This is cool product. We did a joint webcast with Microsoft in November where we talked about integrating Extranets in the Cloud with Intranets on premise (what we termed the X design). In it, we highlighted the Spirit Community Services Suite which was just released. This product allows organizations to create very webby UI, integrated collaborative communities on SharePoint. It contains a set of 4 modules that you use to create your communities, or, you can use the modules to add “community services” to any site in any SharePoint environment – Intranet, Extranet, or Internet.
We’ve been using the different modules for some time in our own Community – so I am a believer. If you visit the Resources section of the Community you’ll see the link service in action. In our Partner Extranet we use the link service, the news service, and the group blog. The neatest part though is the UI that is all clean CSS/XSLT. This is particularly important for the main community navigation template, which makes it very easy to change and rebrand. With that piece, it is quite easy to pop up, eye popping communities across your environment.
A subtle but key part of the design is that the services modules run as centrally configured web application services. You configure them using a simple, native SP interface, then, you distribute the UI’s, called Service Viewers as web parts to wherever you want to use them. So, when you make changes centrally to a service, any and all uses of it across the environment are immediately updated. This allows you to make access to community services convenient for users by putting them where the user works (like in their departments) while minimizing the maintenance.
It runs on the CW Toolset on top of WSS 3.0 or MOSS. You can run it on premise or in the cloud via our offering with Fpweb.net. The documentation is rather extensive. Armed with it, you can deploy your first community, as shown in the demonstration video, in just a couple of hours. In a full day, you can have a slick, branded community, integrating information from across your SharePoint environment.
If you want to get some business leverage for your organization in 2010, interactive communities that engage and leverage people, inside and outside your organization, is a great way to start.