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Microsoft's midmarket server comes together

For medium-sized IT shops, Microsoft's midmarket server has one license and one management console for Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007 and more.

For Windows shops with limited hands to manage multiple systems, Microsoft hopes its midmarket server will strike a chord.

Beta 2 of Centro, now called Windows Essential Business Server, is expected out in 30 to 60 days. The package combines the upcoming Windows Server 2008 -- which is due out in early 2008 -- plus Exchange Server 2007, System Center Essentials, the next version of ISA Server and Forefront Security for Exchange in one bucket. It is aimed at shops with 25 to 250 desktops.

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The final release of the server should come in the second half of 2008. It will all be offered under a single server license and managed from one console, Microsoft said.

IT shops must have three 64-bit servers to deploy the System Center Essential management server, Exchange Server 2007 and the ISA Server.

"The integration [between the three servers] is a one-setup process that will install all five products and configure 20 different workloads," said Russ Madlener, a director of product planning in Microsoft's server and tools division. "It will tell [IT managers] how to install Exchange next to ISA and ISA next to Windows Server. This setup is not about individual white papers, this is all about integration of 1,000 pages of white papers, tips and tricks built in."

The technology itself (a combination of what many IT shops already have) is not the selling point. Instead it's the way Microsoft has chosen to package the server that will appeal to smaller companies, said Ray Boggs, an analyst with market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass.

"The breakthrough is if all the different pieces work together effectively and that it can be purchased in an efficient way," Boggs said.

Pricing is not yet available. A Standard Edition will include all of the above mentioned features, while a Premium Edition includes SQL Server 2008 as well.

Add-ons planned for Windows Essential Business Server

In the coming week, CA Inc., Citrix Systems Inc., FullArmor Corp. and Symantec Corp. will reveal some add-ons for the server. IT managers will be able to administer and manage a Symantec add-on application, for example, by clicking on a tab that pops up on the server's centralized console.

Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM are looking at the midmarket server as a platform for their blade servers. Intel Corp. plans to build a modular server that will be tested on Windows Essential Business Server at TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain, next week, Madlener said.

Putting Windows Essential Business Server on a blade server is one way Bob Williamson, IT manager of law firm Eisenhower & Carlson PLLC out of Tacoma, Wash., plans to simplify his daily grind.

The law firm has two locations, and Williamson manages all 65 workstations and close to 20 servers.

"Wrapping a blade server with Centro is a big selling point for IT like me with one person managing Windows Server 2003, Active Directory, Exchange Server 2003, SharePoint 2003, ISA 2006 and then Symantec antivirus and VMware ESX, all separately."

Instead of walking around to manually check various servers and having to leave to go to the other law office, Williamson said Centro takes a snapshot of all the events going on with the servers for him.

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