At Long Last, Microsoft Ships Small/Essential Business Server 2008


For Microsoft channel partners, Small Business Server 2008 provides an opportunity to upgrade customers still using the aging Small Business Server 2003. Essential Business Server 2008, targeted at midsize companies, will appeal to customers that have outgrown Small Business Server as well as potentially attract new midmarket customers.

"As a VAR, I'm excited," said Erik Thorsell, president of Success Computer Consulting, a solution provider and Microsoft partner. Thorsell has been selling SBS 2008 and is poised to begin implementing the solution at customer sites.

SBS 2008, designed for companies with up to 75 users or PCs, combines Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2008, Windows SharePoint Services and other products into one bundle that runs on a single physical server. A premium edition adds the SQL Server 2008 database running on a second server.

EBS 2008, a new solution targeting midmarket customers, supports up to 300 users or PCs. The standard edition requires three physical servers running management, messaging and security applications while the premium edition adds the SQL Server database running on a fourth server.

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"SBS has always been a core product for us," said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a solution provider and Microsoft partner. SBS has been a successful product for Evolve, "and SBS 2008 just builds on that. I'm actually quite impressed with it," he said.

Success Computer's Thorsell said the answer file functionality in SBS 2008 lets him create answers to frequently asked installation questions and create automatic configuration settings. That saves time and money for the reseller and the customer, Thorsell said. "I'm all about structured, repeatable processes." He also expects resellers to take greater advantage of the built-in SharePoint Services: While SBS 2003 included SharePoint, Thorsell said most solution providers didn't fully understand its potential value to customers.

Steve Rubin, president of WorkIT Safe, a solution provider and Microsoft partner, said his current SBS customers welcome the chance to upgrade to EBS 2008. "They're bursting at the seams with 65, 70 users and have nowhere to go." WorkIT Safe has been testing EBS 2008 and has even implemented it at two customer sites.

Until now the only option for customers that outgrew Small Business Server's 75-user limit was to purchase the components separately and assemble them into one system. But that's time consuming and the components aren't as tightly integrated. Sobel at Evolve Technologies said Essential Business Server is the answer. "The minute you put that solution in front of the customer, they get it," he said.

Rubin said Microsoft has made the upgrade from SBS to EBS particularly easy by providing a way to migrate Active Directory from one solution to the other with little or no downtime.

Earlier this week Thorsell spoke to a potential customer with some 100 employees that wanted to upgrade from Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and other products. Thorsell said he thinks he's got the IT manager at the nonprofit organization sold on EBS 2008, thanks to its easy administration.

Microsoft said the cost of purchasing SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 is 30 to 35 percent less than buying the individual software components "a la carte."

Small Business Server 2008 Standard Edition is priced at $1,089, including five client-access licenses (CALs), with additional CALs priced at $77. Small Business Server 2008 Premium Edition is priced at $1,899 with additional CALs priced at $189.

Essential Business Server 2008 Standard Edition is priced at $5,472, including five CALs, with additional CALs $81 each, while the Premium Edition is priced at $7,163 and $195 per additional CAL.

Sobel provided a potential customer with a quote for EBS 2008 and the customer was impressed with the simplicity of the solution's licensing terms. "When was the last time you ever heard someone say something about Microsoft's licensing being simple?" he said.

Microsoft formally debuted SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 in a Webcast Wednesday that featured CEO Steve Ballmer touting the company's $6.5 billion investment this year in products, support programs and incentives for small and midsize businesses.

Microsoft announced new financing options for customers that Steven VanRoekel, senior director of Windows Server Solutions, said would give solution providers another selling tool. The "zero money down" plan gives customers a way to spread out their payments.