Microsofts Centro Solution Aims to Boost Midmarket Infrastructure

Redmond is setting its sights on the smaller guys with Centro, a software package under development that addresses midmarket needs for easier infrastructure management.

Microsoft Corp. is recognizing the specific needs of the midmarket with a new infrastructure software solution under development known as Centro, which will be released in 2007 as part of the "Longhorn" wave of products.

Centro is specifically tailored to address the needs of the midmarket segment, which Microsoft defines as those customers with between 25 and 500 PCs connected to the Internet.

This is being seen as Microsofts pitch to the midmarket, which has often been neglected as a market of its own, having to either customize small business offerings or enterprise packages to meet their needs.

Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect, is expected to talk about his vision for the midmarket and the key role that Centro will play in that at the Microsoft Business Summit, being held at the Redmond campus on Wednesday, said Microsoft officials familiar with the content of his speech.

Steven VanRoekel, Microsofts director of midmarket solutions in the Windows Server group, told that Centro—which will ship in 2007, the same timeframe as Microsofts Windows Longhorn Server—will bundle together Longhorn Server, the next version of Exchange and the next generation of security technologies.

Those technologies, according to Van Roekel, include the next version of ISA Server and System Center management technologies, which includes software and patch deployment and monitoring of the desktop and server.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts plans for Longhorn and Blackcomb, the server version that follows Longhorn.

Centro will be made available pre-installed from Microsoft OEMs and system builders as an out-of-box solution and is expected to run on between two and three servers, though that number is not final as yet.

The software will also be made available for users to install themselves, VanRoekel said.

"We are working very hard on making sure that the installation and set up is as automated and simplified as much as possible. Once it is up and running, users will have a management experience that ties the different applications together," he said.

Citing the example of something midmarket IT managers do all the time—adding a new user—VanRoekel said that today this involves going into the directory, providing a user name, password and establishing an e-mail box.

"But it does not end there, as the new user then has to be assigned to different groups, group policies established, printers mapped, applications enabled and made available to them, and then issue the user a computer and give it a domain account.

"This takes four or five different tools that are independent of one another and have no basis or relationship," VanRoekel said.

With Centro, users will be walked through all these stages via a user wizard, which will simplify and automate this process behind the scenes, reducing it to just a few steps.

Next Page: The aim of Centro is to keep it simple.