Microsoft Unwraps Small And Medium Business Servers

Although it won't be available until the second half of the year, Microsoft has begun talking about Small Business Server 2008, formerly code-named Cougar, the long awaited follow-up to Small Business Server 2003, which has been a go-to product for thousands of VARs selling into the 50-seat-and-under space.

But Small Business Server 2008 is more than just a sequel: This Cougar is the proud mama of a new Microsoft product family called Windows Essential Server Solutions, which consists of Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008 (formerly called Centro), which is aimed at midsize companies with up to 250 employees.

Windows Essential Server Solutions roll up the functionality of Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007 and other Microsoft products and services into all-in-one solutions, says Steven VanRoekel, senior director of Windows Server Solutions at Microsoft.

In addition to improved administration and management features, Small Business Server 2008 will include one year trial subscriptions to Forefront Security for Exchange Server Small Business Edition (antispam and malware) and Windows Live OneCare for Server (antivirus), VanRoekel said.

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One difference between Small Business Server and Essentials Business Server is that Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA) has been dropped from SBS 2008, although solution providers told ChannelWeb they don't expect this decision to have any negative repercussions.

"I don't think ISA being removed from SBS is a big deal, especially since it's more appropriate to have it in Essentials Business Server," said Chris Rue, CEO of Black Warrior Technology, a Northport, Ala.-based solution provider and Small Business Server MVP.

Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008 each have Standard and Premium CALs, and one of the main benefits Microsoft is offering with Premium is the ability to run the software on two physical servers, according to VanRoekel.

John Endter, president of E Squared C, a Small Business Specialist based in Minden, Nev., sees this as one of the main reasons for upgrading. "We used to install a second server for customers running SQL Server in Small Business Server environments, but now, Small Business Server 2008 will allow you to break off the SQL Server onto a second machine," he said.

"Companies between 20 and 50 seats definitely need that second server for the line of business applications that run on SQL. The licensing costs on getting that second server used to be expensive," said Brad Kowerchuk, president of Bralin Technology Solutions, North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

However, the splitting of the Small Business Server CAL could create problems for users who've grown accustomed to buying a single CAL, said Black Warrior's Rue.

"One good thing about SBS was the simplicity of licensing on the client end. You never had to worry about CALs specific to standard or premium versions, and that's probably going to confuse a lot of people," he said.

Microsoft is also talking up the ability to connect Window Essential Server Solutions to its Office Live offering, although it's not clear whether the 'integration' goes beyond accessing the service through a Web browser. "This is the first software + services instantiation that connects the on premise server to the server in the sky," said VanRoekel.

Both Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008 will be available in the second half of the year, with a beta due in the first half.