Microsoft Ships Early Betas Of 'Cougar' And 'Centro' Servers


Both products are x64-only and are scheduled to ship in 2008, according to Microsoft.

Late last month, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant released to a select group of partners and OEMs a Customer Technology Preview of Cougar, the next version of Small Business Server based on the "Longhorn" edition of the Windows Server, which is slated to ship by the end of this year. Microsoft said Cougar will incorporate Windows Server, Exchange Server 2007, Windows SharePoint Services, ISA Server and SQL Server and System Center Essentials, a new system management suite designed for the small- and midsize-business market.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also is making progress with its highly anticipated midmarket server, code-named Centro. Last month, the company released a private beta of Centro, an x64 solution that addresses the infrastructure needs of midsize companies.

Based on a model similar to Small Business Server (SBS), Centro will integrate the Longhorn Windows Server, Exchange 2007, System Center Essentials, SQL Server 2006, ISA Server and other Microsoft Forefront security services.

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Microsoft said in November that it plans to release a beta three version of the Longhorn server in the first half of 2007.

One Microsoft partner familiar with both products said they are similar in scope, except that Cougar has a limit of 75 users and Centro will support as many as 500 users.

In addition, Centro will offer unique features from SBS, such as simplified installation across multiple servers. Centro will run on multiple servers, whereas SBS is confined to a single server.

Microsoft solution providers are enthusiastic about the business prospects for Cougar and Centro but noted that deployments will require customers to upgrade to 64-bit hardware.

One Microsoft SBS partner who plans to beta-test Cougar said he needs to get equipped with the right hardware before taking a look.

"We haven't yet installed it because of the requirement for 64-bit hardware," said Michael Cocanower, president of IT Synergy, Phoenix. "Justifying the expense of three new 64-bit machines solely for beta-testing purposes is a bit tough to do, so it is taking longer to get beta versions of upcoming releases installed than it did in the past."