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A Place For Everyone

Microsoft's renamed server group -- including the products formerly known as 'Centro' and 'Cougar' -- target SMBs at every level.

Microsoft has re-branded and repackaged its server offerings for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with the introduction of the Windows Essential Server Solutions family.

The new product group includes two versions of Windows Small Business Server 2008 -- Premium and Standard -- for small businesses, and two versions, also Premium and Standard, of Windows Essential Business Sever 2008, aimed at midsize companies.

Small Business Server (SBS), which carried the code name "Cougar," is designed for companies with up to 50 PCs; Essential Business Server (EBS), formerly known as "Centro," is intended for businesses with up to 250 PCs. Both were introduced during Microsoft's "launch wave" events in February, but Microsoft says neither will be available until sometime in the second half of this year.

The group offers a graduation from SBS Standard through EBS Premium: SBS Standard includes one server, SBS Premium two, EBS Standard three and EBS Premium four. Starting with SBS Premium, partners can configure the second server to run virtually on the first one; customers can then, later on, transfer it to a physical box at no extra cost and with no licensing changes. The idea behind that progression is that growing companies will eventually move from SBS to EBS, according to Microsoft.

All these offerings are built based on Windows Server 2008 and include a Forefront Security for Exchange bundle and a Software as a Service connection to Office Live Small Business.

The new family offers plenty of opportunity for partners, according to Microsoft: "There are 31.9 million small businesses and 1.2 million midsize companies worldwide in need of powerful IT solutions, and they typically have very small IT staffs, or none at all," Bob Kelly, a corporate vice president, said in a February press release.

The new servers are much easier to set up and install than previous models, says Steven Van Roekel, senior director of Microsoft's Windows Server Solutions Team. "Partner models are shifting to more downstream stuff and less about the initial install. They've told us they don't want to do that stuff anymore," Van Roekel says.

Microsoft is also launching a marketing campaign for the new server family; the advertisements will be based on the tagline "Multiply Your Power."

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