It's been a while since Microsoft has talked up its forthcoming version of Windows Server that will be aimed at mid-sized customers. But on October 11, Microsoft broke its silence about "Centro" by sending out a solicitation for Technology Adoption Program (TAP) partners willing to test Beta 1 of the product.
Centro -- or, as it is likely to be christened, Windows Midmarket Server (MMS) -- is a bundle of a number of Microsoft products, including Windows Server Longhorn, the next version of Exchange, code-named Exchange 12; the next generation of security technologies, including the upcoming version of ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) Server; and System Center management technologies.
Microsoft officials have said to expect Centro to ship shortly after Longhorn Server, which is currently expected in late 2007. From everything I've heard, Centro will likely debut in 2008.
"The Centro TAP is looking for businesses (customers and/or partners) willing to test and deploy Centro in their existing environments," according to the TAP invite, a copy of which was posted to the Web by ActiveWin.com. "Benefits include: direct access to the Centro product team, influence the direction of the product, and product support. We are looking for at least 20 worldwide businesses to sign up for testing at Beta 1 with more being added throughout the release cycle."
Centro won't be Microsoft's first product aimed squarely at the mid-market, a segment Microsoft defines as companies with between 25 and 250 PCs. Many of Microsoft's Dynamics ERP and CRM products are targeted primarily at these kinds of businesses.
Microsoft is simultaneously reading a new version of its lower-end Windows Small Business Server suite, code-named "Cougar" -- that will include Longhorn Server as part of the bundle, and include tighter links to Windows Vista and Office 2007.