Groove looks to enhance real-time collaboration

Groove Networks Inc. is taking the wraps off integration middleware that lets users securely integrate data from back-end systems with the vendor’s client-based collaboration software.

The new Enterprise Data Bridge provides a bidirectional path to pull data from CRM, ERP and other back-end data stores into Groove Virtual Office. Users can share the data, modify it and update back-end systems with any changes, all from the same interface using customized forms-based Groove Virtual Office applications.

The offering begins to fill in gaps for corporate users, who lacked an easy way to incorporate back-end data into collaboration environments. Users had been clamoring for the links to back-end data, and Groove Virtual Office can be a way to plug end users into business processes.

“The interesting thing is that we knew there were other possibilities and that we could extend Groove into other areas,” says Neville Byford, director of IT strategy for collaboration at Hitachi Data Systems Corp. The company is in the initial stages of rolling out Groove Virtual Office to support basic collaboration for project teams.

For example, he says, when a project is kicked off in a project management system it could trigger the creation of a Groove Virtual Office workspace, invite the needed participants and populate it with data from the project management system.

He says the feedback loop from Groove Virtual Office into back-end systems also is key. “It is the consistency of the data,” Byford says. “We lessen the risk of having multiple views of the same data. And it improves our ability to respond to business situations.”

The Enterprise Data Bridge includes a connector Groove partner Casahl Technology Inc. developed that runs on that vendor’s ecKnowledge application integration software. Casahl is known for its software that deeply integrates data between disparate systems, such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.

The Groove connector and ecKnowledge map back-end data into Groove Virtual Office forms-based applications. It also supports replication of data from Groove Virtual Office into back-end systems. Also part of the Data Bridge is the Groove Enterprise Integration Server, which acts as a peer to Groove Virtual Office clients and the always-available integration point with the Groove connector. The Groove Publisher bot also is part of the Data Bridge package and can push data out to clients.

Finally, the Data Bridge uses the Groove Virtual Office 3.0 collaboration client software, which supports offline data and applications use.

The ecKnowledge software comes with the Groove connector and one from Casahl. Those connectors include Oracle, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.

“We don’t want to replace document repositories and data warehouses,” says Matt Pope, senior product manager for Groove. “Groove is not a long-term data repository. It is a place for sharing, for business process, collaboration and coordination until the job is done. The key thing with the Enterprise Data Bridge is that you can leave existing IT assets such as databases where they are and leverage them for what they are good at, which is transactions and data warehousing.”

The Enterprise Data Bridge costs about US$25,000, including 100 service-access licences for each end user the Groove Publisher bot service supports.

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