Woodbine puts bet on Novell

When it came to updating its collaboration system and improving its desktop management, Woodbine Entertainment Group didn’t want to go with any old solution. The provider of racing, gaming and entertainment products needed something that would improve security while increasing productivity and cost savings.

Although the company was using an older version of Novell’s GroupWise, it soon discoverd a lot of its new hires were more experienced with Microsoft Outlook.

“We were getting a lot of flack from upper management that we are hiring all these people and a lot of them don’t know how to use the applications we are using (Novell GroupWise),” said Randy Folmes, director of information services for Woodbine Entertainment Group.

Folmes added Woodbine considered switching to Outlook but after doing a cost analysis, he felt the security concerns around viruses and the cost of Outlook was too much and decided to stick with GroupWise.

However, because of the company’s growth, it had outstripped its licensing limits.

As well, with 600 users, the company was outgrowing its capacity for mail. Woodbine upgraded to GroupWise 6.5 and also moved over to an IBM blade server using SAN storage to increase the company’s disk space from 70 to 150 gigabytes. Woodbine has been using the new version of Groupwise for about a year and has no regrets about sticking with Novell.

“[GroupWise 6.5] is better than Exchange because it is not Microsoft,” said Folmes. “A lot of people who write these viruses have got a problem with Microsoft and they are just a big target. A lot of people are going after them but not a lot of people are going after Groupwise,” he added.

Since GroupWise runs on a SUSE Linux Enterprise server, Folmes said it was an inexpensive operating system to maintain. As well, since GroupWise is running on a blade server, it has given Woodbine one central location for such things as security, calendaring and address book management. It is making collaboration much more than mail, Folmes added, including a valuable scheduling and information sharing tool.

In terms of desktop management, Woodbine is using Novell ZENworks. In the past the task was done manually and the majority of Folmes’ IT staff time was spent on managing desktops and desktop issues.

According to Ross Chevalier, CTO and CIO of Novell Canada, Novell ZENworks has helped Woodbine centralize its desktop management, so IT staff no longer have to visit individual workstations spread out across several of Woodbine’s locations. Instead, they can access them remotely from the head office located at the main racetrack in Rexdale, Ont. Other locations include a racetrack near Guelph, a restaurant in downtown Toronto and a sports bar in Vaughn, Ont.

“[In Canada], we still see too much admininstation of people walking around with CDs or memory sticks trying to update individal workstations on a one-by-one basis. That is not effective,” said Chevalier. “[Woodbine] doesn’t have a huge IT staff, they want a system that is reliable so folks can focus on things that are of critical importance to the business instead of fixing things all the time. By implementing ZENworks, Woodbine can distrubute patches and update from a centralized location.”

Since implementing ZENworks about a year ago, Folmes has seen a 60 per cent reduction in overall operational expenses.

In addition, Folmes said Woodbine has reduced admininstration time by 80 per cent, cut support calls by 70 per cent and eliminated the need to hire expensive consultants.

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