The cross-premises future of Microsoft SBS

Microsoft takes a two-pronged approach to fulfilling small-business needs in the wake of shelving Essential Business Server

When Microsoft announced earlier this year that it was killing off Essential Business Server on June 30, I wasn't surprised. EBS showed potential, but its target market, the midsize organization, has been looking to the cloud increasingly for cost-effective solutions, and EBS is a few years late to the game.

Microsoft has instead divided its business server strategy in two: Traditional Server, which revolves around Windows Server 2008 R2, and Solution Servers, a flexible approach to assisting small businesses.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Find out what else Redmond has in store in "Microsoft's server road map: Top 5 developments coming soon" ]

Microsoft's "Traditional" approach allows businesses to build their server solution from the ground up, enabling them to design and maintain their own Active Directory, network support services, Hyper-V virtualized solutions, messaging solution on-premises or in the cloud, and so on. Organizations for which the expense of designing, deploying, and maintaining such a solution is onerous can turn to Microsoft's SMB Solution Servers, which will include the forthcoming Small Business Server 7 and Small Business Server Aurora. Each will allow for a cost-effective means to achieve the flexibility smaller businesses need.

Microsoft SBS enters a new era

Fundamental differences between Microsoft SBS 7 and SBS Aurora highlight the impact that the company's new small-business strategy will have on your organization.

Microsoft SBS 7 is the next release of SBS Standard. It is a fully on-premises offering, and much like its predecessors, SBS will bundle several solutions under one license. Based on Server 2008 R2, SBS 7 is a 64-bit solution that will include Exchange 2010 (likely SP1, which will be available soon), SharePoint 2010 Foundation, and Windows Server Update Services 3.0 (WSUS), among other features. An optional Premium add-on includes a copy of Server 2008 R2 with SQL 2008 R2 Standard Edition for Small Business.

Aurora, on the other hand, is a new solution that will provide a hybrid on-premises/cloud environment (aka cross-premises), blending on-premises file and print services, backup, security, remote access, and AD-based identity management with off-premises, cloud-based services that can handle messaging and collaboration, for example. (I like to think of it as a fractional SBS server solution with a BPOS messaging and collaboration cloud extension.)

Whereas SBS 7 will support up to 75 PCs, Aurora is perfect for the new small business using between 5 and 25 PCs. Because Aurora does not allow you to merge or migrate the AD, organizations that already use traditional solutions will likely shy away from it. That said, Aurora is where the excitement really is.

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