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Microsoft juices SMB push with server bundle schedules

Microsoft partners can get the software development kit for Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) with release candidates of EBS and Small Business Server for SMBs to follow.

Microsoft will try to amp up its small and medium-sized business (SMB) push this week with the release of a software development kit (SDK) for Windows Essential Business Server and promises to ship both that and Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 on November 12.

Release candidates of both servers will follow shortly after the SDK, which will be released during Microsoft's partner conference this week, said Joel Sider, senior product manager.

Both Windows Essential Business Server, an infrastructure bundle for midsized businesses, and its little brother, Small Business Server 2008, had been promised for this year. Microsoft partners can download prerelease versions from Microsoft's website.

Michael Coconower, president of Phoenix-based Microsoft Gold partner itSynergy and a big proponent of both bundles, said this week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference will serve as the "coming out party" for the offerings.

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Windows Essential Business Server will help small Microsoft partners serving very small businesses to stick with those clients as they grow. And the new premium version of SBS, which adds another copy of Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 to run on a second server box, gives Microsoft partners more services and customization opportunities even in small accounts.

Many small businesses did not want to run all that server software on the same box as their line-of-business applications, so the new SKU could spark additional business for Microsoft partners making an SMB push of their own.

The products combine the basic nuts and bolts -- server operating system, email and central management console -- needed by smaller companies. SBS targets companies with up to 75 users, and EBS ranges up to 300 users, but there will be some overlap. EBS is for companies with more sophisticated technology needs and at least some IT personnel and line-of-business applications, Microsoft said.

The focus for both server bundles is "centralizing and simplifying management, getting as much of the IT workload as possible onto a single management console," Sider said.

In related news, Microsoft announced a major shakeup of its U.S. partner organization just before the long July 4 weekend and just days before the partner conference was to kick off. Preliminary reaction from partners, who complained that the company's structure was difficult to navigate, is positive.

"This change was needed," said one longtime Microsoft Gold partner on the West Coast. "The way internal sales had been set up … it's been nothing but difficult to make sure we were touching base with all the right field sales members. This change gets everyone who is focused on pushing ERP, or whatever, efficient, effective and consistent."

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