company next year to support me because I didn’t pay them for their product.” By porting its collaboration platform to Linux, Novell has “given permission to the business community to look at stepping into Linux” and will further reinforce the message that “GroupWise has not died.”

Van Nooten said that for now, the Gwava for Linux offering “personally won’t make much of a difference. But when people start rolling their e-mail out to Linux servers, it’s good to know that we will have something to offer them.”

Although it’s not running on a Linux environment right now, Raske said the City of St. Louis is definitely looking at it as an option. “As more things are available for the Linux platform, it makes it easier to adapt to Linux. Right now some people are hesitant; some are still afraid of open source desktops and they feel more confident with Microsoft because of the name. Novell and its business partners really have a challenge in front of them to win back some market share and gain the confidence of end users.”

Gwava for Linux will be available for US$13 per user, upon the release of GroupWise for Linux on April 15.

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