Getting Ahead with Microsofts Front Runner Program

News Analysis: Giving ISVs a competitive edge-whether by getting applications to market faster or whether by helping to spread the word internationally with Microsoft's extensive sales reach-is what the Front Runner program is all about.

What does Microsofts Front Runner program for SQL Server 2005 mean to channel partners, in concrete terms?

For the first time, Embarcadero Technologies is going to be big in Sao Paolo, big in Asia—big in places it could never reach before with its database management technologies.

For its part, Tenrox is on track to get the next release of its project governance and compliance technology to market a whopping six months sooner than the competition.

"Thats what we anticipate," said Randy Urquhart, Tenrox director of alliances and director of product marketing.

"If everybody were to wait for release of 2005 to start analyzing and developing [database] conversions to go to 2005, it would take quite some time—we estimate six months—because of the many significant changes to the [SQL Server 2005] program."

Giving ISVs a competitive edge—whether by getting applications to market faster or whether by helping to spread the word internationally with Microsofts extensive sales reach—is what the Front Runner program is all about.

Participants must be members of the Microsoft Partner Program to take part in the Front Runner program.

Front Runner participants receive 10 hours of BetaOne Services pre-launch technical support; a VeriTest voucher, worth $800, to take the SQL Server 2005 Platform Test; marketing offerings, including use of the Front Runner stamp and a PR kit; and 200 eligible Front Runner ISVs will receive $5,000 in marketing funds as the cherry on top of it all.

(Microsoft has had ISVs sign up for ISV Royalty Licensing, but since they are still in the process of filling out the required marketing templates, they will receive the $5,000 marketing funds at a later date.)

Embarcadero is the programs first graduate. It announced on Jan. 30 that its ER/Studio 7.0 tool for enterprise modeling and data analysis had earned the Front Runner status, meaning that the application moved through development almost in lockstep with the launch of SQL Server 2005.

"Embarcadero is excited to support SQL Server 2005 because its a leading platform and a significant leap forward," said Greg Keller, vice president of product management at Embarcadero Technologies, in a statement.

"Achieving Front Runner status enables us to deliver applications to customers within the same timeframe as the launch of SQL Server 2005. As a result of the solution we have developed, we are uniquely positioned to help our customers get the most from their technology investment."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Front Runner.

ISVs say that getting a head start on integration with Microsofts next-generation platform is particularly crucial, given the leaps in technology advancement made by the next-generation SQL Server DBMS.

"Just thinking of it from the reporting perspective," said Randy Urquhart, Tenrox director of alliances and director of product marketing.

"[With SQL Servers Business Intelligence], with all these reporting and OLAP reporting engines built into SQL Server, we can use those in the product we sell. Instead of having to spend time in research and development trying to build our own engine, the SQL program allows us to do that. … The benefits we get from joining [the Front Runner] program is it allows us to stay on top of the emerging technology."

In essence, the Front Runner program allows Tenrox to get ahead of its competition by having a Microsoft-certified release that runs on the 2005 platform.

It got to the certification, of course, by having an early and profound peek into what makes SQL Server 2005 tick.

"What our competition doesnt have, what we have, is advanced knowledge of how SQL Server 2005 works, how we can work with it in our next release, and how we can go to market in our next release, with support for SQL Server 2005," Urquhart said.

Edwin Badalian, a software architect for Tenrox, said that from his point of view, one of the Front Runner programs benefits is definitely the technical support.

"You can ask any kind of questions regarding [SQL Server] 2005," he said. "I you have issues with porting the database, [for example]."

Thus far, Tenrox has only had minor issues with things such as stored procedures, Badalian said. But dealing with even small issues has been eased by the "very good technical support" afforded by the program, he said.

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