The questions never end. We hear them from customers on the phone, at events, and during site visits. We hear them from creative agencies and publishing companies. We hear them in the US, Europe and Asia.
OK. We get it. You want more information on the next generation type server that’s in the works. So we’ve decided to do a series here that gives you some exposure to the development process, sneak peeks at some of the functionality, hear about what it is like to work on the team, and learn about the philosophy driving the development of our next generation type server.
The #1 question we get- without fail- is “When will it be done?” So there seems no better place to start than at the top. I posed this question to Brian Berson, General Manager of Extensis. That’s all it took. One question and he was off to the races…
A: Brian, I’ll cut to the chase. Here’s the question: Why is this taking so long?
B: Wow. Don’t softball it!
Really, that is a valid question. Some days I wonder that myself. The short answer is: this project is complex.
On one hand, we’re creating a new product that combines what we already have: two unique font management server solutions, which happen to take different approaches to client-server font management. Font Reserve Server is all about control of the font assets to ensure absolute correct use of fonts, while Suitcase Server is all about the best end-user experience. One focused on the IT administrator and the other focused on the creative user. Both have their place and what we set out to do was to merge the two approaches to give our customers the complete solution. Quite honestly – that’s not as easy as you might think. We did make some assumptions at the outset that didn’t work out as planned. Sometimes that happens.
On the other hand, we are also starting fresh by employing a more modern and adaptable architecture. We’ve recognized that our expertise is in understanding fonts and font workflows, and there is no point in re-inventing the wheel by building a proprietary technology, so we are using open, existing technologies and standards. This will give our customers a faster, more scalable and stable product. It will also allow us to more rapidly adapt, modify, and add new features and functionality. We’ve known from the beginning that this needs to be more than the sum of Suitcase Server and Font Reserve Server. Our customers deserve more than 1+1=2.
Then there is the need to hit the ground running. We have a mature customer base with thousands of installations- from small shops to multi-thousand seat sites. For each one, font management is mission-critical. If we miss a step, they’ll be sure to let us know! Our next generation type server can not come out of the gate feeling like a 1.0 product.
Oh yes- and we are doing all of this while continuing to support our other products that are being used in production today. And certainly Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and Quark don’t make this job any easier! Suitcase Server and Font Reserve Server integrate with both the operating system and parent applications. So when the operating system updates, for example, we have to be there with an update ASAP. Users count on it. And with QuarkXPress 7, Intel Macs, Windows Vista, Adobe CS3, and Leopard (Mac OS 10.5) all shipping in the same year- this continues to be our biggest challenge. Keeping up with these changes is a continuing challenge for our IT and creative customers, and the same is true for us as a developer.
So yes, it is complex. That said, I’m really excited about where we are now. We’ve been working on this for a couple of years already and are now in the home stretch. The product team is looking forward to talking about what we’re working on. But I’ve definitely gone on long enough, so that will have to wait for the next installment.
To see the face behind the words, you can see a brief interview with Brian in this snippet, cut from a longer interview.
You can also view the entire 1-hour show, Fonts, Fonts, Fonts!, produced by Left-Hand-Man Productions.