Microsoft releases Windows Server 2012 Essentials beta, fending off criticism

Microsoft releases Windows Server 2012 Essentials beta, fending off criticism

Summary: The software giant says the replacement for Small Business Server 2011 will offer 'simplicity', despite claims from customers that the line-up reorganisation may force them to trade up to pricier offerings

TOPICS: Servers, Microsoft, SMBs

Microsoft has released the beta version of Windows Server 2012 Essentials, while trying to placate angry customers who face the end of the Small Business Server line.

The company revealed the new edition of Windows Server a week ago as the new low end of its range, and has now provided more detail on what the product entails. In a blog post on Wednesday, group programme manager Joe Nalewabau explained the engineering strategy behind the Essentials edition.

"From an engineering perspective, we planned Essentials 2012 around four core principles: simplicity and flexibility for customers and partners; better together with Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8; increased device support; [and] continued integration with cloud services," he wrote.

The post followed furious reactions from some customers to last week's announcement (the comments in that link provide a good guide to their frustrations). Apart from the death of Home Server, these were the main complaints:

  • Small Business Server (SBS) 2011 Essentials, like Essentials 2012, only supported up to 25 users. However, SBS 2011 Standard (or an add-on) allowed the support of up to 75 users. This middle ground has been taken away, so customers wanting to support more than 25 users will need to jump all the way up to Server 2012 Standard.
  • While SBS offered optional cloud integration as an add-on to its on-premises capabilities, Essentials 2012 does not have on-premises capabilities of its own at all. It provides centralised management of cloud and on-premises functionality, but those wanting to avoid the cloud altogether will need to run Exchange Server on a second server. This means small businesses either need to invest in this extra infrastructure and software, or pay for high-grade connectivity just to service in-house staff.
  • Some customers also seem to be opposed to the introduction of a Metro interface for accessing Essentials 2012.

In his post on Wednesday, Nalewabau sidestepped the fact that there will be no direct replacement for SBS 2011 Standard, arguing that Microsoft was simplifying the move beyond 25 users for those who wanted to retain SBS features such as client backup and remote web access.

"We wanted to address this issue in Essentials 2012 and so we now allow customers to do an in-place upgrade to Windows Server 2012 Standard," he wrote. "Now customers are running Windows Server 2012 Standard without any of the licensing limitations of Essentials 2012, but the majority of Essentials 2012 functionality continues to operate and is fully supported for up to 75 users and 75 devices."

Nalewabu reiterated that customers wanting on-premise email would need a second server running Exchange, adding that they could also use cloud services such as Office 365 or Hosted Exchange.

"We know that there are many different types of hosted email providers," he noted. "While we have focused on hosted Exchange email providers, we engineered the product to be email service agnostic which allows non Exchange based email providers to be integrated through this mechanism (note that this specific feature is not available in the beta)."

On the Windows 8 integration front, Nalewabu pointed out that several Windows 8 technologies will be present in Essentials 2012, such as Storage Spaces and File History, and that Essentials 2012 would be part of the overall Windows Server 2012 Application Logo Certification programme to boost application compatibility.

He also highlighted some of the device support advances that comes with Essentials 2012, such as iPad-friendly remote web access, an updated Windows Phone 7 app for accessing Essentials 2012 servers, and web services to let developers build access into their apps and gadgets.

As for the native Windows 8 Metro app for accessing Essentials 2012 servers, Nalewabu stressed that "the existing client LaunchPad will continue to be available for Windows 8".

Topics: Servers, Microsoft, SMBs

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Microsoft blunder after blunder

    Microsoft, fire Ballmer before he single handed destroys the company.
    • It is not Ballmer it is Sinofsky

      While Ballmer should potentially be fired for letting him do it, Steven Sinofsky is the guy driving these decisions. What can you expect from a bozo who has been heard to say things along the lines of it is worthless to talk to people below the executive VP level.
    • If only more companies could be destroyed like MS

      I'm sure there are a lot of other companies that would love to have quarter after quarter of record breaking revenues and profits. They would beg to be destroyed in the same way MS is being destroyed.
      • All good then, nothing to worry about

        SBS users should just suck it up; fewer users and exchange drop for more money the price to pay dealing with a successful business.

        Move you data out into the cloud, hosted in some legal jurisdiction or another (potential several). Surely none of this matters. MS profits prove they know whats best;-)
        Richard Flude
  • Again with the stupid CALs

    Why does Microsoft insist on "nickle, and dimming" people to death? They should simply charge $499 and offer unlimited CALs. If we can demand a company make a product they've constantly said they're not interested in (Moronic 7" tablet), then we should expect this company ship[ it's OS with My choices in middleware, and a decent server OS price...
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Again with the stupid iTunes fees

      Why does Apple insist on "nickle, and dimming" people to death? They should simply charge $499 for the iPad and offer unlimited music and video.

      Here's a hint: because it is profitable. Because a LOT of smart people have looked at the alternatives like OS X, found them tremendously lacking, and are willing to pay for a quality product. This is how MS makes their money. They charge a premium price for a premium product. That this bothers you or that you do not see the value in paying for CALs is as irrelevant as the fact that I think Apple should give away all iTunes music and videos because I've paid for the iPad.

      "If we can demand a company make a product they've constantly said they're not interested"

      Those people sound as ill informed as you do. If your goal was to lower yourself to their level, congratulations, you've succeeded. Happy now?
      • Premium generally equates to more expensive solutions

        "This is how MS makes their money. They charge a premium price for a premium product."

        That is the crux of the argument which leads to so much of the accompanying angst -- do all SMBs need a "premium" product? Where is an offering with a price point similar to the old SBS rates? Beyond that, not everyone is sold on the concept of cloud computing, which to this day remains anything but a universal solution.
        • Where is the non-premium product?

          "Where is an offering with a price point similar to the old SBS rates?"

          Linux? That's free. It isn't like companies don't have choice. They do. And many are asking exactly the same question you just posed: "Do we need a premium product to host all our mission critical information and processes?" When the answer is no, they choose Linux. When the answer is yes, they start looking at premium products like Windows.

          Choice. Brought to you by Microsoft.
          • Then how and why did MS do non-premium before?

            To drip feed the peasants, only to tighten the screws and up the ante later?

            Greed. Brought to you by Microsoft.
          • Explain

            MS has always done premium. They've never given away their server software. Not sure where you are coming up with this stuff.

            Besides, how can MS tighten the screws on anyone? Anyone can simply migrate to Linux. Free. Or, if they want a premium product that is better than Linux, they can simply migrate to Windows.

            Remember, Microsoft has a very small marketshare when it comes to server OSs. So I say again: Choice. Brought to you by Microsoft, fighting the *nix monopoly 1 premium server at a time.
          • Explained

            "MS has always done premium."

            And they have always done non-premium too. Until now.

            "Besides, how can MS tighten the screws on anyone? Anyone can simply migrate to Linux."

            Sure, and some will. But you know the tried and true art of ramping things up, care of the drip fed lure [think dope junkies]. So does MS.

            "Remember, Microsoft has a very small marketshare when it comes to server OSs."

            It's substantial enough to be a hefty revenue generator for Microsoft. One they're looking to ramp up profits-wise even more, apparently at the expense of leaving many of its SMB user base in the dust ... or with considerably lighter wallets. Shades of the forlorn WHS deportees.
          • Interesting this conversation we are having klumper

            When the first poster writes this: fire Ballmer before he single handed destroys the company

            keeping in mind that under Ballmer, MS has had record profits and revenues.

            Instead we find out that klumper's suggestion that MS should instead continue spending money on products with negative profit margins won't destroy the company, presumably because banks will allow MS to deposit the good will of all those WHS customers and withdraw the cash equivalent.

            MS is doing exactly what it needs to in order to not destroy itself. It is a for profit company. It must maximize its profits. This isn't up for debate. Is it sad for the handful of WHS users out there? Sure. I guess. No more or less sad for the handful of people without a development background who have been burned by abandonware open source products. Had more people purchased WHS, had more people used those abandonware open source products, then those products would still be around. This is news to you?

            It is quite interesting to see the ABMers licking their lips at the prospect of MS losing money on products and then feigning outrage and indignation that MS DARE stop wasting money on products that these ABMers would never spend any money on. WHS was not returning a profit and probably never would. It is a niche product. Niche products need to be expensive to make money. WHS wasn't expensive enough to be profitable and MS calculated that raising the cost of WHS (something even you admit is horrifying, evil, terrible, etc.) would result in even fewer sales and lower profits.

            Let me ask you a question, since you care so much about all these WHS users: would you continue paying money to buy stock that is falling and is never going to recover? But why not klumper? Think of all the poor employees of that company. By not throwing your money away, you are ensuring that those employees are laid off. Shades of the forlorn employees that klumper laid off because he wouldn't give away his money. You sir, are evil. Or are you just being smart?
          • A matter of perspective

            If MS were existing on a shoestring, much of what you say would make more sense. But they're not, they're making obscene profits. Good for shareholders and company big shots, but not always good for end users, ironically enough. Not when this very thing becomes the only insatiable drive mechanism going.

            Microsoft has a rich history of introducing products only to abandon them in mid-flight thereafter, with or without giving them adequate time to take hold (reference tablets, to name but one thing). Again, they direct their "responsibility" only to their shareholders, and lining the pockets of company big shots. And for some, that's all that matters, or should matter.

            And that, in a nutshell, is why we are saddled with a necessary evil called government, to limit the insular reach of self-aggrandizing forces and institutions (not that this framework is working well contemporaneously, but that's a discussion for another time). Suffice to say that responsibility almost always ends where guinea pigs and mice begin.

            Of which we have plenty, complete with a gallery cheering on Microsoft's every move unequivocally. It's these same unquestioning ubercapitalist proponents who applaud Microsoft (et al) as they enrich a communist giant in Asia at this nation's long-term expense, all in the name of bagging loot for their private circles!
  • What About Home Server Users?

    The other issue with Windows Server 2012 Essentials is also that it is the replacement product for the recently killed Windows Home Server.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft is completely abandoning the faithful WHS comunity by not offering a replacement product within the same price range. The WHS 2011 was available for around $50, which ended-up being a very decent offer for home users. With the new Microsoft strategy, it seems that the WHS community will have to shell out around $400 instead.

    Another pathetic community let down. What is it with you Microsoft?
    • Faithful, but few

      WHS just never really caught on, sadly. I still use my original 2003 version, and I was thinking about moving to the 2011 version, despite its lack of Drive Extender. Now I'm having second thoughts about the whole idea. It's time to look for alternatives.
    • Review the ZDN article linked below

      To include comments in the Talkback section for possible forward looking solutions to the abandonment of WHS.
  • Flat Stock

    Now you know why Google is smoking Microsoft. Google tries hard to use today's technology with their services without requiring the user to overhaul everything. Back in the old days people went crazy with new Windows this and Windows that, it's gotten old and very expensive and people are looking for alternatives, something Microsoft never had to deal with before.
    Mahi Tuna