Bink exclusive: Interview about Windows Essential Business Server

Posted by RayC on June 23 2008, 4:32 AM. Posted in Windows Essential Business Server (Centro).


    Last Friday I had the change to have a chat with Russ Madlener, Director of Planning, Windows Server and Tools division at Microsoft. Russ is responsible for the product release of Windows Essential Business Server (WEBS) formerly known as Centro. The meeting was setup after my comments on, where I reported the absence of WEBS and SBS at the Tech Ed conference in Orlando.


    WEBS is Microsoft's first attempt to release an integrated suite of server products into the mid-market. It is aimed to organizations with up to 300 seats. WEBS will be available in two versions. The Standard Edition contains the following products:

  1. Windows Server 2008 for installation on 3 physical servers
  2. Exchange 2007
  3. Forefront Security for Exchange Server
  4. Forefront Threat Management Gateway (next version of ISA Server)
  5. System Center Essentials

    The Premium Edition of  EBS will contain the following extra's:

  7. 1 more physical installation of Windows Server 2008
  8. SQL Server 2008

    Russ points out that the main selling point of WEBS is the integration of all these products, following Microsoft's best practices guidelines. This should take a lot of work from the system admin for the implementation of what can be considered as a rather complex infrastructure in a not so large organization.


    Another selling point of WEBS is the integration of Client Access Licenses (CALs) for all products at once. This enables a lot of companies to take away the complexity of the administration of licenses as one license will cover the access to the complete suite of products.


    There also is a big pricing award for those who buy WEBS, as the suite of products comes with a huge discount compared to the sum of all products that are part of the suites. I had a case myself where the investment turned out to be more then 60% cheaper when the upgrade of the infrastructure is based on WEBS. Russ points out that this is the first time that Microsoft is offering such discounts to midsize companies. Small companies already had Small Business Server  (SBS) and larger organizations have Enterprise Agreements (AE).


    Question: Don't you think the introduction of WEBS will harm the revenue that Microsoft gains from selling server product licenses to midsize businesses?

    Answer: Microsoft expects organizations to start migrating to the current versions of all these server products at once instead of spreading the investment over years. For some products this means that organizations will be earlier with those investments.


    Question: What happens with customers who currently already own licenses for the products that are part of the suite?

    Answer: Microsoft is currently working on a discount plan for those customers. Russ expects these plans to be available within a few weeks from now.


    Question: Current scenarios of WEBS implementations don't involve Server Virtualization. What is Microsoft's standpoint when organizations want to implement WEBS on virtualized servers?

    Answer: When Microsoft started the design of WEBS 3.5 years ago, virtualization was not very common across midsize organizations. In the mean time this has changed. That's why a number of organizations that work in the Early Adopter Program (TAP) are now implementing WEBS in Hyper-V. Microsoft will provide  a number of supported scenarios for WEBS in virtualized environments before release.


    Question: Don't you think that a complex product like WEBS will cause a lot more support calls for Microsoft because organizations will be implementing three or four server products at once in their existing environment?

    Answer: We (Microsoft) hope that the usage of extensive automation of the installation and checks up front will help to cause less calls for support. A number of current calls is caused by the fact that products like Exchange are now geared towards enterprise level administration which causes calls from midsize clients. Administration tools in WEBS will be customized for midsize organizations. This should reduce the number of calls because of trouble with administration after the installation of these products.


    Question: Where were the product teams of WEBS and SBS on the Tech Ed conference in June?

    Answer: Russ points out that there was a session for WEBS and a session for SBS at the conference. When I point out that both sessions were not by the product teams and that there was no way to meet with experts from Microsoft, he admits that because of restricted resources his team has chosen to focus on the upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston in July. WEBS and SBS will be prominently present at that conference.


    Russ provided a little scoop for by pointing out that he expects that WEBS will already be RTM in November when the Tech Ed EMEA IT Professionals  will be held in Barcelona. This means that all products in the suite that are currently still in beta will be finalized by the time. This also means that Microsoft has serious plans to provide us with released version of Forefront Threat Management Gateway, SQL Server 2008 and Forefront Security for Exchange before November.