Microsoft Confirms Plans For 'Centro' Midmarket Server

Due out in 2007, the midmarket server will integrate the Longhorn Windows Server, Exchange 12, ISA 2004, other security servers, and System Center console and management products, Microsoft executives told CRN. Plans call for Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to officially launch the product Wednesday at the Microsoft Business Summit, which is being held at the company&s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

The Centro integrated solution, aimed at companies with 25 to 500 PCs and fewer than 1,000 employees, is separate from the promotional midmarket server bundle that Microsoft launched at its annual partner conference in July, company executives said. That bundle included Windows Server 2003, Exchange and Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 Workgroup, along with client access licenses for Windows and Exchange.

Steven Van Roekel, director of the Windows Server Group at Microsoft, said the planned integration and common management of Centro's servers borrows heavily from the integrated nature of Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS), although the specific components of the server are not yet finalized.

For instance, Microsoft is still determining which System Center technologies will be part of Centro, though the single console and software deployment and monitoring technologies from Systems Management Server (SMS) will be included, according to Microsoft executives.

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With Centro, Microsoft plans to automate many of the mundane, repeatable tasks that IT administrators spend hours completing each day. Centro, which is the Latin word for the center, or in this case the heart of the network, will automate the addition of user names and the setup of e-mail, applications and group policies.

The solution is being designed to span two or three servers, executives said. In contrast, SBS runs on one server. Microsoft said the midsize business sector includes 1.2 million companies worldwide, and that customer segment&s IT spending is growing 12 percent annually. The software giant plans to work closely with OEMs to determine the best way to implement the solution and drive sales.

At this point, Centro remains more of a blueprint than a product, and it won't be delivered until after the Longhorn Windows Server comes out in 2007, Van Roekel said. Microsoft has been mulling the idea of an integrated server for some time but only recently decided to go forward with Centro, he added. Earlier this summer, Microsoft Vice President Bob Muglia told CRN that the company was considering an integrated server for midsize companies but would wait until results of the midmarket server promotion came before determining whether such a product was viable from a marketing standpoint.

Also on Wednesday, Microsoft said its Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) business software division is being rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics.

With the change, Microsoft CRM becomes Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and MBS-Great Plains becomes Microsoft Dynamics GP. In addition, MBS-Axapta becomes Microsoft Dynamics AX, MBS-Navision becomes Microsoft Dynamics NAV and MBS-Solomon becomes Microsoft Dynamics SL.