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Prepping Team Collaboration for Enterprise Scale

While the word "Slack" has essentially become synonymous with "team collaboration" these days, unofficially picking up the tagline of "email killer," the phrase "Slack killer" has also been attached to most any new product in this space. You've likely seen the term applied to Workplace by Facebook, announced this week, or Skype Teams, the much-rumored team collaboration app Microsoft reportedly has under development.

Business, financial, and trade press headlines tell the story, as this sampling shows:

And so the quintessential "email killer" is now the prey of much bigger guns -- a classic case of "what goes around comes around," if ever there was one.

But the odd thing is, Slack itself still bills its eponymous tool for team purchase, not as an enterprise buy. It's been teasing an enterprise version for close to two years, and "COMING SOON" is still the promise associated with the Slack enterprise version that will power "the design, usage, and administrative management of multiple interconnected Slack workspaces across your entire company."

So what is it that differentiates a team collaboration tool for team use from a team collaboration tool for enterprise use? Slack itself hits on many of the key qualifiers in a bulleted list of promised deliverables, including organization-wide direct messaging and search capabilities; integration with Active Directory for provisioning and access control; unified administration tools for managing security, compliance, billing, and integrations; dedicated account teams; and 24/7 support with two-hour response time. And it recently disclosed deeper integration plans with Salesforce.

While Slack inches its way into the enterprise, another vendor in this space -- Atlassian -- has no difficulty telling its enterprise story. It's had an enterprise focus for its offering, HipChat, all the while, and this week it deepened its commitment to making team collaboration a reality, at scale, across the enterprise.

Atlassian has long recognized that not all enterprises are comfortable having mission-critical communications delivered in the SaaS model. So while it offers the cloud-based HipChat, in basic and plus editions, it also allows enterprises to host the application on their own servers via a version called HipChat Server. This week Atlassian addressed the needs of enterprises seeking more advanced deployment options, announcing a beta of HipChat Data Center.

Whereas HipChat Server enables deployment on a single node, HipChat Data Center works across multiple nodes for "deployment flexibility, authentication, control, high availability, and performance," as Cameron Deatsch, head of marketing, Server, wrote in an announcement blog.

HipChat Data Center is part of a bigger story about the addition of new capabilities for the Data Center versions of Atlassian's team-related products, including: Confluence, for document collaboration; Jira Software, for issue and project tracking; and Bitbucket, for Git code management.

For example, in coordination with Amazon Web Services, which hosts much of the infrastructure on which enterprises run their multinode deployments, Atlassian has developed "Quick Start" guides to speed deployments of server clusters set up for Data Center deployments. With HipChat Data Center, for example, enterprises can cluster multiple active servers for high availability. And, for improved security, Atlassian has added SAML 2.0 support for single sign-on access to the tools in its team product portfolio. This means enterprise administrators can manage user authentication via an identity management provider such as Okta or OneLogin that support SAML.

Enterprises can sign up now for the HipChat Data Center beta, which is expected to launch next month. Atlassian did not share an expected date for general availability, nor did it say how many beta testers it expected. However, a company spokesperson did note that all Atlassian customers, and potential customers, have access to the beta.

And lest you wonder whether there might be interest in a high-end, multinode deployment model for team collaboration on enterprise infrastructure, consider this statistic Atlassian shared on the other pieces of its Data Center line: Usage is up 300% year over year.

What else makes for a good enterprise-grade team collaboration app? Join us at Enterprise Connect 2017, coming March 27-30 in Orlando, where we'll be discussing such topics in our new "Next-Gen Messaging & Team Collaboration" track sessions!

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