TMO Interviews GroupLogic: WWDC is Eye Opener for Executives

| WWDC

We're here at WWDC in the dining hall with T. Reid Lewis, President of GroupLogic.

TMO: Mr. Lewis, tells us a little about your company, what it does, how you came to attend WWDC, and the challenges you think MacIT faces in the future.

Lewis: Let me just start by saying that GroupLogic is a 21 year old vendor. We've always developed for the Mac and we always will. We started coming to WWDC in 1989. In fact, my co-founder, Derick Naef [the Chief Technology Officer], got his first Mac in 1984, and we've been programming the Mac since then. And started our business in 1988.

Reid Lewis

Reid Lewis, President, GroupLogic

Our first effort was a ground breaking collaborative tool -- which is the kind of thing you see to today in collaboration with WebEx or GoToMeeting. That product was called Aspects. It was very well received at its time. It won a MacUser [magazine] Editor's Choice Award in 1990.

TMO: But ... Mac users were mostly using AppleTalk back then.

Lewis: We were using AppleTalk and 2,400 baud modems. So imagine the optimization we had to do get it to work. It was a great product -- just before its time. So we eventually sold that off to somebody who made some money on the patent, which was nice. We made some money on the patent too.

Ever since then, we've been working with digital media and print/publishing media space.

TMO: Have there been ads in the Mac magazines? Macworld and Mac|Life? I'm trying to remember.

Lewis: You would see us around in a lot of places. Not too many display ads anymore. Now you'll see us at MacWindows.com and Macobserver.com. And we usually exhibit at Macworld.

So, for about the last ten years, we've been focused on two product lines. One, called ExtremeZ-IP, which is a Macintosh to Windows file server integration product. And the other is MassTransit, which is a cross-platform, rich file transfer product. Gartner calls it a managed file transfer product. Both of those products have thousands of customers on, we calculated, about 50,000 desktops, in all the key professional markets. And in the case of ExtremeZ-IP, the education market.

TMO: Tell me a little about the company. How big are you?

Lewis: We're about 40 people, all in Arlington, Virginia -- except for a few developers. And one notable thing is that we have a lot of commitment to the Mac. We don't just come in [to a customer], do our thing and leave. We're continuously making our products better.

If you walk into a newsstand or a bookstore and look at the titles -- and most of the catalogs that come in your mail -- they're created in part with ExtremeZ-IP and MassTransit. That's mostly storing files on a server or moving it around. For example, there's a case study on our Website about how Christie's, the auction house, does catalogs for every one of their auctions. The photographs are moved from the region, where the auction will take place, to London or New York, where they're laid out in catalog pages, and those pages are moved back, with MassTransit, for preview.

TMO: What's the angle there over and above just doing, say, an FTP file transfer?

Lewis: That article I mentioned describes how Christie's had a nightmare trying to move this stuff around in a managed way. This is a big enterprise. They have big files. They have hard deadlines. So while an FTP is fine for one person to move something up to your Website, when you're trying to do it in a mission critical kind of way, you need a rich, enterprise suite. Do we do all the necessary things. Cross-platform. Guaranteed file integrity, so you never get a corrupt file. That's intolerable in a production workflow. Security, of course. Tracking. A typical query is 'Where's my file?' So there's notification.

TMO: Just to be clear for the readers. What's the difference between ExtremeZ-IP and MassTransit?

Lewis: Good question. Think of it as LAN versus WAN to put it simply. MassTransit is about taking files and moving them from one place to another, from a person to a person, or from a person to a machine, like the automation I described for Christie's, or maybe from a machine to a machine. So for example, you might go into an asset management system and check out 100 gigabytes and move them to another server. Because the last thing you want to do is have all that coming down to your desktop [as an intermediary].

ExtremeZ-IP is all related to sharing files on a server. So it runs on Windows Server, makes that server behave as if it were a Mac server for file sharing. It gives the Mac user everything they would expect: searching, including Spotlight, and the layout of icons. And it gives the Windows administrator what he wants, so you get all the shares, queues, access control lists, quotas, password policies, and it flows right through to the Mac.

File sharing was our original reason for being, and so we're a full drop in replacement for a Microsoft piece of software that's been end-of-lifed, called "Services for Macintosh." Services for Macintosh was a product that was pretty good from about 1996 to 1999. But as Apple started evolving with its file sharing protocol, Microsoft didn't keep up, and Microsoft wisely killed it off.

Also, we're always on top of the latest file sharing innovations, so when Snow Leopard comes out, we'll support the stuff that's in there.

TMO: How many people did you bring to WWDC this year?

Lewis: We have four engineers here at WWDC this year. And what I think is interesting is that I had always thought that WWDC was only for engineers. But I started coming in 2006 and immediately realized, I'd been missing out. That's because there's a lot of opportunity to interact, go to the sessions, learn about the technology, and there's a lot of IT customers here. Also, we've created an alliance of other vendors that we've met at WWDC to help each other. [More on that later.] It's nonstop right after I get off the plane. Sometimes I see people in the airport or on the plane that I know, and the meeting starts right there.

TMO: Have you had a chance to let your hair down and enjoy some of the fun stuff? Like Stump [the Experts] last night?

Lewis: No, but I have been to some great restaurants. I was at Bin 38 last night. Also, on Monday night, we sponsored a party, the AFP548 Community, which is a group of Macintosh system administrators. They coalesce at events like this, and we've been sponsoring that event since 2006.

TMO: Have you met any Apple executives here? Like Shaan Pruden or Phil Schiller?

Lewis: No, not at that level. But we have met with people that are more tactical, so we work with Apple engineers, Developer Relations, marketing, and some field [sales] folks. We're always working with the field [sales people from Apple] because we find each other at the customer sites.

For example, when we go to a customer that has a big Windows installed base with rooms and rooms of PCs with badges like Dell and HP and EMC, and an IT infrastructure that has blinders on and thinks only Windows, we can help make sure that the Mac can fit into that environment. All without placing a big burden on the IT staff.

TMO: Do you do that yourselves? Or do you have contract people in the field.

Lewis: We'll do both ways. Sometimes, if there's already a Macintosh savvy consulting team in there or if Apple's doing it, we'll happily support them. There are still a lot of misconceptions on the part of the Windows IT staff that the Mac will create a lot of extra work for them. But with the right tools, there is almost no extra work. For example, Extreme ZIP, automatically spins out all the file shares and printers that were created for the Windows users to the Mac users. Also, it automatically picks up the Access Control Lists (ACLs), quotas, and Active Directory functions and repurposes them for the Mc users. So then they realize it isn't so hard.

With all that work done, then the IT managers realize that the Mac user is one less user who needs Windows updates and virus patches and that kind of thing. So then, they realize it's probably a net positive for them.

TMO: Now, before we started recording, we chatted about your concerns about Apple's support of the enterprise. Why don't we go back to that -- and tell me your thoughts.

Lewis: We were talking about Macworld and WWDC and CES. I'm interested in venues where MacIT issues can be explored. Because education can occur outside of a classroom. In the past, both Macworld and WWDC had lots of IT tracks, and I'm fearful that we're gonna lose those. Though, I know that Paul Kent and the Macworld staff are working very hard to perpetuate that.

TMO: You know, I think there are a lot of people who would come to Macworld anyway, just for that connection to their IT colleagues. It doesn't really matter if Apple's there. In fact, that absence might even improve Macworld -- from a MacIT standpoint.

Lewis: Right. It could. But it's going to require the right curriculum. And that's going to take a lot of work. And I'm not sure who should really bear the full burden of doing that work, I mean, if IDG could do it all themselves, but I think they're going to need some help.

TMO: That is a worrisome topic. Well, it's about time to wrap up here. Do you have any closing observations or comments? Your company or WWDC?

Lewis: Sure. I want to finish with a couple of thoughts. First, we have created a collaboration called the Enterprise Desktop Alliance which is five companies now, soon to grow, that solves the problems I've described. [Centrify, LANrev, Atempo, GroupLogic and Parallels.] Our mantra is 'making it easier to deploy, integrate, manage Macs in a Windows IT environment.' You can follow us on Twitter if you wish: @E_D_Alliance. That's an important organization to develop a two-way information flow with MacIT professionals.

The last thing I wanted to mention is WWDC. We're very excited to see Apple's success that really started with Mac OS X and has really catapulted the company forward, and now with the iPhone. That combination is making the world aware of what Apple can bring -- and it's knocking down some of the stereotypes. It's going to be good news for all of in the industry, certainly good news for the consumers of IT, be it a home user or corporate user. They'll be getting better computer equipment, hopefully it'll be a Mac, but if not, it'll be improved because Apple is putting pressure on the other vendors.

TMO: Cool. Thank you very much for chatting with TMO

Lewis: I enjoyed talking with you too.

Author note: you can follow GroupLogic on Twitter at @grouplogic.

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