Known as the Windows Server System, this latest bundle brings together several existing products and comes with three copies of the Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, a copy of Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition and a copy of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition.
It also includes 50 new combination promotional Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003, and costs some 20 percent less than the current open-level pricing for the products, at around $6,400 in the United States, Steven VanRoekel, Microsofts director of midmarket solutions in the Windows Server group, told eWEEK.
Microsoft technologies for this market segment have traditionally been very product-focused and have required specialists to manage each of them, but this offering addresses that. "We know we need to do a better job to help these companies manage all this," VanRoekel admitted.
The software giant defines the midsize market as those companies with between 50 and 1,000 employees or 25 to 500 PCs, said John Lauer, vice president of Microsofts Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners Group.
"Were very excited about this part of our business," he said. "It is the fastest-growing segment right now. We have been growing double digits, and it is a good business for us.
"In the industry overall there was been a 12 percent growth rate in 2004 to $231 billion, research shows," Lauer said, adding that the segment is growing even faster than that for Microsoft.
The reason for this is that Microsofts solutions are solving some of the customer pain points, Lauer said, especially for those customers that are resource-constrained and do not have the necessary IT staff.
At the same time they experience many of the complexities that enterprises have to deal with, but without the same resources to deal with them. As such, having out-of-the-box solutions with a deeper level of integration is essential, he said.
"So, the real key is having that tight integration at a low level. These customers also need a vibrant and robust partner ecosystem to help them, and they need to be local. We think this is really a sweet spot for Microsoft and so have been super-focused on meeting these needs," he said.
Asked what type of customer support will be included with the latest offering, VanRoekel said that those customers who do not have any other type of Microsoft support contract will get the base level of support that is offered for each product when it is bought individually.
Software Assurance is also available on this software at an additional charge, and users can pay this off over three years and also qualify for any product upgrade over that time, he said.
"Customers can order this single SKU or, what we anticipate will happen, partners can take this one SKU forward to the marketplace," VanRoekel said. "Were also including the ability for customers to buy additional CALs at 20 percent off for Windows and Exchange, up to a maximum of 250 per company."
Asked why customers should not view this as Microsoft just taking existing technologies and throwing them together, VanRoekel said the partners Microsoft has consulted with about this offer wanted something beyond the Small Business Server offering that they could take to market and get customers excited about.
"We are back-ending this offer with a bunch of work to help customers and partners make it easier to deploy and manage this stuff. First and foremost is new guidance as we know we cant just put this offer out without giving a prescriptive way for them to deploy this in a best practices manner to get the benefits of it," he said.
As such, Microsoft has created the Midsized Business IT Center, a Web site within TechNet that provides technical information and resources to IT professionals and consultants who work with midsized businesses to effectively deploy and manage Microsoft servers, operating systems, and security technologies and applications.
That guidance will be available in a Microsoft press book, titled "Windows Server System Deployment Guide for Midsized Businesses."
The offer, the guidance and the new Web site will all launch on Thursday, ahead of Microsofts Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis this weekend.
There is also a move inside Microsoft to refresh its technical content to focus on these midsize companies, not only with Windows Server, Exchange and MOM, but also with the Office, Windows XP and developer tools teams, to also supply content to the TechNet Web site, VanRoekel said.
"We feel we really need to make an effort and show these customers we are doing the work to bring all that stuff together and, so, all of this will launch at our partner conference this weekend," he said.