Roundtable Q&A: Microsoft Invests in Leading-Edge ISVs

DALLAS, Tex. , Sept. 28, 2005 — As Microsoft nears the launch of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, scheduled for November 7, the company is taking additional steps to ensure that the industry is ready for the new version of Microsoft’s complete data-management and analysis platform. To help the database industry understand the significant enhancements to enterprise data management, developer productivity and business insight, Microsoft is reaching out to the core technology community through the Independent Software Vendor (ISV) ecosystem that will provide best-of-breed solutions to support SQL Server 2005.

Microsoft has created the SQL Server 2005 Front Runner initiative to encourage U.S. ISVs to bring their applications to market effectively and in a timely manner by offering incremental technical and marketing offerings to early-adopting ISVs. The quantity and quality of the applications that ISVs develop for the platform and have available for deployment in a corresponding timeframe will be a measure of success for Microsoft’s goal of helping customers get more from their technology investments.

In connection with announcement of the Front Runner initiative at this week’s 2005 PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) Community Summit in Dallas, PressPass convened a virtual roundtable discussion with Pradeep Rathinam, general manager, U.S. ISV Strategy, U.S. Partner Group at Microsoft, and principals of two ISVs participating in the Front Runner initiative: Emanuel D. Errico III, president, STFB Inc. of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Mike Ivanov, vice president of product marketing, Mimosa Systems, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

PressPass: What’s the thinking behind the Front Runner initiative?

Rathinam (Microsoft): In addition to training and technical support, ISVs have asked us for greater assistance going to market once they release new applications. They’ve told Microsoft that assistance via both technical and marketing support will better enable them to synchronize their product releases with Microsoft’s release timelines. As a result of that feedback, we are launching the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Front Runner initiative, which not only delivers deep technical offerings, but opens up incremental marketing benefits to ISVs who build and test applications on SQL Server 2005. 

With Front Runner, we’ve built an initiative that says, “U.S. ISVs, we’ve listened to you. You told us that timing is critical and that it is sometimes challenging to time your releases to coincide with ours; releasing new solutions requires that you invest in significant marketing activities. As early adopters of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, you are betting on us, so the Front Runner initiative is one way that we are betting on you.”

PressPass: What made you decide to launch this offering around the release of SQL Server 2005?

Pradeep Rathinam, General Manager, U.S. ISV Strategy, Microsoft U.S. Partner Group

Rathinam: SQL Server 2005 is a very important release for Microsoft, our customers and our industry-partner community. Our next-generation data management and analysis software will deliver increased scalability, availability and security to enterprise data and analytical applications while making them easier to create, deploy and manage.

Delivering Front Runner to coincide the launch of SQL Server 2005 says “ISVs, we very much value your investment in Microsoft technologies. We know that you are critical to the success of SQL Server 2005 in the marketplace so we want to offer you incremental support that brings your solutions to market quickly.”

PressPass: What does this kind of support mean to an ISV?

Errico (STFB): My feeling about the Front Runner initiative, of course, is that we’re very lucky to be part of it. We’re stepping up and saying, “We’re committed to Microsoft and to supporting SQL Server 2005 because it’s a great platform and a great leap forward.” As Gold Certified Partners with the ISV/Software Solutions Competency, we already have an excellent relationship with Microsoft. But this is a little something extra special.

Ivanov (Mimosa Systems): We’re also very excited about being involved in the Front Runner initiative and about SQL Server 2005. The support that Microsoft is offering through the Front Runner initiative makes a difference to any ISV. It’s an issue that not only smaller ISVs face: When you’re looking to embrace a new technology or you’re developing around a new version of a Microsoft product like SQL Server 2005, the kind of support that they’re offering is very, very positive. It’s really a big help and allows a company to justify the expenditure of its own resources.

PressPass: How is the Front Runner initiative different from other Microsoft partner offerings?

Rathinam: The Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) already provides great technical and marketing resources to ISVs within the ISV/Software Solutions Competency, but we’ve never before in such a significant a way connected both technical and marketing resources to the release of a new technology. This is an important pilot initiative for us that could set the stage for the launch of future technologies.

A big reason that we’re so enthusiastic about the Front Runner initiative is because we think it’s something different and forward-looking. It scales well beyond our managed ISVs, offering resources and support to all ISVs in the United States – a community of perhaps 25,000. The only requirement is that the ISV needs to build and test a SQL Server 2005 application by March 31, 2006. This is really a come one, come all offer – we’re very serious about continuing to support our MSPP ISVs, as well as helping springboard emerging ISVs that bet on Microsoft technologies.

PressPass: What are the specific benefits being offered to ISVs through the Front Runner initiative?

Rathinam: On the technical side is access to BetaOne Services, which are typically only offered to a more finite set of ISVs. This provides 10 hours of free pre-launch technical support. We’re also providing a VeriTest application testing voucher with a value of US$800 that enables ISVs to take the SQL Server 2005 Platform Test to authenticate their SQL Server 2005 application. This covers their first test and we’re also offering discounts on subsequent tests for those that plan to test more than one application.

The extensive marketing assistance tied to Front Runner includes use of the Front Runner initiative stamp on all product packaging and promotional materials. With this stamp, we’ve enabled ISVs to tell their customers and prospects that they truly are “Front Runners” by delivering new solutions to market on the most exciting release of SQL Server yet. We’ll also be running a trade publication advertisement featuring our SQL Server 2005 “Front Runners,” and we’re making customizable marketing collateral available. Using Marketing Services for Partners, a step-by-step demand creation tool, participating ISVs will quickly be able to create promotional collateral to send to their customers – and we’ll print the first 750 at no charge. Other special discounts on printing and fulfillment will be available as well to support direct marketing efforts. We’re also providing a press release template with Microsoft quotes highlighting their Front Runner status. In addition, the first 200 qualifying participants to sign a new ISV Royalty Licensing Agreement will also receive $5,000 in funding to support their marketing activities.

Errico: The marketing support is definitely very appealing. But I’m particularly delighted about the allowance for a VeriTest. That’s really helpful. It saves you money and its something you need. The best part is that you can have your application ready and tested literally on the release date of SQL Server 2005. Microsoft is so on-the-ball with the SQL Server 2005 release. As soon as our new package comes out of the gate, we’re going to be able to tell potential customers, “This solution has already been tested by Microsoft as part of their Front Runner initiative.” We’re going to put the Front Runner stamp on our product to let customers know that our solution is ready to go, that we’re an early adopter of SQL Server 2005. It says to customers that we’re on the cutting edge of an important new technology.

PressPass: Can you describe the solutions you are planning to release that leverage SQL Server 2005?

Errico: STFB is a software development company and we make a package called Integral Accounting Enterprise. It’s a full-featured accounting package written in .NET that operates over the Internet or locally and that uses SQL Server 2000. The new version will use SQL Server 2005. Our market is developers, consultants and resellers looking for an accounting package to customize and resell to end-users. We include complete source code in the package and sub development tools so our customers can customize and modify the package for their customers. We’re porting the whole package to use SQL Server 2005 and to take advantage of the technology that the new release gives us – all the new features and functionality.

Ivanov: The enhanced functionality of the new product is adding considerable strength to our offering. Mimosa Systems is a Microsoft Gold Partner. Our solution, Mimosa NearPoint for Microsoft Exchange Server, is a comprehensive data management solution for Microsoft Exchange. We wanted to build a solution that looked at backup, recovery, storage management and, most importantly of all, email archiving.

With HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance regulations, businesses need to keep e-mail around for longer and longer and to make it searchable. At the same time, IT professionals are trying to make mailbox quotas smaller and smaller to keep them recoverable in the event of a catastrophic data loss. We address all these pain points with one product.

As we look to scale our solution to support tens of thousands of Exchange mailboxes, it becomes more and more mission-critical to have a really robust database on the backend. So the scalability aspect, the performance aspect, the clustering capability, the new query algorithms and enhanced partitioning capabilities – all big improvements in SQL Server 2005 – are the kind of things we’re very excited about to help us with our scalability story.

PressPass: What does the Front Runner initiative say about Microsoft’s commitment to ISVs?

Rathinam: We’re committed to releasing great technology and to supporting ISVs as they develop on our technology. We’re committed to understanding the importance of ISVs to our business, to listening to ISVs and to acting on their feedback. ISVs are critical to our success and we are committed to helping them achieve success. And right now we’re committed to delivering resources, tools and go-to-market support to ISVs as we release SQL Server 2005. The Front Runner initiative announces loud and clear: Microsoft is committed to helping ISVs compete for and win business.

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