As Windows Server "R2" inches closer to debut, Microsofts marketing plan for selling into branch offices of companies of all sizes is taking shape, according to Microsoft partners who spoke to Microsoft Watch on the condition of anonymity.
R2 is the version of Windows Server due out in the latter half of 2005. Microsoft has yet to field a first beta of the product, but the release is expected to be a fairly minor one, bundling together Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and a handful of the Windows Server feature packs that Microsoft has introduced over the past year or so.
Microsoft is expected to focus a good deal of R2 marketing on selling to companies needing branch management. A "branch scenario," in Microsofts view, implies there are no on-site systems administrators at a given location. Instead, the administrators are typically located in the central site. And they are in charge of managing lots of clients located in remote offices that can be as small as a single individual or as large as a huge offshore division of a conglomerate.
Microsoft will work to support these kinds of customers with R2 with some specific features, Microsoft partners said. Among these will be an enhanced print-management console for centralized printer management; new compression algorithms to support faster data replication via a feature called File Replication Service (FRS); distributed file system (DFS) enhancements; and branch-specific remote-management tools.
Microsoft plans further branch-office-specific features by the time Longhorn Server hits in 2007, partners added. By that time, Microsoft is promising more and better print-management, file-replication and remote-management capabilities, Microsoft partners added.
Microsoft had been dallying with the notion of introducing a separate Windows Server Branch Office SKU to address the needs of branch offices, sources said earlier this year. But company officials are now telling select partners there is no Branch Office SKU on the drawing board.
Instead, Microsofts looking at making Branch Office one of the many Windows Server "roles" which OEMs and customers will be allowed to select when deploying its future Windows Server releases, starting with R2, partners said.