November 7, 2007 3:00 AM PST
Microsoft moving closer to Centro
Microsoft first announced its plans for Centro back in September 2005, saying at the time it would be based on the Longhorn version of Windows Server as well as the latest version of Exchange, then known by its Exchange 12 code name. The product will also contain additional security and management tools, Microsoft said this week, and will be aimed specifically at businesses with between 50 and 250 PCs.
As is often the case, it is dropping its memorable code-name for a larger mouthful. In this case "Centro" is becoming Windows Essential Business Server.
"That really fits with what we are trying to do with Centro," said Russ Madlener, director of product planning in the server and tools unit. Madlener said the server software is "essential" for allowing IT administrators to do more strategic work, rather than "putting out fires" and handling management tasks.
The company said it will come in two flavors, a standard and a premium version.
The standard server package, which actually runs on three physical servers, consists of Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange, System Center Essentials, and the next version of ISA Server. The premium version also includes SQL Server 2008, which can run on a fourth server.
Microsoft didn't offer pricing details for the product, but said the server software will sell for a single price, as will the client access license required for each PC that connects to the server.
Private beta testing for Centro began last December. The company hopes to release a Beta 2 version in the next 30 to 60 days. Microsoft also said it has entered private beta testing for the next version of its small business server, code-named Cougar.
In May 2006, Chairman Bill Gates noted that Centro would be among a wave of new server products that ship only in 64-bit versions.
On the hardware side, Hewlett-Packard and IBM plan to ship servers that support the software, with software makers Citrix, CA, Symantec and FullArmor planning to integrate with Centro's management console.
The current plan is to ship the product in the second half of next year, ideally closer to the middle of the year, but Madlener acknowledged that some of that is out of his team's control.
"We're dependent on Windows Server 2008," he said. "We're dependent on SQL Server 2008...Until the other products ship, our hands are somewhat tied."
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