Novell to close Vibe Cloud collaboration suite

Its features and functionality will be fused into the on-premise version of the suite over the next 12 to 18 months

Novell has decided to shut down its Web-hosted Vibe Cloud enterprise social collaboration suite, which bombed with customers although the market is hot for competing products.

Vibe Cloud will be taken offline at the end of September, and the plan is to progressively integrate its features and functionality into its on-premise cousin Vibe On Prem over a period of 12 to 18 months.

Announced in late 2009, Vibe Cloud went into beta testing in November of last year, and was released in general availability to customers worldwide in April of this year.

However, the product had weak adoption, and currently has an installed base of less than 50 customers, all of them using the entry-level, free version, so Novell has decided to focus instead on beefing up Vibe On Prem.

The strategy is to pitch Vibe On Prem to existing customers of Novell's GroupWise enterprise messaging and collaboration suite, which has about 30 million end users. Vibe On Prem, formerly called Teaming, will be renamed simply Vibe after Vibe Cloud shuts down.

"We were fragmented in our approach to [enterprise social collaboration] and decided that it would be better to pull those strategies and resources together and try to build out the Vibe technology as one concerted effort," said Bob Flynn, Novell's president and general manager.

"We like the Vibe technology. There's added value in this technology if we can align it properly with our GroupWise customers, so we're looking at this as how we bring it to market in conjunction with Groupwise," Flynn said.

Competition in the cloud and on-premise enterprise social collaboration, productivity and communication market has been heating up in recent years. Key players include Google's Apps and Microsoft's Office 365, as well as competing products from IBM-Lotus, Cisco, VMware, Jive, Socialtext, Yammer and

Some vendors' suites are available only through a cloud model, like Google Apps, while others are pursuing a hybrid approach, like Microsoft with its cloud-based Office 365, which can sync up and interact with on-premise versions of its applications like Exchange, SharePoint and Office. Novell's intention is to pursue the hybrid road by integrating Vibe Cloud functionality into Vibe On Prem.

"It's clear that organizations, as they look at collaboration platforms, are looking to have a hybrid strategy," said Eric Varness, vice president of products and marketing at Novell. That way, the enterprise social software is available via the cloud for remote, mobile employees, and on premise with added security and ability to tie into existing systems, he said.

Enterprise social software attempts to boost employee collaboration by adapting for workplace use social networking and social media features that have become popular in the consumer market through sites like Facebook and Twitter.

These enterprise social suites typically let employees create individual profiles with their contact and expertise information, as well as post messages, share links, comment on others' postings, edit shared documents, and add colleagues as contacts. Profiles usually feature activity streams with automated notifications of actions performed by contacts, such as when they share a link or post a comment.

These suites also usually provide IM chat functionality, discussion forums, blogs and wikis for end users, while IT administrators get management capabilities to establish usage policies and parameters and monitor their compliance.

Some suites have native e-mail and office productivity applications, like Google Apps and Office 365, while other suites don't. It is expected that Google Apps will get a boost in its enterprise social capabilities when the new Google+ social networking site is adapted for workplace use.

Novell still hasn't decided on the specifics of how it's going to deal with Vibe Cloud customers, although it intends to talk to them about moving to Vibe On Prem, which costs $81 per user license plus $20 annually for priority maintenance, or $18 for standard maintenance. However, Vibe On Prem will not have cloud-based collaboration features by the time Vibe Cloud closes.

When Vibe Cloud was announced in late 2009, Novell was an independent company, but it is now part of Attachmate, where Novell recently gained a new management team and was reorganized.

Attachmate's Novell unit only contains Novell's end-user computing products, like Zenworks, GroupWise, File Management Suite, Open Enterprise Server and Vibe

Novell's Suse Linux operating system is being handled by another Attachmate unit specifically focused on it. Meanwhile, Novell's identity management, security and data center administration products like Identity Manager, Cloud Security Service, Sentinel, Cloud Manager and Operations Center will be handled by Attachmate's NetIQ unit.

Flynn, a veteran Attachmate executive who took over as chief of the Novell unit about three months ago, said that Novell end-user computing products like GroupWise and Vibe suffered from a weak sales strategy.

By November, the Novell business unit will have a full sales team in place focused exclusively on its products, particularly GroupWise, Netware and its successor Novell Enterprise Server, and Zenworks, he said.

The Novell products are also getting a boost in engineering resources and staff. A priority for GroupWise will be to strengthen its support for mobile devices, so that end users can perform access it from more cell phones and tablets and perform more actions than they currently can.

"We're putting a major focus on the GroupWise product area. We've found in talking to customers that we need to update and bring currency to a very strong product that has lagged behind in terms of features and functionality associated with it, and make it a contemporary product," Flynn said.

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