Volume 5, Number 8 -- February 27, 2008

'Centro' and 'Cougar' Become Windows Server Essentials

Published: February 27, 2008

by Alex Woodie

Microsoft last week grouped its bundles of Windows software for small and midsize businesses under the Windows Server Essentials brand. "Centro," the former codename for the new midsize business offering that has been in development for two-and-a-half years years, becomes Windows Essential Server 2008, while "Cougar," the codename for the small business offering, continues its lineage with the Windows Small Business Server 2008 name. Both are being formally introduced today at the "Hero's Happen Here" Windows launch event taking place in Los Angeles Wednesday.

It's been two-and-a-half years since Microsoft first announced Centro, the midsize counterpart to the successful Windows Small Business Server product that the market had been clamoring for at one point. Microsoft is hoping it has the right recipe for a preintegrated combination of Windows operating system, messaging, middleware, management, and security tools that can simplify life for operators and administrators while cutting costs.

During the "Longhorn" beta, Microsoft put together a Windows Server 2003-based bundle called the Windows Server System Solution for Midsize Businesses. This bundle, which was always intended as a temporary offering until Centro matured to product-hood, combined Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Workgroup Edition and 50 client access licenses (CALs) for a cost of $6,400, which represented a 20 percent savings compared to the cost of buying the products separately.

That bundle has evolved somewhat with Windows Essential Business Server 2008 to include Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, SQL Server 2008, System Center Essentials, the next version of Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, and Forefront Security for Exchange Server. Obviously, some of these products haven't shipped yet (such as SQL Server 2008, which doesn't ship until the third quarter, and the next release of ISA Server, which Microsoft hasn't formally christened yet), so the GA date of this product is set for the second half of 2007.

There will be two versions of Windows Essential Business Server 2008: standard and premium. The main difference is the premium edition contains a license for SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition and has four Windows Server 2008 licenses (for the separate management, messaging, security, and database servers) instead of just three for standard edition. Windows Essential Business Server 2008, which supports between 25 and 250 users or devices, offers failover for domain controllers and DNS servers, providing a more resilient product than the small business offering.

Windows Small Business Server 2008 is a slightly different animal. On top of the Windows Server 2008 base, it includes Exchange Server 2007, SQL Server, SharePoint Services 3.0, Office Live Services, and Windows Server Update Services 3.0. Again, the premium version contains the license to SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition (which won't ship until later this year) as well as the second copy of Windows Server 2008 (standard edition users must run all other SMB components on a single operating system image). Windows Small Business Server 2008 customers will also receive one-year trial subscriptions to Forefront Security for Exchange Server Small Business Edition and the new Windows Live OneCare for Server. Windows Small Business Server 2008 supports from five to 50 users or devices.

Pricing information has not been released for either product. However, the products are expected to carry a substantial savings compared to buying the products individually. Additionally, users should benefit from increased OEM competition lent from having a standard configuration to work from; Dell, HP, and IBM will be displaying Windows Essential Server offerings at the Windows launch event today.

The key will be if Microsoft can deliver IT efficiency "in a box" for the world's 31.9 million small businesses and 1.2 million midsize companies. They can, says Bob Kelly, a Microsoft corporate vice president. "Windows Essential Server Solutions make the benefits of enterprise-class IT accessible, affordable, and simpler for smaller organizations and their technology advisors."


Microsoft Refreshes 'Longhorn,' Delivers First 'Centro' Beta and 'Cougar' CTP

Microsoft Makes its Mid Size Business Move

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