Microsoft is officially naming the server solution it has been developing for the midsize business market Windows Essential Business Server, which replaces the code name "Centro."
Windows Essential Business Server is an integrated server infrastructure solution that includes Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange, System Center Essentials, the next version of ISA Server and SQL Server 2008.
The product is designed for the 1.2 million midsize businesses worldwide, which Microsoft defines as those with between 25 and 250 PCs, most of which have IT infrastructures as complex as that of an enterprise customer, Russ Madlener, director of product planning for Microsoft's server and tool division, told eWEEK.
There will be Standard and Premium editions of Windows Essential Business Server, with the Premium edition having a fourth server running SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition.
Read here what Microsoft had to say about Centro when it first announced the product.
The product, which is dependent on the much-delayed Windows Server 2008, has been under development for more than two years. It is currently set for release in the second half of 2008, Madlener said.
The software will be governed by a single Client Access License for all included products, he said, noting that Microsoft has also developed new user interface technologies such as a management console to simplify license management. This is important to midsize businesses, which tend to have only two or three IT administrators to manage their entire infrastructure, he said.
Those administrators will be able to use the management console to see how many licenses they have and who the licenses are assigned to, and reassign these when an employee leaves the company.
Microsoft has been involving customers in the product's development, from on-site client visits to setting up a 15-member Customer Advisory Board, which helped drive many of the difficult product decisions, such as just how many servers to include, Madlener said.
"They pushed us to make it a three-server solution as they were rabid about keeping their e-mail server separate. We also did our share of classic research and, early on, we took 75 feature areas and went to four separate countries, where customers ranked those features. This helped us lock down the feature set," he said.
Microsoft says opportunities abound for its partners. Click here to read more.
George Podolak, IT director for Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, an architectural firm in New York, is a member of the advisory board, which "gave me plenty of time to explain to Microsoft how my world works. It was very heartening to see that they actually paid attention to the things we said during our meetings."
Because the firm is completely dependent on a fully functional network that needs to operate all the time, it has to make maximum use out of the limited IT resources it has and to simplify the operations part, he told eWEEK.
"At one point, someone from Microsoft came out with an easy way to create a new user wizard as part of the product. We told them that that was a trivial task that didn't need to be automated. We really wanted to have management capabilities using one screen. That was a big issue for us, and they listened," Podolak said.
A number of Microsoft's software partners plan to provide "add-in" solutions for Windows Essential Business Server, including CA's ARCserve Backup to more easily manage essential data protection tasks and FullArmor's Workflow Studio, which allows IT administrators to automate day-to-day administrative tasks.
On the hardware front, Hewlett-Packard is investigating installing Windows Essential Business Server on its "Shorty" BladeSystem c-Class c3000, while IBM is considering preinstalling the software on its BladeCenter S and System x servers.
HP wants the midmarket to get Shorty. Read why here.
Microsoft will demonstrate Windows Essential Business Server running on the upcoming Intel Modular Server, which is built on the Intel Multi-Flex Technology, at its TechEd IT Forum conference in Barcelona, Spain, Nov. 12 to 16.
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