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Microsoft Details 'Centro' Mid-Size Business Software Suite

Windows Essential Business Server will be a bundled install of multiple Microsoft server products and initially targeted at companies with 25 to 250 computers.

Microsoft gave the small business server bundle code-named Centro its final name, Windows Essential Business Server, on Wednesday and announced the product would be available to more testers early next year with the aim to ship it by the end of 2008.

Until now, Microsoft's been rather tight-lipped about Windows Essential Business Server nee Centro, with few details slipping out. But the company's opening up. Windows Essential Business Server, initially targeted at companies with 25 to 250 computers, will be a bundled install of multiple Microsoft server products.

Microsoft estimates there are 1.2 million businesses of this size worldwide. Many of them have complex IT requirements. "Their infrastructures really rival those of enterprises," says Russ Madlener, director of product planning for the Windows Server solutions group. Microsoft's Small Business Server includes a number of different products installed together on one physical server, but medium-sized companies need more scale and better reliability than they can get with one server.

There will be both a Standard Edition and Premium Edition for the product. Both are based on Windows Server 2008. The Standard Edition will include Exchange Server 2007 for messaging, Forefront Security for Exchange, System Center Essentials for management and Internet Security and Acceleration Server aka ISA Server for firewalling and security. This will be installed across three separate servers, one each for e-mail, management and security. The Premium Edition will add the next version of SQL Server.

Though companies could buy all of these products today, Windows Essential Business Server should cut costs and deployment headaches to a minimum, since the bundle will be cheaper than buying everything separately and easier to install since it'll all be integrated. One license will handle all the products together, installation will automatically be done according to best practices and IT admins will have a single administration console from which to manage all of the products.

The management console will be extensible. Already, companies including CA, Citrix, Full Armor, Symantec and Trend Micro have built add-ins so that their products can be centrally managed in the same place. HP and IBM, both OEM partners for Windows Essential Business Server, are building additional add-ons to administer their hardware management software from the console.

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