Microsoft last week took the wraps off the various editions of Windows Server 2012 that will be generally available in September this year. The software giant says the new lineup delivers a dramatically simplified licensing experience, paring the selection down to just four editions of Windows Server 2012 based on organizational size and virtualization needs.
The entry-level edition will be the OEM-only Foundation edition for use as a general purpose server with no virtualization rights. While the Foundation edition is limited to just 15 user accounts, the Essentials edition for small business environments increases that to a 25-user account limit and can be purchased as a separate component from the server hardware. The Essentials edition also has no virtualization rights and is priced at $425.
Higher up the chain is the Standard edition, which provides full Windows Server functionality with two virtual instances, while the Datacenter extends this to unlimited virtual instances. The Standard edition costs $882, while the Datacenter edition costs $4,809, and aside for the need to purchase CALs (Client Access Licenses), has no account limit imposed on them.
It is quickly evident that there is no longer a Windows Small Business Server (SBS) edition in the new lineup, a special edition of Windows Server targeted at smaller businesses. For SMBs that find themselves perpetually shorthanded, this edition has served to help administrators save time by incorporating capabilities such as file storage, remote access and collaboration tools such as SharePoint and Exchange email into a single, all-in-one operation system installation.
As reported on TheVARGuy.com, Microsoft claims that Windows Server 2012 Essentials with a separate Exchange Server deployment or Office 365 in the cloud "easily fills the SBS void." Even as the report concedes that this decision to drop SBS isn't a "black-and-white" one, it also says that the reason "Microsoft hasn't spoken about actual SBS sales in recent years" is really due to the shrinking small business server market.
Personally, I think the days of on-premise deployments for small businesses are over. While SMBs in the past had no other options but to purchase physical servers and use them to set up services such as file sharing, email and collaboration, these same features can now be found in the cloud at highly affordable rates. Indeed, Microsoft's own Office 365 offers a range of powerful capabilities that include voice and collaboration on a solid cloud platform. Readers not familiar with Office 365 can read my SMB primer for Microsoft's Office 365 or my move to Microsoft's Office 365.
So while I do consider it a loss that Microsoft has decided to drop the well-known Small Business Server brand, the inability to access an all-in-one server edition will only serve to accelerate SMBs towards equally robust cloud options that will help them save on capital expenses.
Is your SMB using Small Business Server at the moment? How does Microsoft's decision to drop SBS affect your plans with regards to adopting Windows Server 2012?