Microsoft on Friday dropped some surprising news on SMB channel partners by revealing that it will halt development of its midmarket-focused Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) on June 30.
Microsoft launched EBS in November 2008 in part to give VARs a product to sell to customers whose needs exceeded the 75-user limit of Small Business Server, and potentially attract new midmarket customers. With support for up to 300 users, EBS filled a gap that had existed in Microsoft's SMB product portfolio, but EBS apparently wasn't seeing a satisfactory level of uptake.
In a Friday blog post, Microsoft's Windows Essential Business Server team said the decision was made because midsize businesses are increasingly using management, virtualization and cloud computing to cut costs and boost efficiency. Because these features are already part of Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft System Center and the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), EBS became redundant.
Microsoft insists that it's "fully committed" to small and medium business, and a spokesperson said the decision "represents a natural market shift in midsize business' preferences toward creating their own IT solutions."
To cushion the blow, Microsoft from June 30 through December 31 will allow current EBS 2008 customers to obtain the individual component software from the EBS 2008 suite for free. Microsoft will also maintain the standard support lifecycle for EBS that it offers with other business products.
Chris Rue, CEO of Black Warrior Technology, a Northport, Ala.-based Microsoft partner, says this will allow EBS customers to move to the standalone versions of EBS components, which include three copies of Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition, as well as Forefront Threat Management Gateway, Exchange Server 2007 Standard, System Center Essentials 2007, and the requisite Client Access Licenses (CALs).
Rue is one partner who will be sad to see EBS go. "With version one of EBS, I was blown away by how appropriate the product was for the midmarket," he said. "EBS took care of the tasks that would take up literally 90 percent of the day for an IT administrator."