Microsoft Takes Aim at SMBs with Storage Server Refresh

To help small and midsize businesses buttress their infrastructures, Microsoft and several leading storage hardware vendors are planning advancements for the Windows Storage Server.

Microsoft and several leading storage hardware vendors are planning advancements for the companys Windows Storage Server, all in the name of helping small and midsize businesses (SMBs) buttress their infrastructures.

Microsoft Corp. is planning to release next week at the Microsoft Tech Ed conference in San Diego the first feature pack for Windows Storage Server, which includes support for Microsofts Exchange Server 2003.

The pack will dramatically reduce interoperability and training headaches for SMBs—those that run Windows-centric operations most often, observers said.

For example, the feature pack will enable customers to unify file, print and e-mail servers by storing Exchange data on NAS (network-attached storage) devices, said officials in Redmond, Wash. It is designed for deployments of fewer than 1,500 e-mail boxes.

Microsoft will get support for the feature pack from hardware partners EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., each of which plans to announce support of the feature pack for their respective NAS devices.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts play for the NAS market.

EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., announced a new NAS device, the NetWin 110, last week. The 110, a scaled-back version of EMCs NetWin 200 product, is designed for the cost-conscious SMB customer.

Also at Tech Ed, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will announce plans to bundle CommVault Systems Inc.s storage management software with its NAS devices to provide SMB customers with an integrated e-mail archiving suite for servers, desktops and laptops.

The hardware moves indicate a trend among SMBs, many of which rely upon Microsoft technology.

"We looked into Network Appliance [Inc.] filers," said Steve Spieler, systems engineer at Wells Dairy Inc., in Le Mars, Iowa. "They do work in a Windows network or domain, but not as seamlessly as a Microsoft product does.

"Plus, you still have to have a Windows workstation on the front end for antivirus—its just a lot more difficult to administer and more things to break. The management issue is a big thing."

Rick Bauer, CIO of The Hill School, in Pottstown, Pa., said Microsofts moves to extend functionality enables SMB customers to view the software maker as a partner. "Microsoft knows the OS better than anybody," Bauer said.

"There are a lot of midsize companies, my peers, who have been watching and hearing a lot of pain from the end user saying, We want [technology to the point] where we dont have to reinvent the security model or wag the entire network dog to put a storage tail on the end of it."

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