In the first installment, Brian Berson (Extensis General Manager) explained where the new type server project stands right now. In this issue, I asked the ‘product guys’ about how the whole thing got started.
The Product Guys in the spotlight today: Brian Berson (Extensis GM) and Martin Stein (VP Products & Solutions).
Amanda: Every software project starts with a product requirements document, which outlines what this product will be and do. When you were writing the PRD for the type server – what was your hi-level objective?
Brian: Well, on a high level, we wanted to merge 2 into 1 with the sum being more than 2. The challenge was that these 2 are different products represent 2 different approaches.
Large corporate environments have a large infrastructure, and compliance is a main concern. They need the control that a live system offers. This is the Font Reserve Server model. Smaller, more nimble environments may not have a big IT team. They need complete user flexibility, like the ability to pick and choose their subscriptions. This is closer to the Suitcase Server model.
Since another objective was to continue serving both small workgroups and large enterprises with the same product, the new type server has to give the administrator the ability to configure their desired level of control.
Martin: Next priority was to “Be a better IT citizen”. That’s become an internal mantra around here. To me this means that we have to meet the needs of their current ecosystem. Things like: scalability, stability, rapid development for enhancements, better offline usability, customization, etc.
B: Another priority for me was to take font management to the next level- customers are very clear about what they expect in a new product. They expect simple and powerful UI, precise font activation via FontSense, license management, and a product that takes into consideration how their teams really use it.
And lastly, we have to make the entire transition seamless. Customers want everything that they had before, wrapped in a better package of performance and usability.
A: How did these objectives impact technology decisions?
B: From a technology standpoint, this led us down a few paths. Architecturally, we quickly decided that everything would be centralized: fonts, permissions, sets, keywords, etc. Everything is housed on the server- in a live system. From there: we were trying to decide between the Suitcase and Font Reserve servers as the platform. Ultimately it did not add up to continue building on this proprietary technology when the technology is already out there to leverage. We decided to put our internal resources and expertise where it fits best– solving the business problem.
M: That’s what led to the decision to use open technology off the shelf. We need to fit into the ecosystem of our customers, and these are proven, well-tested and supported in the developer community. This was the right decision from a technology standpoint, and ultimately for the customer, but it has had an impact on time to market. It was inevitable.
A: Now that the objectives and approach are mapped out, let’s talk details. Where did you start and how do you decide what is left on the ‘cutting room floor’?
M: We started by breaking apart all the functionality of each product and then ‘rebuilt’ the product – conceptually. But this is not simply a consolidation, so then we added to the list all the things we always wanted to do. Then the hard part: prioritization. Time to market matters, so we had to make priority decisions.
B: But, this also means we know where we want to take the technology from here- long term. For example, we’d like to implement things like server-to-server replication, etc. But that’s not going to make it into this release.
A: What people can’t see is the excitement on your faces as you’re talking about this.
M: I am excited. I am so proud of this project. It’s the ‘OSX of the font management world’. A beautiful UI combined with the power of a real IT application. This really is a kick-ass product.
Upcoming ‘We hear you!’ installments will include: what’s under the hood, rethinking user interface design, and what’s driving the new end-user functionality.
Have something you are interested in? Drop me a line (via a comment) and I’ll add it to the mix.