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5/4/2009
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Jive's Temporary Cloud Offering

Jive Software taps Amazon EC2 for collaboration in the cloud, but the real goal is to get customers to upgrade to premises software.

Jive Software taps Amazon EC2 for collaboration in the cloud, but the real goal is to get customers to upgrade to premises software.Jive Express is collaboration software that runs as a virtualized instance running on Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) platform. Jive Express offers most of the feature and functions of Jive's Social Business Software package, including wikis, blogs, document sharing, user profiles, groups, bookmarks and more.

Jive Express puts a twist on standard SaaS deployment. While users will access the software via a browser, Jive Express is more of a single-tenant deployment, in which customers get a dedicated virtual database and application server, instead of sharing those resources with other customers in a true SaaS multitenancy environment.

However, it's not a true single-tenant model because multiple virtual instances of Jive Express will share the same underlying hardware.

Another major difference from a pure SaaS offering is that Jive Express customers can move the entire application stack from EC2 to hardware running on the customer's premises, or to Jive's own hosting facility. This is a much simpler version of "take my ball and go home" than you'd get from a multitenant SaaS deployment.

"We have a script that lets you grab the entire instance and deploy it wherever you want: it sets up the database and application to your on-premises server or to our hosted infrastructure, which is hosted by SunGard," says Cameron Deatsch, product director at Jive.

GET 'EM HOOKED Jive uses the cloud offering as a starter drug for collaboration software. If companies get hooked, its long-term goal is to move them to the premises version. Jive Express requires a minimum commitment of 100 users, and caps the service at 500 users, at which point it will start pushing customers off the cloud, and either to premises or Jive's own hosted offering.

Unfortunately, while Jive touts the ease with which customers can move out of the cloud, complications can ensue.

For one, Jive Express runs on the Postgres database. If you grow out of Express and want a different database, you'll likely need to call on Jive's professional services team to migrate your data.

And if different departments or business units sign up for their own instances of Jive Express, the company doesn't currently have an easy way to meld those instances into a single version. Again, you'll have to get a custom integration using Jive's professional services.

Potential customers should also note that SLAs for Jive Express are set by Amazon EC2, not Jive, so you'll have to double check to ensure that Amazon's SLAs, including backups and data protection, are sufficient for your organization's needs.

Jive says the first three months of Jive Express are free. It then charges $3 per user per month. With the 100-user minimum requirement, that's $300 per month after the free trial period ends.

PARTLY CLOUDY When it comes to collaboration and social networking software, companies need to start with two basic questions: do we need this kind of software, and which vendor should we choose?

To my mind, Jive Express is aimed at organizations that have decided they want Jive as a vendor, but haven't decided if there's a business case. Jive Express makes it easy to ramp up a pilot and then walk away if it doesn't work out. If it does work out, they've already decided that Jive will be worth any integration hassles that will come when they migrate to the enterprise version.

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