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IIf you think about small business software release cycles in terms of years, think again. Given the importance of the small-business market—and the wealth of ideas and experience of the partners who serve it, Novell has an entirely new plan for release cycles up its sleeve. You won't be waiting until 2009 before you see new versions of Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition, because when it comes to partner- and customer-requested features, Novell understands that some things are just too important to put off.

Critical Feedback—Rapid Response

For Novell channel partners that cater to small businesses, Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition makes it easier for them to offer their clients a complete, yet affordable, desktop-to-server solution that provides all the tools they need to be productive and competitive. Released in October of 2007, the solution offers a whole host of proven, Linux-based technologies at a savings of up to 80 percent over proprietary alternatives. (See Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition 2 Lineup.)

In addition, the integrated and streamlined installation, straightforward management tools, remote support capabilities and help desk services have all been tailored to help partners better serve their small business customers. But there is one often-overlooked aspect of the solution that has the potential to help partners and their small business customers even more: the solution's agile release cycle.

Often, when customers or partners request new features or capabilities from a vendor, the complexity of the solution—combined with lengthy release cycles—means it takes a while before those requests actually debut in a shipping product. But the structure of Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition gives Novell the agility and ability to frequently enhance it to meet the evolving needs of the small-business market.

This was evidenced last month at BrainShare during an advanced partner session on Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition. As part of the session, the presenter talked about the suite's help desk management utility, which makes it easier for partners to support their customers. The discussion centered on the way the solution's Web portal allows users to submit trouble tickets describing problems they're experiencing.

While partner attendees expressed their delight at how easy the help desk tool makes it for users to submit trouble tickets, a few voiced a common concern: many users can't adequately explain the nature of their problems. Even though the trouble ticket's description field is an obvious necessity, what they really wanted was to allow users to easily upload a screenshot illustrating their problem.

Knowing the already-agile nature of the suite's product development cycle, the presenter indicated that Novell would try to add that capability in the release planned for the second half of 2008. Almost immediately, one of the solution's lead engineers stood up and basically said, "We can see that this is too important to put off that long. We'll add the feature now. You'll get it in our upcoming Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition 2 release."

Quickly adding this screenshot upload capability to the upcoming release of Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition 2 is just one example of how Novell intends to respond to the needs of its small business solution providers and customers. Rapid response to the requirements and feedback Novell receives from partners and customers is part of Novell's ongoing plan for the solution.

In discussing these plans, Novell Workgroup Collaboration Product Manager, Melanie Feeney, stated, "Getting feedback from our partners and customers on Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition is extremely important to us. Our agile release cycle not only allows us to improve this solution with the latest technologies every three to four months, but it allows us to continually improve and enhance it based on the feedback we receive. That feedback is critical to the solution's success."

Agile Releases

In addition to the new screenshot upload feature in the impending release, Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition 2 has some pretty significant enhancements. The biggest of these is the inclusion of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and components of Novell Open Enterprise Server 2. Not only does this bring added stability to the suite, but it delivers two major benefits: increased hardware support and the ability to deploy virtual servers.

With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, you can take full advantage of the latest hardware innovations, including 64-bit hardware with its extra processing power, added memory capabilities, and improved heat and energy savings. The increased hardware support also enables customers to take advantage of a significantly wider array of third-party drivers.

The virtualization capabilities available in Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition 2 make it easier for small businesses to implement server consolidation strategies that deliver savings on hardware, rack space, and cooling and power requirements. It also enables you to run individual workgroup services, such as GroupWise and anti-spam filters, on the same physical hardware but within separate virtual servers.

Leveraging its agile release cycle, Novell plans to release another update to Novell Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition in the second half of 2008. This release will focus on delivering IT administration and management improvements that partners and customers have asked for.

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