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When Microsoft Corp. releases SQL Server 2005
in November, Emanual D. Errico, won’t just hit the ground running after a new solution.

His firm STFB Inc., a database ISV, will be out in front of the pack with a solution developed ahead of the release and tested and certified as effective by Veritest.

STFB and other ISVs developing solutions for SQL Server are part of Microsoft’s freshman class in its Front Runner program, which gives VARs and ISVs early access to the Software giant’s products and technical support to develop solutions that release with the products themselves.

Designated Microsoft partners participating in Front Runner receive early versions of Microsoft products included in Front Runner, as well as technical guidance and marketing support geared to time their release with that of the product, the company announced on its Web site. Participants must meet a deadline (March 31 for SQL Server) to reap the full benefits of the program.

For Microsoft, Front Runner ensures that robust applications for its line are available immediately. For participating solution providers it means a step ahead of the competition and a nod of confidence from the Redmond, Wash. Company, Errico and other early users said.

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“It’s not just that it’s a fast to market,” Ericco said. “That’s great, you’ve got the kinks out before it even hits the street. A big piece of selling solutions is confidence in the product, and people can be frightened of a new product. Being able to say “this isn’t just certified for, but tested and effective for,” that means a lot.”

STFB used Front Runner to integrate their accounting and ERP system with SQL.

Mimosa Systems Inc. built its e-mail data management solution around Beta versions of SQL Server as it was being developed and switched out to the final version only before shipping it, said Ellen Pearson, president of Mimosa. The affect is a more useful product for both organizations, she said.

“The goal is to be concurrent,” she said. “You aren’t going to sell a product that has no solution and you aren’t going to deploy a solution without the tools… When they’re ready to launch they have a solution to go with it; when we’re ready to launch we have a database to go with our solution.”

The prestige associated with being on the cutting edge and connected to an established vendor are also a marketing coupe, she said.

Mimosa intends to leverage Front Runner to progress their solution when the next version of Microsoft Exchange arrives, Pearson said.