End of the line for Windows Essential Business Server

Market for midsized business server moving to the cloud

The imminent demise of Microsoft Windows Essential Business Server EBS for midsize businesses is indirectly linked to CEO Steve Ballmer's new cloud strategy for the company.

Microsoft announced in a blog post March 5 that it would stop further development of EBS after June 30, though it will, of course, continue to support the installed base throughout its remaining product lifecycle. In the post, the company said it's seen its customers shift away from EBS and "towards technologies such as management, virtualization and cloud computing as a means to cut costs, improve efficiency, and increase competitiveness."

The announcement was made a day after Ballmer's address at the University of Washington in Seattle, in which he outlined Microsoft's cloud computing strategy. Cloud computing is what "we're betting our company on, and pretty much everybody in the technology industry is betting their companies on ... all bet on this incredible transformation around the cloud," he said.

As more companies fly up to the cloud for their IT, there's less demand for on-premise software, which has been Microsoft's business model since day one. And for those who still want, or still need to support, on-premise software, there's still Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft System Center, Microsoft Exchange Server, and the Microsoft Business productivity Online Suite. One less product on the shelf won't really be missed.

It's like General Motors killing off the Pontiac brand. You say "Oh, too bad," and then you go buy a Chevrolet. As it is, EBS 2008 was like a Pontiac made from parts of Chevys, Buicks and Cadillacs. It bundled versions of Windows Server, Microsoft System Center Essentials, Microsoft Exchange and other programs and was priced to appeal to businesses with up to 300 computers.

Christopher Voce, a senior analyst with Forrester, told IDG News Service's Joab Jackson that EBS was offered to the market "to simplify both the technical and licensing complexity for customers looking to use Microsoft's broader product portfolio."

But what could be simpler than going to the cloud?

"EBS faced a tough road," Voce continued. "Even with the lower cost of the EBS package, the opportunity to use cloud-based services for e-mail and collaboration holds a lot of promise for that targeted segment."

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.