Why not GroupWise for student email?

A comment on my editorial about outsourcing student email asked whether we had considered GroupWise for the students.

There are a number of reasons why that isn't workable, though product price is not one of them. I'm pretty sure we have enough licenses to deploy GroupWise to the students, as I'm pretty sure that the bundle we purchased to get them into NetWare also included licensing for two other products (Zen for Desktops, and GroupWise). So, GW is a free option. Plus, it would give students a calendering option they don't have right now, and the ability (if we enable it) to share folders between users.

Now for the downsides, and it isn't any of the five points I lined out previously.

First and foremost, SPAM. The native anti-spam inside GroupWise is a simple blacklist last time I looked, which is effectively worthless in the modern era of SPAM. So we'd STILL need an add-on anti-spam product. The open-source stuff we're doing now would work just as effectively with GroupWise as it does with postfix, and that would provide zero improvement over the status quo. As I mentioned before, commercial anti-spam products that cost even $2 a head are still more expensive than we can afford. And finally, SPAM is what is driving the current decision process, not new/better/more features.

Second, is server. This is going to be a POA with 18,000 users in it. No matter what we do, we'll require a new server to do student email and that's a non-trivial cost. We can't install GW onto the Solaris system that is the current student email server, so we'll need something else (probably running SLES10) to provide that functionality. We could theoretically put it into the NetWare cluster, but that is not a long-term viable solution considering Novell's stated goals. This server will have to run all the GroupWise agents on one server, so one POA, one MTA, GWIA, and WebAccess. This may not be doable with as many users as we have right now.

Third, is scaling. We have 18,000 active student accounts. Even in a WebAccess/GWIA only environment that'll make for a monstrously huge POA database. The mail volumes on the current student email server is on the order of 350GB in size, roughly equivalent to our Exchange mail-store size. Reindexing that thing will take a lot of time. We could split this into multiple POAs, but then you create the, "how do we automate load-balancing between the POAs," problem.

Forth, is people. By going to a GW solution, we liberate significant sysadmin time in the unix side of the org, but consume nearly 100% of a person on the Novell/MS side of the org. That person is most likely me, as the other mail administrator on that side is adamantly (and vociferously) against GroupWise in general due to bad experiences at a previous job. I don't want to be an email administrator like that.

In short GroupWise doesn't solve the identified problem, namely SPAM. It adds a bunch of 'nice-to-have' features. Outsourcing gives us a LOT, such as greatly increased mail-quota, much better anti-SPAM, and the possibility of keeping a WWU-branded mail account after graduation.


That all makes sense. Given the amount of users you have, you'd have to make a serious investment in hardware. I can relate to the SPAM issue. We're using a solution right now that I'm not very happy with. The next version is supposed to be a complete rework on the spam tagging engine, so that's the last straw before we look into an spam appliance. As for my post offices, I have them spread all over the place. Thankfully for me, GroupWise is pretty good dealing with awkward setups. I've got my entire email system spread out across multiple servers running NetWare 5.1, 6.5, and Suse Linux(basically, whatever I have on hand!). Sheesh.I couldn't imagine having to deal with your amount of overhead!

What about using NetMail, which was recently purchased by Messaging Architects? That thing can scale like no tomorrow...

I pitched NetMail. Back when they were just looking for something besides SquirrelMail for a front end, I threw NetMail out there as an option. Before it could get serious consideration, though, the SPAM problem gained ascendancy over the UI. At that point, NetMail has exactly the same problem as GroupWise, and was discarded as an option.