Microsoft Delivers Low-End Windows Server for Small Business

Microsoft introduces a new entry-level Windows server offering for small businesses, known as Windows Server 2008 Foundation.

Microsoft has introduced a new entry-level Windows server offering for small businesses, known as Windows Server 2008 Foundation.

Windows Server 2008 Foundation is an entry-level server operating system for running business applications as well as sharing information and resources in a secure manner for small businesses with up to 15 users, according to Ross Madlener, director of Windows Server Solutions in the Server and Tools Division at Microsoft.

"We have a long history of working to simplify things for small and medium businesses," Madlener said. "Only about 30 percent of small businesses have a server, and we want to see that number increase."

Julius Sinkevicius, director of product management for Windows Server, said a big segment of the SMB (small and medium-size business) market uses single-processor, sub-$1,000 computers, "and Foundation is targeted for that market. For instance, [Hewlett-Packard] will have a sub-$1,000 server with Foundation running on it."

Indeed, Microsoft said Windows Server 2008 Foundation provides small businesses with the familiarity of Windows while offering a straightforward purchasing experience. The new Microsoft server offering will be available for purchase through Microsoft OEM partners only, including Acer, Dell, HP, IBM and Lenovo and their direct channels, with system availability in April.

Windows Server 2008 Foundation will be available in 40 markets throughout the world and will be available in the following languages: English, Spanish, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese and Turkish, according to Sinkevicius.

The new server offering is 64-bit only and is designed for one-processor server hardware with a maximum 8GB memory. Madlener said small businesses will be able to protect their technology investments and move up to Windows Server Standard-which will be available in the third quarter of 2009-as they grow.

"It packs a lot of power in a single box and offers high value for the customer," Sinkevicius said.

In addition, Windows Server 2008 Foundation has the same application logo requirements as Windows Server 2008, Sinkevicius said. "It runs the same applications as Windows Server Standard," Madlener said. "If an application runs on Windows Server, it will run on Foundation."

There are some key differences between the Foundation version and Windows Server Standard, however. Windows Server 2008 Foundation only supports up to 15 users, while the standard version supports an unlimited number of users, Microsoft said. Foundation supports only one processor socket, while the standard version supports four. Foundation also only supports up to 8GB of RAM, while the standard version supports 32GB.

Also, Microsoft Server 2008 Foundation does not offer virtualization, Sinkevicius said.

"We targeted this as a global product because we want to help small businesses around the world, especially in emerging markets," Madlener said. "We're not just focusing on U.S. or North American customers."

Microsoft will also offer customers a simple way to make a difference in each of these communities. The software giant will contribute a portion of the initial sales of Windows Server 2008 Foundation to the Tech Soup and organizations. Tech Soup focuses on bringing technology to nonprofits, and Telecentre is a global community of people and organizations committed to increasing the social and economic impact of grassroots telecenters. A telecenter is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet and other digital technologies.

With Windows Server 2008 Foundation, Microsoft rounds out the low end of its Windows Server solution offerings. However, the company provides SMBs with a choice of offerings based on where they are in the spectrum of small and medium-size businesses.

In addition to the new Foundation offering that supports up to 15 users, Microsoft also sells Microsoft Small Business Server 2008, which is an all-in-one server suite for enhanced productivity and a more professional business image and supports up to 75 users. Microsoft also sells the Windows Essential Business Server 2008, which is an enterprise-class server suite for enhanced manageability and security, and supports up to 300 users.

The Windows Server 2008 Standard offering is an advanced server operating system with built-in virtualization capabilities for increased reliability and security, and support for an unlimited number of users, the company said.

With the Windows Server 2008 Foundation offering, Microsoft hopes to further tap the lucrative small-business market. And the company is putting in the investment necessary to capitalize on the SMB space.

"This year alone, Microsoft will spend close to $6.5 billion on solutions, services and support for small and medium businesses," said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, in a statement.

Moreover, in a Feb. 24 presentation to Wall Street analysts, Ballmer preannounced that a new "Foundation Edition" of Windows Server was in the works. Said Ballmer:

""We are introducing a new low-cost, low-price, low-functionality Windows server SKU. If you take a look at it, as server prices, hardware prices have come down, we don't exactly have a netbook phenomenon, but if somebody can buy a $500 server, they're a little loathe to spend $500 for the server operating system that goes with it. So we have something that's akin to the netbook at the server level, and we'll be introducing our Foundation Edition over the next month or two.""

In a statement, Ballmer said: "Today we are launching a new server-based solution with the right technologies at the right price to give small businesses access to the power of server-based business software. Small businesses around the world have big business dreams and needs. ... We see this as an opportunity not only to deliver a technical foundation for business growth but also to create a financial foundation for community."

"Microsoft is filling a crucial hole at the low end of its Windows Server portfolio by delivering a simple, low-cost solution geared for small businesses and first-time server users," said Al Gillen, program vice president at research firm IDC. "Windows Server 2008 Foundation really rounds out Microsoft's server platform and provides a solution for a key market segment."