As many of you probably know by now, I've been on a kick to get to the bottom of the Microsoft SBS (Small Business Server) termination debate. Microsoft is claiming this is ultimately better for the channel and addresses what SMBs want (i.e. running their email, backup, and other services in the cloud). Many VARs and MSPs, on the other hand, feel this is a backhanded move by Microsoft to direct channel money to itself.
I read a couple of articles recently that shed some more light on this topic, which I want share. The first article was, "24 Things Partners Should Know About Windows Server 2012," by Kurt Mackie and Gladys Rama at Redmond Channel Partner and the second was a recent blog post by Kurt Mackie, titled, "Windows Server 2012 for Small Business Released to Manufacturing." I thought there were five important takeaways from the articles that Microsoft SBS resellers need to know about:
1. Windows Server 2012 Will Be SMB-, Cloud-Ready Shortly
For a partner to use Windows Server 2012, which was launched on September 4, as a cloud solution, two additional discrete products are required: Windows Azure and System Center 2012 SP1. Interestingly, the SP1 product, which is actually a full-featured product, won't be available until early 2013. Also, Microsoft is offering its new server product in just four editions: Datacenter (unlimited virtual instances), Standard (limited to two virtual instances), Essentials (limited features and a 25-user limit), and Foundation (available only on preloaded OEM products; includes limited features and a 15-user limit). Of these four options, the ones many of you reading this will care about the most -- Essentials -- is not yet available, but is expected to be available by the end of the year.
2. The Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition = SMB Friendly
Unless there's some curve ball coming, the pricing for the Essentials edition of Widows Server 2012 is expected to be SMB friendly. The cost will be $425 for a one-processor sever license and up to 25 users. (The Standard and Datacenter editions use a per-processor license model plus a client access license). Analyst Michael Cherry is quoted as saying, "It will be less expensive to license Windows Server 2012 for organizations running modest virtualization workloads."
3. BYOD Management Is Enabled By Windows Server 2012
Here's some good news for VARs and MSPs dealing with SMBs wanting to bring their own devices to work, a big trend happening across multiple verticals. DirectAccess technology built into Windows Server 2012 can be used to extend access to the network by mobile devices. Also, using Microsoft Dynamic Access Control technology, you'll be able to help your customer classify data and specify which mobile users can access data on the customer's network.
4. VDI Simplified
VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), which has traditionally been a complex proposition is now simplified to a 13-click set up process, according to Brad Anderson, corporate VP of the Microsoft Management and Security Division. This feature requires use of System Center Configuration Manager, which is part of the SP1 product mentioned earlier, projected to be available early 2013.
5. Over 1 Million SMBs Approaching SBS End Of Life
According to Jon Roskill, corporate VP of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, there are currently more than 1 million customers running SBS 2003 (or earlier) versions that will need to upgrade before SBS 2003 support ends in 2015 (Note: I had incorrectly heard a much earlier support end date at a recent conference, but this 2015 date is corroborated by multiple sources). When you factor in those customers currently running SBS 2011 as well as small businesses currently using no server, the opportunity becomes much larger.
The bottom line from my perspective is that the fear of Microsoft's termination of SBS being a sign of turning its back on the channel seems unfounded. If you're a VAR or MSP with a different perspective on this, I'd be interested in hear from you.