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6/7/2006
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Microsoft Releases Small Business Server 2003 R2 To Manufacturing

R2 offers automated network patch and update management, a new Green Check feature that yields security information, and support for 75 Gbytes of e-mail. The Premium Edition also includes SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition.

Novell is on its third attempt to steal market share from SBS. In early May, Novell rolled out its Linux Workgroup Suite that replaces the legacy Novell Small Business Suite and Novell Linux Small Business Suite, which largely failed in the marketplace.

Novell integrated its leading products in a suite that runs on Linux or Windows at an attractive price point for SMBs. The suite includes Novell's Open Enterprise Server (including SUSE Linux Enterprise Server), GroupWise, ZenWorks, Novell Linux Desktop and OpenOffice.org for Windows and Linux. Pricing starts at $80 per year for a subscription or $110 per user or device for a perpetual license. Annual maintenance is $75 per user. Novell also launched a number of channel incentives to drive sales of the suite.

Xandros, the New York-based firm that bought Corel's Linux business five years ago, unveiled an easy-to-administer Linux SMB suite in April for about $450. Late last month, the company updated the suite with support for 64-bit extended processors from Intel and AMD. Based on Debian Linux, Xandros Server offers the Xandros Management Console and compatibility with Windows servers and supports Intel and AMD extended 64-bit processors that run 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

And last week, Collax opened an office in the Boston area to market its Collax Business Server more aggressively in the United States through the channel. Collax Business Server is a Linux server solution targeted at SMB customers with little or no Linux experience that incorporates security, networking and communication features.

Though some solution providers say Microsoft has nothing to worry about in the small-business server realm, other solution providers see Linux quietly taking root in the SMB space.

"The basis of the SMB market has been and continues to be the trust relationship between a small business and its technology vendors," said James Fogg, owner of JD Fogg Technology Consulting, Wilmot, N.H. "I know businesses that do brisk sales of Linux to SMBs, and I know businesses that only sell Microsoft solutions to SMBs."

One Microsoft Small Business Server expert and solution provider sees opportunities for Microsoft and Linux players to grab new customers in the SMB space.

"I do see Linux making inroads in SMB in the storage space. There are lots of NAS devices out there running on Linux, and customers are storing more and more data on Linux boxes integrated into Windows environments," said Michael Cocanower, president of ITSynergy, Phoenix. "It scares me, frankly, because I don't want my customers’ data on a Linux box. I'd rather see it on a Microsoft box just to keep the integration story strong."

Other solution providers said Linux companies in the SMB space should worry more about obscurity than the 800-lb. gorilla. The tough part is getting to customers and partners--not out-marketing Microsoft, they said.

"The smallest companies with one to 20 employees often don't understand the benefits of server technology or don't trust the ROI projections," Fogg said. "Those companies often elect to stay with peer-to-peer networks.”

Marketing in the SMB space is a challenge, said Carlos Paz Soldan, a vice president at Tenet Computer Group, a Toronto-based Novell Platinum Partner and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. "We focus on the medium section of SMB, but even in our smallest clients we barely see demand for so-called SMB solutions," he said.

"Those that appreciate and can afford the value-add of a VAR probably have enough money or interest in their IT to implement unrestricted, non-SMB products," Soldan added.

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