Microsoft to Discontinue Windows Essential Business Server

Microsoft plans to discontinue development of its Windows Essential Business Server starting in June. Although Windows EBS was originally targeted at midsize businesses, Microsoft found that those customers were gravitating to products that address cloud-based management and virtualization needs, such as Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite. Microsoft says it plans on supporting EBS for its standard support cycle.

Microsoft announced March 5 that it will discontinue its future development of Windows Essential Business Server effective June 30. Originally designed as an IT infrastructure option for midsize businesses, EBS found itself faced with a rapidly changing landscape thanks to the advent of cloud computing and virtualization.

With business-related tools for those evolving areas present in a number of other Microsoft products, including Windows Server 2008 R2 and BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft made the decision to pull the plug on EBS.

"This decision to not ship future versions of EBS does not come lightly and will not impact any other Windows Server products and solutions," read an unsigned note posted on the Windows Essential Business Server Team Blog. "As a matter of fact, we are working hard to build the next version of Windows Small Business Server (SBS) and look forward to a second decade of success with this award-winning small business offering."

Microsoft employees currently working on the EBS product development team will apparently be shifted to projects within the Microsoft Server and Cloud division. Current EBS customers can expect a support cycle "that holds true to the Microsoft five-year mainstream and five-year extended support cycle," the same blog post said. "All service packs will also be supported according to life-cycle support."

More detailed information on Microsoft life-cycle support can be found on this site.

In a separate e-mail to eWEEK, a Microsoft spokesperson referred to the elimination of EBS as a "streamlining" of the company's server product portfolio, adding: "This decision represents a natural market shift in midsize businesses' preferences toward creating their own IT solutions."

In April 2009, Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008 Foundation, a 64-bit server designed for small businesses of up to 15 users, as part of an ongoing initiative to deliver servers to small to midsize businesses that reflect their flexible needs. Microsoft's Windows Small Business Server supports up to 75 users; the Windows Server 2008 Standard offering includes a server operating system with built-in virtualization capabilities.

In a March 4 speech at the University of Washington, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that the company's products would henceforth take their inspiration from the cloud. In addition to cloud-based services such as Windows Azure and SQL Azure, traditionally desktop-bound products such as Office will take on increased cloud-based functionality in the years ahead.

"Companies like ours, can they move and dial in and focus and embrace?" Ballmer asked an audience primarily made up of students. "That's where we're programmed. You shouldn't get into this industry if you don't want things to change."