Windows Server 2012 Editions Spark Curiosity, Outrage

By | Jul 11, 2012

Microsoft recently announced the licensing details for its upcoming server product, Windows Server 2012. The options reduce the variety of licensing options that previous versions possessed, narrowing down the list to just four. While the simplicity of the remaining options is helpful in some respects, some SMB IT professionals are up in arms about the end of life of Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2011, which is being removed in favor of more cloud-friendly options.

Windows Server Editions

The new version of Microsoft's Windows Server is expected to be released near the end of the year, and as the Windows Server 2012 release date approaches, the details about the offering are beginning to become clear. As noted at Ars Technica, the newest version of Windows Server will be available in two main editions and two alternate editions.

The first main offering will be the Standard edition, designed for enterprise data centers that are either lightly virtualized or non-virtualized, while the other main offering will be the Datacenter edition, designed for highly virtualized environments. Both editions include the same feature sets and hardware limits, with each license good for two processor sockets. The only real difference between these editions will be the support for virtual machines. The Standard edition can be run in up to two virtual machines, while there is no limit to the number of virtual machines in the Datacenter edition.

The new Windows Server will also come in two versions with slightly truncated functionality. The Essentials edition can be run on hardware or in a virtual machine, but not both at the same time, and is limited to 25 clients. The Foundation edition is OEM-only and can only be used on a single piece of physical hardware.

Some IT managers at midsize businesses may be happy about the change, as the simplified options really only present one or two editions that would be right for any given business. However, some midsize businesses that don't have a need for large numbers of devices may feel left out in the cold as Microsoft also announced that it would be killing its Small Business Server offering.

The End of SBS 2011

Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2011 has been a fairly popular product for many midsize businesses that only need support for a handful of users or devices. The program included access to on-premise Sharepoint and Exchange servers, allowing businesses to run the services within their own data center.

According to Microsoft, the SBS 2011 will now be phased out. OEM channels will still have access to it until the end of 2013, while other channels will only have it until the end of June 2013. According to Microsoft, by leveraging the cloud for productivity software and email, small and midsize businesses can utilize the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials package for roughly the same type of service.

Of course, this will force many businesses to move to the cloud, some before they are ready, and has a number of IT professionals up in arms. As detailed in this IT Pro article, the anger is not only from the shift in services, but because of the deception behind it. This is obviously a ploy to get businesses to adopt Microsoft's lucrative cloud services, but Microsoft claims that this solution is only what its customers have been asking for.

It remains to be seen whether or not this incident will cause any significant number of SMBs to take their server needs elsewhere, but Microsoft would be wise to rethink this strategy well before the expected Windows Server 2012 release date. Cloud computing may be inevitable in the business world, but with security and reliability concerns still lingering, forcing businesses into the cloud before they are ready is not likely to win the company many accolades and will almost certainly lose them some customers.

IT managers at midsize companies need to start discussing their cloud productivity and email options now, unless they are in a position to afford the Standard or Datacenter editions of the new Windows Server. Even then, the writing is really on the wall. There's no need to make a rash move or to automatically decide on Microsoft's cloud offerings, but plans need to be put in place before the next software release, since the new release doesn't provide any kind of affordable on-site solutions.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

IBM Solution CSP

A partnership with IBM will provide the solid, proven business benefits - from marketing to sales to technical support - that you can rely on to grow with confidence.

Learn More »