GroupWise 18.3 Discussion and Best Practice Guide

This document outlines some of the best practices I use in my day to day business installing, upgrading, migrating, and supporting GroupWise for customers throughout the United States and around the world.

GroupWise 18.3 was released in December 2020 as a milestone feature release of GroupWise.  In addition to bug fixes and minor feature enhancements, GroupWise introduced two major new components to the product:

  • GroupWise Web
    GroupWise WebAcess is now considered obsolete. It has been replaced by GroupWise Web. which is a web application built from the ground up that utilizes Docker containers instead of Apache/Tomcat.  For my best practice guide to GroupWise Web, click on this link.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
    GroupWise 18.3 supports Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) through a NetIQ Advanced Authentication server. You may be very interested in setting this up and have no idea where to start. Refer to my GroupWise MFA Guide for details (Coming Soon).

GroupWise 18.3 Server Build

If you'd like to see how I typically build the operating system for a GroupWise server, check out my articles below:

SLES 15:  "GroupWise 18.3 System Build Guide for SLES 15".

Server OS Selection

GroupWise is fully supported on either Linux or Windows servers, as long as they are in the list below. Generally speaking, they should be running the latest support pack.

  • SLES 12
  • SLES 15  (My Personal Preference)
  • OES 2018 (Based on SLES 12)
  • Windows 2016
  • Windows 2019

My personal preference is to run GroupWise on SLES 15, however I may run it on OES under the right circumstances. I also have no issue running it on Windows if that is what the customer wants. Regardless of the OS, there are some considerations for each one.

SUSE Enterprise Linux Server (SLES 15 Sp2)

My preference is to run GroupWise on a standalone SLES 15 SP2 server. I have lots of reasons for this:

  • SLES 15 is the latest SLES version available. It was released on July 16, 2018, and with SUSE's 10 year product lifecycle, you know it will be supported at a minimum through July 16 of 2028.
  • SLES 15 and GroupWise 18 had some hiccups initially, but with SLES 15 SP2 and GroupWise 18.3, both product sets have matured nicely and work well together.
  • SLES 15 is fast and efficient. It's highly scalable and uses extremely efficient file systems.
  • SLES 15 is generally simple to install and configure. You can build a server in about an hour or less.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Many of the Linux command line options on SLES 15 have been changed, and many of the older SLES 11 or SLES 12 commands are not available. This presents a significant learning curve when implementing SLES 15.
  • While the GUI is not necessarily used or active, the SLES 15 GUI is much less user friendly than previous versions.
  • If you accept the default disk partitioning, you end up with a trash "btrfs" file system. This will destroy your GroupWise system and you'll be rebuilding from scratch very soon.
  • If you have an OES / eDirectory environment and need your GroupWise server connected to eDirectory, you will not have the integrated eDirectory that is built into OES and you will have to install it separately. However, I would argue that eDirectory and OES are not needed, and in fact only add unnecessary overhead to the server.

SUSE Enterprise Linux Server 12 (SLES)

If I'm installing a new server, I don't recommend running SLES 12 anymore. I don't want to install on an OS that is going to be non-supported in just a few years. SLES 12 was released on October 27, 2014 and product support will end in Oct 2024.  The current release of SLES 12 is SLES 12 SP5.

One reason I might utilize SLES 12 is if I have a current SLES 11 Server running an older version of GroupWise, and I want to quickly upgrade to GroupWise 18.3 without doing a full blown server migration. When I do this, I  know that I will likely end up migrating data within the next few years anyway, so I'm simply delaying it in the meantime.

As a point of reference, an in-place upgrade from SLES 11 to SLES 12 is fully supported.  In-place upgrades from any SLES version to SLES 15 are generally not supported and require a migration. So SLES 12 is a viable option if you need to do an in-place upgrade to SLES 12 and aren't ready to go to SLES 15 yet.

Open Enterprise Server 2018 SP2 (OES 2018) 

Open Enterprise Server (OES) 2018 is essentially the latest generation and version of what used to be Novell NetWare. It offers NSS file systems, eDirectory, printing, etc. For many people that are familiar with OES, this may be the logical choice. My preference is to NOT use OES unless I have a specific reason to do so, and then if I do use OES, I only use it for the eDirectory integration. I prefer NOT to run GroupWise on an NSS volume. I discuss this more later.

Why you may want to use OES

  • Product Familiarity with SLES 12 as the foundation. Overall OES is a great operating system, and since it runs on SLES, it is fast, reliable, and stable.
  • With OES you are able to create NCP Volume mappings for easy access to the server from a Windows system running the Novell OES Client. This does not require you to utilize NSS volumes.
  • If you have many OES servers in your environment, it may be simpler to use OES for supportability and to avoid learning curves of having an oddball standalone Linux server in the mix.
  • Access to NCP/NSS Volumes and the file system through the Novell OES Client. Although I prefer NOT to use NSS volumes to host the actual GroupWise system, sometimes it is helpful to have separate NSS volumes that can be used for various purposes. Also, for smaller GroupWise systems, I'm not as concerned about performance and overhead.
  • If you have OES licensing, you can use OES to host GroupWise without incurring any additional server licensing.

Why I Dislike OES as a GroupWise Server Platform

  • I could argue that there are no benefits of using OES instead of a standard SUSE Linux server installation. Many people continue using OES simply because that's what they've always used.
  • GroupWise has zero dependencies on any OES services. OES is simply NOT needed.
  • Running OES services such as eDirectory or NSS will add some overhead to your GroupWise server that may affect performance.
  • If you're running OES services such as eDirectory or NSS, and you have GroupWise running on NSS volumes, you are prone to more points of failure than if you were using a standard Linux partition.  Should NSS fail, your Post Office will be crippled.
  • As of this writing, I am actually dealing with problems related to running on the NSS file system. GroupWise is hosted on NSS volumes, and something is malfunctioning that affects the NSS volume. The server becomes crippled until rebooted.  If GroupWise was running on an XFS partition, the problems occurring with NSS and/or NDS would not impact GroupWise at all. We have not yet found a cause/solution yet.

Microsoft Windows Server 2019

GroupWise is fully developed for and supported on Windows, but I generally only install GroupWise on Windows if a customer specifically requests it. It comes down to preference and comfort levels of the administrators and IT staff.

Advantages of Running GroupWise on Windows Server 2019

  • Easy and familiar GUI interface that is simple to use and understand.
  • If you are a mostly Windows environment, it makes sense to use Windows for consistency in the data center.

Potential Pitfalls

  • When you need support, there is less experience supporting GroupWise on a Windows Server platform. If you have Windows OS issues, you will have to go to Microsoft to help.
  • Related to the new GroupWise Web: Docker is typically a native app developed for Linux. It will run on Windows but the procedure for installing it on Windows is not as documented. You may find this to be true with other components.
  • Even if you run GroupWise on Windows, you will still need Linux servers for both GroupWise Mobility Server (Mobile Phones) and GroupWise Messenger since they are only supported on Linux.
  • Some people would argue that larger systems may experience performance issues on Windows compared to the same system running on Linux.  This is difficult to prove due to the vast variety of factors that could come into play.
  • GroupWise running on a Windows Server will require separate Windows licensing. GroupWise does not provide Windows Server licenses.

Microsoft Windows Server 2016

Although Windows 2016 is supported, I wouldn't waste any time on older versions.

File System Selection

The file system selection is one of the most crucial factors of your GroupWise system.  GroupWise is extremely intense with disk read/write activity, and you need a file system that can perform under stress.

Historically Significant Trivia

A GroupWise system can easily have hundreds of thousands, or even millions of files within the various folder structures. This can create challenges because the file system has to quickly search, index, and read/write to these folders constantly. Additionally, the majority of the files are relatively small. If the file system is not designed to handle millions of small files, it can suffer dramatically as the system grows.

In the earlier years with SLES 10, ReiserFS was well known as the preferred file system for GroupWise running on Linux. It was fast and handled lots of small files with relative ease. But when the main developer of the ReiserFS, Hans Reiser, murdered his wife and went to prison, ReiserFS was essentially cancelled.  This led to the need to embrace a new file system. Unfortunately, the best option at the time seemed to be EXT3.

EXT3 became the file system that most people started using. They didn't have a choice. But EXT3 is horrible with larger file systems and resulted in severe performance issues as GroupWise systems grew. In fact, the EXT3 file system worked so poorly that if I had to choose between EXT3 and NSS, I would choose NSS every time. Even though I don't like the extra overhead with NSS, it is designed to handle massive file systems and does a pretty decent job.

Linux Servers, including SLES and OES

With Linux, including OES, you have a few different options for the file system. I prefer and strongly recommend the XFS file system. However I will outline each of the main ones below:

Linux File System

Discussion & Recommendations

XFS Preferred Option for OS and for the GroupWise Storage Location. It's designed for performance and large file systems.
NSS (OES Only) NSS is perfectly fine, however my preference is to only use NSS on smaller GroupWise systems. I personally do not like the extra overhead required for NSS to operate, and the extra dependencies can make it more difficult to support and troubleshoot when you have problems.
EXT3 Not Recommended. It's not designed to handle the large file structure associated with GroupWise email systems.
EXT4 While EXT4 is improved, it's basically a fork of the EXT3 system. Therefore I avoid just because that's how bad I hate EXT3.
Btrfs Absolutely DO NOT USE the Btrfs file system. Just don't. You can find TID's stating how databases and Btrfs don't work well together.  NOTE: SLES 12 and SLES 15 default to the Btrfs file system during the install. I ALWAYS ensure that I change the partitioning to my own custom layout and never allow it to use Btrfs.  If you have a GroupWise issue and call in for support, when they find out you are running on Btrfs, it's very likely they will tell you to rebuild it using a different file system.

EXT3 Caveat for in-place upgrades.

Let's say you are running GroupWise on an old SLES 11 server, and it's using EXT3.  While you could possibly upgrade to SLES12 in place, and then upgrade GroupWise to GroupWise 2018, this is one situation that I would avoid. While it is supported and would be functional, your file system will still be using EXT3, an inferior file system. A better option would be to build a new SLES 15 server with the XFS file system and do a full data migration.

Windows Servers

Your only option on Windows is the NTFS file system. It's true that Windows 2019 has another file system, ReFS (Introduced with Windows 2012 and improved with Windows 2019), however it is unclear whether this is a viable option.