Microsoft groovy for homeland IT

Although some analysts touted Microsoft's acquisition of Groove Networks earlier this week as a boost to the Office line of desktop applications, it's also seen as a potential stimulant for organizations that sell collaboration solutions in the rapidly expanding homeland-security market.

"I think this is very good news for all of the small innovators in the homeland-security market," said Charles Jennings, chairman and chief executive officer of Swan Island Networks. "It shows the big players are starting to come into this market, which will create a lot of new opportunities for partnerships going forward."

Groove Networks sells a product called Virtual Office, which allows users to collaborate securely across firewalls within a shared workspace. The government accounts for about 40 percent of its business.

The software is a central component of the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, used by the Homeland Security Department and state agencies to share information. Other government customers include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the State Department.

Swan Island officials have developed a technology called Swarm, which also allows users to collaborate and share information securely. It is the backbone technology of the Regional Alliances for Infrastructure and Network Security project, which has attracted increasing attention at the federal and state levels. It was recently featured in government tests, including last year's Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration.

As part of the Groove acquisition, the company's founder, Ray Ozzie, who was instrumental in the creation of Lotus Notes, will become one of three Microsoft chief technology officers.

Groove Office and follow-on products should be good additions for Microsoft, Jennings said, because the company's main collaboration software, Sharepoint, does not work well outside of the firewall.

But the wider message is that Microsoft, which invested money in Groove several years ago and has had a close working relationship with it, is taking the homeland-security market seriously, he said.

"I think this Groove acquisition is a strategic positioning by Microsoft," said Jennings. "It knows it needs to be involved here."

It also confirms a new position for the civilian side of the government as a promoter for some leading-edge technologies, he said, with so much funding and innovation going to homeland-security projects.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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