noFirst Look: Novells Enterprise Social Networking Suite
Novell (news, site) joins the booming enterprise social networking scene with Vibe Cloud, but does it offer anything different?

Go Social or Bust

Every major player in business software knows they must have an enterprise collaboration platform. So Novell joins the likes of IBM, Salesforce and Microsoft and throws its hat into the social ring. Endless reports highlight improvements in knowledge sharing, better project management and faster resolution of problems. Go social, the reports say, and watch your workforce shine. 

Novell joins the fray with Vibe Cloud, which sounds like a created-by-committee name if ever there was one (what was wrong with Novel Pulse, the project's previous name?) It offers users all the expected features including rich user profiles, wikis and blogs, file sharing, live collaboration tools and enterprise level back-end monitoring for a secure, professional, environment. Anyone can give it a whirl in the public beta, demonstrated in this video:

The Core Functionality for Collaboration

Vibe Cloud offers businesses the power to create an active, worker-focused intranet, a project management tool, company repository or knowledge base and we're sure users can come up with some more novel uses. All of this happens in the cloud, although an on-premises version called Vibe OnPrem 3 (which is an even worse name) is also on the way for companies for whom security is paramount.

From the user's perspective, they can create profiles, write status updates and maintain blogs and wikis related to their projects. Vibe Cloud's Resource Library plays host to a library of customizable templates that can be used to create standard features like change of home address forms, job posts or similar content that is applicable across all companies.

Getting Up to Speed with Standards

Novell's uses Google's XMPP protocol (used for Google's defunct Wave project) to aid cooperation between workers. In the pipeline for Vibe is Microsoft Office compatibility, giving it greater relevance in the market place, while developers will be able to create gadgets to increase the functionality and create specific features for their business.

Documents will be synchronized across the Group folder in the cloud and your desktop versions via Instant sync to maintain accuracy. Groups and permission levels will limit access to valid users. Ad hoc groups can be also created for rapid decision making and debate.

Professional and Clean Interface

Using Vibe Cloud is slick and impressive through the browser interface. By default it looks professional with grey tones. Panes and panels break up the display, showing who is online. Performing most functions is done through pop-up windows to escape the flat browser. Wherever you are in the system, all your information, such as tasks to do, appointments and so on remain visible at the top of the page.

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Novell's social offering brings workers together

The betas of both are available to try now and Vibe OnPrem is expected to fully launch this year with the cloud version live in 2011. The open beta will give users a solid idea of its capabilities and there are a large number of YouTube videos offering a guided tour of the main features (is it me, or have they appropriated the Star Wars Lightsabre sound effect for their logo?)