Microsoft Talks Pricing On SMB, Midmarket Servers

Slated for release in the second half of the year, EBS 2008 and SBS 2008 are the first two members of Microsoft's new Windows Essential Server Solutions family, which rolls up the functionality of Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007 and other products into all-in-one solutions.

While partners are excited about Windows Essential Server Solutions, some feel that Microsoft's branding is confusing. Partners say Microsoft has also been urging them to explain to customers the difference between the Essential Business Server 2008 product and the Essential Server Solutions brand name.

But Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider, doesn't feel that it's the job of the channel to explain the nuances of Microsoft's branding strategy.

"How did this become my problem? If you suspect there is confusion, why is the best option to just decide "well, others can figure that out, and we'll make our customers and partners deal with that," rather than fix it before launch?" said Sobel.

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Microsoft has delivered clear branding with consumer products such as the Xbox and Zune, but for whatever reason, Microsoft hasn't applied the same branding principles to their business products, Sobel said.

"This is frustrating to me because I do think that these are outstanding, underappreciated products," said Sobel. "Marketing is how we get the message out to customers, and I want that message to be as crystal clear as possible, and not get lost over any detail."

Aanal Bhatt, Microsoft partner marketing manager, acknowledges that Microsoft has "a lot of work to do" to educate the channel and make the Windows Essential Server Solution brand resonate with partners.

SBS 2008 includes critical licensing and feature improvements that came directly from partner feedback, Sobel said. "EBS 2008 is exactly the 'right size' product for the midmarket, and I see both of these being exactly right for our customers," he said.

Microsoft made several changes to the CALs of SBS 2008, which also apply to EBS 2008. For example, SBS CALs were previously available only in packs of 5, but customers can now buy individual CALs and only pay for the users or devices they use. Customers also have the option of buying a mix of Standard or Premium CALs, Sider said.

SBS 2008 Premium is more expensive than its older counterpart because of the extra copy of Windows Server and SQL Server on the extra box, but, like EBS 2008 Premium, is still much cheaper than buying the individual component products, Sider noted.

"The idea was to shift more of the cost to the server software and away from the CAL," Sider said. SBS 2008 Standard Edition is actually less expensive than SBS 2003 in most 1 to 75 user scenarios, he added.

SBS 2008 Premium Edition, which comes with Windows Server 2008 Standard and SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition for Small Business, sells for $1,899 including 5 CALs, with additional CALs priced at $189 each. SBS Standard Edition comes with five CALs and is priced at $1,089, with additional CALs priced at $77 each.

EBS 2008 Premium Edition includes five CALs and is priced at $7,163, with additional CALs priced at $195 each. EBS 2008 Standard Edition comes with five CALs and is priced at $5,472, with additional CALs priced at $81 each.