Microsoft to discontinue its mid-market server line

Summary:Microsoft is discontinuing its Essential Business Server (EBS) product family, company officials said on March 5, and have decided against releasing an EBS 2010 product.

Microsoft is discontinuing its Essential Business Server (EBS) product family, company officials said on March 5, and have decided against releasing an EBS 2010 product.

According to a post on the Essential Business Server team blog, Microsoft is ceasing development of future iterations of EBS as of June 30, 2010. Microsoft is attributing the shift to "a natural market shift in midsize business’ preferences toward creating their own IT solutions."

Microsoft officials also played up the growing appeal of cloud-computing solutions for the mid-market audience. From the team's March 5 blog post:

"Since the launch of EBS, several changes have occurred that drove our decision to streamline our server product portfolio. First, midsize businesses are rapidly turning to technologies such as management, virtualization and cloud computing as a means to cut costs, improve efficiency, and increase competitiveness. Those capabilities are already available through other offerings, including Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft System Center and the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)."

Microsoft is still going to do another version of Windows Small Business Server, according to company officials, but they are still providing no details about that product, which is codenamed "Aurora." (I'd assume it will debut some time in calendar 2010, but Microsoft officials won't say when I've asked.)

Current EBS customers will be able to continue to get mainstream and extended support, plus support for service packs for that product, Microsoft officials said. (The exact cut-off dates for support depend on the dates for all the individual products that comprise the EBS 2008 bundle. I'll see if I can get some more definitive dates and add them to this post.)

Microsoft also is offering a six-month promotion (which starts June 30) for customers who want to transition off EBS 2008, enabling them to migrate to "many of the standalone products included in EBS 2008." The standalone products in the EBS 2008 bundle include: Windows Server 2008, System Center, Exchange Server, two Forefront Security products, SharePoint Services, and SQL Server.

Microsoft has been mum about its SMB plans for Windows Server for the past few months, while it tinkers with the existing line-up. Microsoft late last year started talking publicly about Windows Home Server as a product suited for some small business customers, a departure from its previous product positioning.

What do you think of Microsoft's move and its claims about what mid-size business customers want, in terms of future technology purchases? Are mid-size businesses really ready for the cloud?

Update: Poor sales of EBS may have had a lot to do with the decision to ax the product, as well. One EBS MVP claimed Microsoft had fewer than 100 customers for EBS. I asked Microsoft for confirmation and was told the company doesn't comment on sales of individual products.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Windows

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Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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