Microsoft kicks off next era of small business software

Server bundles designed for companies with more than 50 PCs.

Microsoft Wednesday released an updated bundle of infrastructure servers for small business and its first-ever offering tailored to midsized businesses, and said the two would evolve alongside the company's software-plus-services strategy.

Microsoft also introduced new financing plans in response to the sagging economy.

Under the marketing banner of Windows Essential Server Solutions (WESS), Microsoft released Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008, its first-ever bundle for midsized businesses, and Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008, which has evolved over the past 12 years.

The WESS offerings bundle popular IT software in order to ease rollout and management burdens for small and midsized companies.

The two bundles represent Microsoft's best attempt to date to serve the needs of businesses that have up to 300 PCs. WESS offers small businesses for the first-time options to deploy multiple servers, mobile options, a platform for small companies to run business applications and the first integration between small business infrastructure and Microsoft's online services as part of its software-plus-services mode.

That services integration will mark the evolution of the WESS bundles going forward, according to Microsoft.

"We have built extensibility into our products so a developer or Microsoft can write services that will interact with the servers on the ground," says Steven VanRoekel, senior director of the Windows Server solutions group. "As those products evolve over time, you will see that same evolution as well for small and medium sized businesses."

Microsoft this year alone has spent US$6.5 billion on "support, services and solutions for the SMB space," according to CEO Steve Ballmer, who appeared on a Webcast to announce SBS 2008 and EBS 2008.

The two servers complete Microsoft's wave of IT infrastructure software based on Windows Server 2008, which shipped earlier this year. Microsoft said at its Partner Conference in July that the bundles would ship Nov. 12 and it hit that mark.

SBS 2008 includes Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Services 3.0 (not the full SharePoint Server), Windows Server Update Services 3.0, and a 120-day trial subscription to Forefront Security for Exchange Server and Windows Live OneCare for Server. It also supports Terminal Services access to applications.

The bundle also adds integration with Office Live Small Business to support the creation of basic Web sites, online document sharing via SharePoint and an introduction to Microsoft's online advertising platform.

SBS 2008 is designed for companies with up to 75 PCs, and comes in both a Standard and Premium version. The standard version runs only on 64-bit hardware.

The premium addition of SBS 2008, which adds a 32-bit platform option, includes a database and for the first time lets users run the software on two servers. The second server runs Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2005 or 2008 to support business applications.

In SBS 2008, Microsoft has added tools to manage domain names and data folders, a new management console that monitors across servers and clients, customized and remotely available reports, and block-based server protection to speed backups.

EBS 2008, which is designed for companies with up to 300 desktops, includes Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange Server, System Center Essentials 2007, and the new version of Internet Security and Acceleration Server now called the Forefront Threat Management Gateway. The Standard edition is 64-bit only, but the Premium version, which adds SQL Server 2008, has a 32-bit deployment option to accommodate older applications.

With both EBS 2008 versions, users will have the option to install SharePoint Services 3.0.

The Standard version runs across three servers, one each for management, messaging and security. The Premium version runs on four servers and adds a database server option for business applications.

Microsoft announced earlier this year that it was introducing the option to purchase single client access licenses (CAL) for either platform. Previously, users had to purchase CALs in blocks of five.

In addition, the CALs will apply to copies of Windows Server, SQL Server and Exchange Server running outside the Essential Server environment.

The pricing for SBS 2008 Standard is $1,089, which includes five CALs. Additional CALs are $77 each. The Premium version is priced at $1,899, and additional CALs are $189.

The Standard version of ESB 2008 is priced at $5,472, including five CALs. Additional CALs are $81 each. The Premium version is priced at $7,163 with additional CALs priced at $195.

On Tuesday, Microsoft added financing options with 24- and 60-month terms that require no money up front and cover hardware, software and partner professional services.

Microsoft hardware partners Dell, HP and IBM will offer optimized hardware configurations for SBS 2008 and EBS 2008. HP, IBM and Intel also will offer blade server options for midsized companies. Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo and Sun will offer rack and tower systems that can support the two Microsoft platforms.

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Tags Windows Essential Server SolutionsEssential Business ServerWindows Small Business Server

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