Microsoft announced this week at its Worldwide Partners Conference 2008 in Houston it will ship the first release of its server bundle for mid-sized businesses as well as the next version of its small business server bundle on November 12.
That puts both Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008 and Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 on track for delivery in the second half of the year as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) officials had previously projected.
The move to sell server bundles for customers to run themselves on their own hardware comes as Microsoft is also working like gangbusters to extend its offerings of software services "in the cloud" to customers who don't want or can't handle self-hosting.
Microsoft has had versions of Small Business Server for more than a decade. However, this is the first time that Microsoft will offer a server bundle designed specifically for medium-sized businesses.
To reinforce the progress Microsoft says it is making with the two products, the company also announced the beginning of the final test stage during the conference.
"Both servers will reach release candidate one during the Worldwide Partner Conference," Joel Sider, senior product manager with the Windows Server Solutions Group, In Microsoft parlance, a release candidate, or RC, is the final step in beta testing – after an RC is released, if no tester finds a so-called "showstopper" bug, the RC is released to manufacturing, or RTM.
The packages aim to provide basically plug-and-play solutions for small and mid-sized businesses. In February Microsoft announced it was co-branding the two with its new Essential family of branding. The intent is to have a product line of "integrated, all-in-one IT solutions designed and priced for small and midsized businesses," the company said in a statement.
SBS 2008 will provide simplified server and PC backup capabilities, and also adds upgrades to Remote Web Workplace and integration with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. It also includes Exchange Server 2007 and trial copies of Microsoft security products.
Meanwhile, a Premium Edition will include a second copy of Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 to run on a separate server. SBS is designed for businesses with as many as 50 PCs.
EBS 2008 will feature Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange Server, System Center Essentials 2007, and Internet Security and Acceleration Server. The Premium Edition will also feature SQL Server 2008. Its target audience has up to 250 PCs.
The company announced pricing for the bundles in mid-May. The Standard Edition of SBS 2008, with five client access licenses (CAL) included will cost $1,089, while the Standard Edition of EBS 2008, with five CALs, will cost $5,472.