Friday, April 18, 2008

Ruminations on SharePoint and Groove

One of the great things about being a Microsoft MVP is the chance to go to the MVP Global Summit. Microsoft essentially takes the most knowledgable, most active and most vocal people in to answer lots of questions, preview what they're working on and shower you with positive vibes. The cynic would say its only smart tactics (which it is :), but judging by all the product teams representatives-- both the presenters and the note takers-- I certainly came away with the impression they listen to and value feedback.

Without going in to specifics, one of the more contentious issues seemed to be how SharePoint and Groove will work together. As Internet News reported of Ray Ozzie's and Steve Ballmer's speeches, they both received 'what about Groove' questions during their Q&A. Again without going in to details, the Groove folks are not enthusiastic on what is happening today and what is planned for tomorrow.

Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise if you read this blog for TeamDirection was the premier Groove ISV with its bundled Groove Project Edition. The fact that I attended the conference as a SharePoint MVP is probably all I really need to say.

But I can't help myself.

Groove’s strength is its decentralized architecture, which should be the perfect complement to SharePoint’s centralized architecture. Two people gave me perfect examples of this during the conference: Matt, a SharePoint MVP I sat next to at several SharePoint sessions and Steve Ballmer. The example was being able to suck all the information from disparate sources onto your personal device and keep it synchronized.

Fundamentally this is a powerful architecture because it can centralize data on your desktop-- the flip side of SharePoint powerful architecture centralizing data on your server. In fact, it used to be Groove could house the .NET framework in its environment and thereby give developers a rich user experience with sophisticated peer-to-peer networking for gathering and updating all this data. I'd even go so far as to argue that Groove, because of its ActiveX and then .NET support, was a compelling vision of a Rich Internet Application framework.

Yes, I did say 'was', for you'll notice that the .NET framework is no longer accessible within Groove and their forms environment is too primitive for robust development. As a developer, I would love to see .NET reappear within Groove and give me the ability to integrate with desktop applications and the powerful peer-to-peer workgroup synchronization.

It doesn't even have to be Windows Forms as the UI. I'm most impressed with Silverlight and think that should be bolted on to Groove as a means to marry a better Rich Internet Application solution with a great distributed synchronization solution.

Think about it-- a unified model for accessing centralized (SharePoint) or decentralized (Groove) data with a common Rich UI tailored to the groups needs. In fact, Groove can enhance Silverlight in two important ways:

1) It could facilitate data synchronization among a group of Silverlight users without having to poll a central server.
2) It could be a recognized 'Safehouse' whereby Silverlight would be allowed to access local resources. That is, the one place where Silverlight will let you access local resources like your file system or other application interfaces.

What's the one complaint RIA developers have? You can't do anything with the local resources. How much of an advantage (and selling point) would it be if Groove could fulfill this story? I'm looking forward to providing Silverlight solutions married to SharePoint as a means bring value add to my customers working on a SharePoint hub. But I'd love to be able to take, more or less, the same UI, plonk it into a Groove spoke and provide uniformity for ad-hoc workgroups too.

I think you could even pitch 'RIA Safety Zone' in an elevator :)


abbott said...

Hey John,
Thanks for providing your insight into the Groove/SharePoint discussion. As an expert on building solutions on top of Groove, you've got a very important persepctive. We're not saying much specifically about our roadmap at this time, but I put together some information here: . Check it out when you get a chance.

geekmee said...

Ballmer and Ozzie's responses may have been cryptic, but Microsoft strategy is pretty predictable: To "Embrace and Extend" the Internet development platforms under its umbrella.

Which is a euphemism for Modify and Swallow.

fbarbin said...

MVP Summit 2008 : Groove-SharePoint (Follow up) / MVP Summit 2008 : Groove-SharePoint (Suivi)

PingBack from

ashok said...

Hi guys

thanks John, understand your position. we also saw our power tools like Gxcel die with the change in architecture ... that said groove remains the only platform on which we can build true distributed applications and we have done that with Point of Sale, ERP and even financial solutions.

after my question to Steve Ballmer i have noticed a marked change in the approach of MS people themselves and the most common response to all the roadshows i have done for MS in the last month, the most common response from Clients, Gold Partners and even MS people was " * why did we not know about groove and all this hidden power before"


ashok said...

Sorry back again

now re the SP and Groove scenario - the more said the better - as the two empower each other to produce solutions with the best of both worlds approach - groove for the heavy lifting (try collab on 50 MB CAD files off SP) - and then SP to bring all the teams together when the documents are finished.

not groove OR SP but both is the way to go.