Sharepoint vs. Groove should be Sharepoint PLUS Groove

More from TechEd …

So I’ve finally had a chance to wrap my head fully around what problem spaces Sharepoint solves and what spaces Groove solves. And they are very complementary to each other. And fortunately, they have some nice integration features.

If you’re like me, you know that both are primarily collaboration technologies, but you might not know much about Groove specifically, as we’ve had some campus events on Sharepoint but Groove info has been hard to come by.

So Sharepoint best addresses the well-connected clients who are in managed domains. It has the nice content management stuff, the portal experience, the exciting workflow features, the feature-rich search, blogs and wikis, and of course, just basic file collaboration. And this is all a web-based solution.

Groove isn’t web-based. It’s fundamentally a peer to peer client application. You install the client, and by default, it installs a service which opens a couple ports and listens.

You then setup a workspace, and invite some friends or colleagues to your workspace. Your invitation can go to them in a couple ways, but let’s just say it goes via email. They respond, approving your invitation, and finally you get back an email which you must verify to complete the provisioning process of getting them into your workspace.

Note I said “provisioning”. So in the background of this process there is a set of keys–certificates–being passed back and forth. Each workspace has a cert pair. Each inpidual/computer has a cert pair. And there’s another temporary cert pair too, I think, specific to the provisioning process. Anyhow, Groove handles all those details, and in a secure fashion. No need for a certificate authority, and it’s all invisible to the user.

At the end, the two of you are now in a collaborative workspace where you can share files and so forth. Note that you don’t need to know anything more about your friend/colleague than their email address. No shared domain trust, no user account name, nothing. You don’t even need to know where their computer is. They could be in Africa one day, Thailand the next, and that’s all hidden by the Groove experience.

So how do they talk to each other?

Here’s what the Groove client does to try to find other computers in it’s workspace:

  1. Send local subnet broadcast looking for workspace peers with that listening port.
  2. Send outbound to the Microsoft-run Groove relay server. Ask for workspace peers, and any updates from them. The outbound ports used are the following, in this order:
    1. 2492
    2. 80
    3. 443

So in the background each Groove client checks in with the Microsoft Groove relay server, and this server provides the location resolution, as well as tells each Groove client when there are updates in their workspaces.

Neat, huh?

So getting back to the topic, Groove has built in support for importing Sharepoint document libraries. You simply setup the import, and tell it when to run. You can also export back to Sharepoint document libraries.

This combo allows you to do a very mobile, disconnected style of collaboration, while also posting the results of that more mobile collaboration to a content-controlled Sharepoint site with a broad, well-known and connected set of users.

So now you know how the two collaboration applications aren’t in direct competition, and actually are designed to solve different aspects of the same problem. So go Groove. No server required. No UWWI account required. 🙂

Of course, there are a few wins to running a Groove server. But from what I’ve been able to tell, those wins aren’t significant enough to justify rolling out a UW Groove server. But I’m always open to hearing other arguments.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

If you’ve been watching the blog still over the past day or so, you may have noticed that this site was replaced by a placeholder indicating that it was unavailable.

We ran into a roadblock when we attempted to upgrade the blog to the released version of Windows SharePoint Services – apparently, we thought we were running Beta 2 Technical Refresh (we weren’t), and when we went to complete the upgrade, SharePoint politely told us that our database wasn’t restorable because it wasn’t the right version.

Uhh …….

So, thanks to our Microsoft contact, we were able to rip out the RTM bits, reinstall Beta 2, upgrade to Beta 2 TR, then upgrade to RTM.  It’s been a fun ride.

All of that to say, we’re back online again.  It’s nice to see daylight once more.