Last week Microsoft announced the availability of pre-release versions of Windows Small Business Server 2008 (SBS) and and the new Windows Essential Business Server 2008 (EBS) (formerly codenamed Centro) which are bundles of Microsoft server products targeted at small and medium sized businesses respectively. Microsoft promised that finished versions would be available later in the year, but since both products include SQL Server 2008 which won’t ship until 3Q and since further package integration time will be required, late 4Q would seem to be the maximum likelihood estimate.
However, most of the buzz was about the pricing which Microsoft also announced and which was up to 80% higher for SBS 2008 compared to its predecessor SBS 2003 R2:
(The new pricing and licensing for Microsoft’s products was complex enough for IDC to issue on May 13 a non-Microsoft-commissioned research note, in which IDC dissects the new pricing information in detail.) One highlight from the IDC note:
“The most important difference between Windows Small Business Server 2008 Premium and Windows Small Business Server 2003 R3 Premium is the inclusion of the full release of SQL Server into the new product. Microsoft says that ISVs balked at supporting LOB (line-of-business) applications aboard the SQL Server Workgroup Edition and pressed Microsoft to give them a two-server version of the product so that the LOB application could be installed aboard a dedicated server that runs only the application and the database.”
Microsoft also touts all the swell new functionality and low maintenance features of SBS 2008, but the key customers are ISVs and VARs who package these server bundles up with specific vertical business applications and sell them to small businesses. Microsoft is still offering a bargain bundle price compared to separate purchases and by the time the Microsoft partners get through adding their value, a $1000 here or there really won’t matter that much.
One final note: Essential Business Server is not to be confused with System Center Essentials which is a Microsoft IT management software package for mid-sized businesses which is one of the pieces included in EBS. Apparently there was a brand name shortage.