Windows Servers for Midsize Businesses

In the last three years, Microsoft has turned its attention to midsize customers – that class of organization that is smaller than an enterprise and larger than an SMB. Microsoft has various measures to define midmarket companies: between 26 and 500 PCs; an IT department with about one-to-three IT generalists on staff and no CIO; or an organization with 50-1,000 employees.

The company first formally addressed this customer segment in July 2005 with a discounted, three-server solution called the Windows Server System for midsized businesses promotion. That bundle consisted of three copies of Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition; a copy of Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, Workgroup Edition; and 50 special combination Client Access Licenses that carried rights for Windows and Exchange. At $6,400, with additional CALs priced at $76, the promotion was 20 percent less than Open pricing under Microsoft Volume Licensing.

That deal expired in September, though, and the next product on the roadmap for midsize customers is a special midsize offering code-named "Centro" that will be based on Windows "Longhorn" Server. Microsoft is making progress on that product, according to Davide Vigano, general manager for worldwide midmarket marketing and acting worldwide midmarket lead for Microsoft's Small, Midmarket Solutions & Partner Group (SMS&P).

"We're getting very close to the beta," Vigano says. "We're actively recruiting partners and customers for that beta."

Centro, which was formally unveiled at the Microsoft Business Summit in September 2005, is positioned as a new midsize business infrastructure solution. From a license perspective, the product is likely to consist of two-to-three servers. It would include multiple copies of Longhorn Server, Exchange Server 2007, the next version of Internet Security & Accelerator Server. At the time, Microsoft also announced plans to integrate setup and management and to cherry-pick management components from MOM and Systems Management Server.

The Longhorn dependency will mean Centro must follow that server OS out the door. Microsoft is currently looking at releasing Centro in the first half of calendar year 2008.

But Vigano says Microsoft has been filling the time between the promotion and Centro with more focused tools that make it easier for Microsoft partners to deliver tailored solutions for midmarket customers, who have traditionally had trouble getting attention in the market.

Microsoft introduced a partner offering called the Windows Server System Assessment and Deployment Tool. Specifically designed for midmarket customers, the tool allows partners to plug a laptop into your network and inventory and assess it without installing any agent software. The tool then helps generate a proposal document for a Microsoft infrastructure package optimized to your midsize network. Finally, the tool helps automate deployment of Windows Server, MOM Workgroup Edition and Exchange.

From a partner perspective, the tool has been fairly popular. "In 90 days, it was downloaded by 10,000 partners," Vigano says. So, if you're a midsize organization, don't be surprised to have a Microsoft partner knocking on your door, offering an assessment.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.