WinServer 2003 R2, Midmarket Offering Available

The Windows Server System Promotion will incorporate the latest Window server upgrade, Release 2, which offers improved support for branch offices, storage management and integrated Windows Sharepoint Services.

Windows Server 2003 R2 is the first major upgrade of the Windows server since 2003.

The midmarket offering, first unveiled at Microsoft's partner conference last July, is a special bundle for midmarket customers that includes three copies of Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition, one Exchange 2003 Standard Edition, one Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 Workgroup Edition and 50 Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Windows and Exchange Server e-mail. It is offered at a 20 percent discount.

Partners said they liked the product because it enables midmarket customers to acquire software at discount without licensing.

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Additionally, R2's improved support for branch offices – including high performance file copying over slower connections – and storage area network appeals to this class of customers.

"It definitely is a better value proposition for organizations with 50 to 250 nodes," said Kerry Mann, an executive at Mantralogix, a Microsoft solution provider in Mississauga, Ontario. "From a practical standpoint all of the WAN-related enhancements would be useful for multi site installs.

One customer said the R2 release offers better integration than in the past.

"I like the direction its going. It's a lot tighter than it has been in the past," said Buzz Burce, a network administrator at RealityWorks, Eau Claire, Wisc. "

Microsoft is hoping to make the midmarket SKU as successful as its integrated offering for small businesses, Windows Small Business Server.

It remains unclear how well the current midmarket offering is selling, but Microsoft plans to release a fully-integrated midmarket server suite code-named Centro in 2007. That version of the suite will be based on the upcoming Longhorn server.

One partner said sales to date are "decent" but he doesn't know if the midmarket offering will be as successful as Windows Small Business Server.

"We are selling some. In a lot of midmarket customers, they've got a lot of the infrastructure already, " said Greg Gatzke, principal with ZAG Technical Services, a Microsoft Gold Partner in San Jose, Calif., "SBS is a no brainer and easy to sell. I don't know if this will turn into as good as that."

"R2 is probably a non-factor at this point, but may have some impact moving forward," said Jason Harrison, president of Harrison Technology Consulting, Nashville, N.C.

"I do not know if the mid-market bundle will be as successful as SBS," he added. "The market dynamics are different. The server needs tend to be more specific due to line of business application requirements and so on. So, sometimes the bundle will make sense and sometimes it may be better to go with individual products due to strategic reasons or due to existing technology investments. Time will tell."