Microsoft prepares SMB service blueprints

As part of its efforts to boost sales to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Microsoft is creating blueprints for complete IT infrastructures based on Microsoft products that its partners can sell and deliver to SMBs.

Microsoft has divided the SMB space in four segments based on the number of desktops an organization has. Under the moniker "IT Solutions for Small and Medium Business" the company will deliver descriptions for "end-to-end integrated IT solutions" tailored for each segment, according to information on Microsoft's Web site.

The blueprints are designed to make sure a customer gets products that have been proven to work together, while making it easier for service providers to deliver a standard integrated infrastructure. Additionally, software makers can optimize their products to work on the standard infrastructure designed by Microsoft, the Redmond, Washington, software maker said.

The plan to help partners sell more Microsoft products in the SMB space are similar to what Microsoft has done for its Office products with the Office Solution Accelerators. There the vendor helps partners deliver customized additions to Office designed for specific tasks such as recruiting and drafting sales proposals.

Drawing up the infrastructure descriptions is a clever move by Microsoft, said Bob Paulson, owner of RB Paulson Consulting in Seattle, a small Microsoft reseller that services mostly dentists' and doctors' offices with up to 40 desktops.

"It is good marketing and it is what Microsoft should do. They should not only build this stuff, but also have an idea of how it should be used. It is an effort to try and understand the business needs besides just creating applications," he said.

The four "IT Solutions" Microsoft distinguishes are: Peer-to-Peer, for businesses with up to five desktops; Small, for businesses with up to 50 desktops entering the server-based computing environment; Medium, for businesses with up to 250 desktops; and Large for businesses with up to 500 desktops and near-enterprise level requirements.

Only the Small IT Solution is available today. Peer-to-Peer and Medium are scheduled to be available in March 2004, while Large is due out in June 2004, according to the Microsoft Web site.

The peer-to-peer package is straightforward, recommending a small router and a wired or wireless LAN to connect computers running Windows XP and Office to share Internet connections and printers. The peer-to-peer package does not necessarily have to be delivered by a service provider and could be assembled in-house, Microsoft said.

The other blueprints expand on the basic peer-to-peer package. Core in the Small IT Solution is a server running Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003 software. On the hardware side the setup includes a small router, printers and an optional firewall device. Other options include Microsoft Windows-powered NAS (Network Attached Storage) and Microsoft Business Solutions software, Microsoft said.

The Medium IT Solution blueprint is based on Windows Server 2003 and includes the same options as the Small IT Solution blueprint, plus the option for a SAN (Storage Area Network). Hardware-wise the design includes a router, firewall and VPN (virtual private network) device.

Microsoft considers all the options for the smaller SMBs are must-haves for the larger ones, except for the Business Solution software. Also, the Large IT Solutions blueprint adds Windows Advanced Server 2003.

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Joris Evers

IDG News Service
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