Microsoft 'Centro' Redubbed Windows Essential Business Server

Microsoft's long-awaited midmarket server bundle now has a name: Windows Essential Business Server.

The offering, which had gone by its code name "Centro," fills a big gap in Microsoft's infrastructure lineup, targeting companies with up to 250 desktops. The current Small Business Server (SBS) is restricted for use on one server and tops out at 75 users. Customers have clamored for a graceful growth path between that and the complex and pricey enterprise buy in.

The new midmarket product, in beta since this summer and scheduled to be in beta 2 now, is positioned as a complete solution for infrastructure, management, e-mail and security, says Russ Madlener, director of product marketing in Microsoft's Windows Server Solution group.

There will be two SKUs. Standard Edition includes Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007 and System Center Essentials for management, plus ISA Server and Forefront Security for Exchange. The Premium Edition includes everything in the Standard Edition, plus SQL Server 2008. The software can run across three server boxes, distributing the workload.

Pricing information wasn't available at press time, but the offering will come with a single, central client access license (CAL), along with a set of tools to ease CAL management for IT managers, Madlener says. Small business customers and the partners who service them have been clamoring for an easy-to-install offering to act as an upgrade from SBS.

"We have lots of clients on SBS and bursting at the 75-seat limit. Until now they were forced into the enterprise Windows level, getting into multiple boxes and managing that gets very messy and hard to control. Centro will help amazingly in terms of CALs," says Steve Rubin, president of WorkITsafe LLC, a New York City-based solutions provider.

Lyf Wildenberg, president of Minneapolis-based MyTech Partners Inc., agrees: "Seventy percent of our customers are on SBS and the rest have grown out of it or are working on migration plans."

Like SBS, the new bundle will offer Windows remote management, allowing an on-premises or remote IT professional to log in and work on local machines through a Terminal Services session. But "the real play there is that the tools will let the user, just as in SBS, go to a portal, log in and take control of his or her work machine remotely," Wildenberg says.

By the Numbers
Dollar Figure: Microsoft Partners' Global Impact*
$100 billion
Estimated amount that companies in the Microsoft ecosystem invested in local economies, 2007

14.7 million
Number of Microsoft-related jobs in the worldwide IT industry, 2007

Security Spending-Penny by Penny
Each dollar that companies spend on information security breaks down to:
- 42 cents for technology product purchases
- 17 cents for security-related processes
- 15 cents for training
- 12 cents for assessments
- 9 cents for certification
- 5 cents for other
Source: Computer Technology Industry Association/TNS survey of 1,070 organizations, October 2007

Global Spending on IT
$1.2 trillion
Amount of IT spending worldwide (in 82 countries studied), 2007

Amount of growth projected to occur annually through 2011
*Source: Microsoft-sponsored IDC study, October 2007

Splitting up functions across multiple servers may also erase barriers to entry for other Microsoft applications and products, he notes. "With SBS, so much was on one server, a lot of companies wouldn't run other stuff on there," he notes.

George Podolak, IT manager for Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, a 150-person New York architectural firm, is looking at the product. For him, the major selling point is the new Exchange Server with its edge services as well as the overall management capabilities. But the company may or may not take the plunge, since it has already implemented standalone Exchange 2007 and spent a lot of time getting the network running well.

'Centro' Gets Its SKUs
Microsoft has formally named and determined SKUs for its midmarket server, code-named "Centro." Now officially called Windows Essential Business Server, the product will come in two SKUs:

Standard Edition includes:
• Windows Server 2008
• Exchange Server 2007
• System Center Essentials
• ISA Server
• Forefront Security for Exchange

Premium Edition includes:
• All of Standard Edition plus SQL Server 2008

Madlener said the typical user company will be one with 75 to 250 employees and one or maybe two dedicated IT people.

Madlener said the product should be available through both OEM and other partner channels in the second half of 2008. Windows Server 2008 is due early this year and SQL Server 2008 is expected in June, so it's possible that delays to those core products could impact the delivery date.

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.