What's behind Microsoft's tinkering with its low-end server line-up?

What's behind Microsoft's tinkering with its low-end server line-up?

Summary: Microsoft has made available a new version of its Windows Server Foundation product which is built on the Windows Server 2008 R2 codebase. Windows Server Foundation 2008 R2 is a small-business-targeted server product that Microsoft is positioning as its budget, entry-level option.


Microsoft seems to be making some behind-the-scenes adjustments to its line-up of low-end Windows Servers that are in the pipeline.

Last year, Microsoft officials began pitching Windows Home Server (WHS) as not just a home enthusiast product, but also as a  low-end server option that could fit the needs of small office/home office (SOHO) users -- effectively making WHS Microsoft's new lowest-end server offering. Microsoft is in the midst of testing privately the next version of WHS, codenamed Vail.

Rafael Rivera, of WithinWindows.com, blogged on Febraury 2 about another Microsoft product that's in the making, codenamed Aurora. Aurora and Vail seem to share a number of components, according to his findings, including a common dashboard/console shared by the two products.

Neowin.net unearthed more information about Aurora that points to it being the next version of Windows Small Business Server (SBS). Windows Small Business Server (SBS) is tailored for use by 75 users max. It is a bundle of Windows Server, Exchange, Internet Information Services Web server, and Windows SharePoint Service and Outlook. There's a unified management console, integrated setup and other common elements tying these components together. I asked Microsoft officials late last year about when they might test and ship the version of SBS based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and they declined to comment in any way. I thought that was kind of suspicious, but maybe it was just Windows client's fondness for secrecy creeping into the Server division, I thought....

WHS and SBS aren't the only low-end offerings in Microsoft's server family. Microsoft also has another "budget"/low-end server, Windows Server Foundation. At the same time as it released Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 to manufacturing, Microsoft also introduced Windows Server Foundation 2008 R2 as its latest version of a small-business-targeted server product that is available pre-installed on machines from Microsoft's partners. The R2 Foundation release is available on single-processor servers from Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Lenovo, NEC and Touch Dynamic.

When Microsoft rolled out the initial version of Windows Server Foundation (codenamed Lima) in April 2009, CEO Steve Ballmer called it the equivalent of a netbook for servers. It is Microsoft's entry-level, "budget" server offering. The original version had a 15-user limit and was aimed at small-business users in both developed and developing markets. The R2 version has the same target audience and same limitations.

Is Microsoft's new low end line-up of servers for the coming year-plus going to be Vail/Windows Server Foundation 2008 R2/Aurora? Or is Microsoft got other plans for how to sell more servers in an economy where enterprise IT spending has yet to recover? Other thoughts/guesses? Meanwhile, anyone have any more information to share about Aurora?

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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • A cloud server in every business and in every home

    <a href=http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=74766&messageID=1450362>I think MS should provide an even lower end virtual server on Windows Ultimate</a>, and try and sell all small business / professional operations and families, the idea of having a turn key server on their premises and in their homes, that provide cloud services. MS could also package the servers with a range of services like auto strong encryption and backup to the cloud, to help get a continuous revenue stream. In the above arrangement, users get privacy and security peace of mind, and MS gets a continuous revenue stream.
    P. Douglas
  • I would like to have Windows Server 2008 Foundation Edition.

    Although I do have an MSDN Academic Alliance copy of Windows Web Server 2008 for non-commercial use in a VirtualBox virtual machine (host operating system is Ubuntu Server 9.10). I use IIS 7 for web-based home automation and I'll be upgrading to .net Framework 4.0 when it gets fully released out of beta (I'm an ASP.net/C# developer).

    But I'm strongly disappointed that the Windows Server 2008 Foundation is only available through OEM. This is not something I can purchase through Newegg.com. But it's okay, since I do use Ubuntu Server as a router, file server, Asterisk phone system, and that's about it. I've tried setting up Windows Server 2008 as a router (during the evaluation), but I can only assign a single port instead of a range of ports, which is needed for trixbox virtual machine that uses SIP (session initiated protocol). iptables is much more flexible in Linux, which is very unfortunate for Windows Server 2008 when configured as a router.
    Grayson Peddie