Microsoft to discontinue Essential Business Server

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Microsoft will discontinue development of its midmarket-focused Windows Essential Business Server (EBS), the company said, noting that several changes led to the decision to streamline its server portfolio.

Microsoft will discontinue development of its midmarket-focused Windows Essential Business Server (EBS), the company said Friday.

"This decision not to ship future versions of EBS does not come lightly and will not impact any other Windows Server products and solutions, including the next version of Windows Small Business Server (SBS)," the company wrote in a blog post announcing the decision.

The company attributed the decision to changing market requirements. Microsoft first began talking about the server, which was code-named "Centro," four years ago, citing a need among midsize companies with about 75 to 300 users and only a few IT professionals on staff for an integrated bundle of easy-to-manage-and-install server products. It was also billed as a strong fit for partners who could help midsize firms with installation and customization similar to partners' substantial business opportunity with SBS.

The first and, with Friday's announcement, only release of EBS launched in November 2008, just as the depth of the financial crisis and the potential scope of the current recession were both becoming clear and decimating spending on IT and everything else.

Microsoft's EBS team didn't refer to the recession directly in its blog entry, but wrote, "Since the launch of EBS, several changes have occurred that drove our decision to streamline our server product portfolio. [M]idsize businesses are rapidly turning to technologies such as management, virtualization and cloud computing as a means to cut costs, improve efficiency and increase competitiveness. Those capabilities are already available through other offerings, including Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft System Center and Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)."

EBS was delivered in two packages. The standard version included three Windows Server 2008 licenses for:

  • a management server for networking, Active Directory, file and print, and System Center Essentials 2007;
  • a messaging server with Exchange Server 2007 and Forefront Security for Exchange Server; and
  • a security server with Forefront Threat Management Gateway for Medium Business.

A premium edition added a database server with Windows Server 2008 and the standard edition of SQL Server 2008.

Availability and development of the product will end on June 30, with the close of Microsoft's fiscal year. Between then and Dec. 31, current EBS 2008 customers can get the individual component software from the EBS 2008 suite for free, the company said. Support for EBS will depend on the individual product components, according to the Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle page.

In the EBS blog posting, the company said employees on the EBS product development team will be moving to other positions in the Microsoft Server and Cloud division.

John Endter, president of E Squared C LLC, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner in Minden, Nev., said that despite his early enthusiasm for the product, his company never found the right client for a deployment of EBS. While Endter felt that EBS' unfortunate economic timing didn't help, he said the idea of the complete infrastructure rip-and-replace that EBS required was, and still is, an impediment for midmarket customers.

"It was a great product from the standpoint of the integration and making all the systems play together, but the potential disruption to a business was, I think, too high of a risk for a lot of companies to actually go forward with it," Endter said.

"The fact that Microsoft is discontinuing EBS is not a surprise to me because they saw the same thing that I did. Customers said, 'You want me to do what with all of my servers? We'll do one at a time,'" he said.

The best midmarket opportunities right now for E Squared C involve virtualization projects combined with server upgrades. "Server virtualization is a key thing right now," Endter said. "A midmarket company may have five or six servers. We're taking those and virtualizing those down to two physical boxes. At the same time as we're virtualizing, we're doing things like upgrading from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007 or 2010. Or it might involve upgrading Domain Controllers from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008."

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