Microsoft will discontinue development of the Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) as of June 30. In an e-mail, the Redmond company noted that the decision was made to "streamline their server product portfolio" and that this represents a "natural market shift in midsize business' preferences toward creating their own IT solutions."
Of course, as pointed out by Peter Bright over at Ars Technica, the decision to kill off EBS comes a scant 16 months after it started shipping in November 2008. The move also conveniently precludes the need for Microsoft to release the EBS R2 release slated for the second half of this year.
Current EBS customers will continue to benefit from Microsoft's five-year mainstream as well as five-year extended support lifecycle (where applicable), which includes technical support and the release of a service pack. Microsoft was quick to offer assurance that it remains "fully committed" to small and medium-sized businesses, and that this decision will have no bearing on the next version of its popular Windows Small Business Server.
So what exactly happened here?
Speaking to InfoWorld, Christopher Voce, a Forrester senior analyst covering infrastructure and operations, noted that EBS faced a tough road:
Even with the lower cost of the EBS package, the opportunity to use cloud-based services for e-mail and collaboration holds a lot of promise for that targeted segment.
Indeed, this announcement came in the wake of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's comments last Thursday that the company was "betting" its future on cloud computing.
Not only has cloud computing entered mainstream computing in record time, its inherent cost efficiencies and scalability also are affecting the viability of many server products. This is a facade of the shifting computing paradigm that even Microsoft seems to agree on, at least tacitly.
In a blog post on the Windows Essential Business Server Team Blog, the squeeze between existing, more established server products and new technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing was offered as a reason for discontinuing EBS:
First, midsize 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 the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).
Perhaps the most telling clue of all could be gleaned from how Microsoft intends to redeploy members of the existing EBS product development team. In the same blog entry, Microsoft noted that it is committed to transitioning them "to work on other projects within the Microsoft server and cloud division."
While the age of the on-premise server can hardly be said to be over yet, the momentum behind cloud computing is fast gaining ground.