Novell's cloud-based social networking suite enters beta

A Novell cloud-hosted enterprise social-networking and collaboration suite announced a year ago will for the first time become widely available on Tuesday, although it will still be in beta, or test, mode.

Originally called Pulse, the suite is now called Vibe Cloud, and interested organizations can sign up for a beta account by going to http://vibe.novell.com.

Vibe Cloud had been in a limited beta preview since March for select customers. It offers enterprise social-networking capabilities, including employee profiles with activity streams, IM chat, blogs and wikis, as well as real-time collaborative document editing, file sharing and group creation.

It also features a set of controls for the IT department to monitor and manage its usage. Novell expects to have a final version ready during the first half of next year.

Novell is also releasing a beta upgrade of Teaming, its on-premise collaboration suite for organizations that prefer to have this type of software behind the firewall.

Renamed Vibe OnPrem, Teaming's 3.0 version is expected to shed its beta label before the end of this year. While some of its features overlap with Vibe Cloud, Vibe OnPrem is more focused around team workspaces, automated workflows and content management.

Novell is working to unify the products' code bases. "We're bringing together Pulse and Teaming to offer both a cloud and an on-premise solution," said Wendy Steinle, marketing director for the Novell Vibe products.

Also on the road map is making the products compatible with Microsoft Office so that documents can be exported to and imported from the Microsoft productivity suite, said Andy Fox, Novell's vice president of engineering.

The strategy of having a cloud offering and an on-premise product has its pluses and minuses, said Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz. An advantage is being able to serve organizations looking for the economic advantages of the cloud model, as well as organizations that have on-premise requirements for specific security, privacy or compliance reasons, he said via e-mail. "On the other hand, it’s a lot more work to maintain parallel code bases," Koplowitz said.

As it pushes forward, Novell should avoid going at it alone. "The better they are at building and leveraging a partner ecosystem, the better their chances for success," Koplowitz said.

Novell also allows external developers to create lightweight "gadget" applications for the Vibe products and is holding a contest to promote the creation of these applications.

The Vibe products will compete against cloud and on-premise enterprise collaboration products from a wide variety of vendors, including Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Socialtext, NewsGator, Jive Software and Google.

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