Microsoft fleshes out small-, mid-size Windows server plans

Microsoft is sharing more details about its small- and mid-size servers due out later this year that will be built around Windows Server 2008. Here are some new tidbits about the pending "Cougar" and "Centro" releases.

Microsoft is sharing more details about its small- and mid-size servers due out later this year that will be built around Windows Server 2008.

Both of these servers are part of the newly-christened Essential Server Solutions Family. At the low end (for users with 50 PCs or fewer), Microsoft will offer Windows Small Business Server 2008, the product codenamed "Cougar." For mid-size companies, Microsoft is readying Windows Essential Business Server 2008, codenamed "Centro."

Both of these products are currently in private beta testing, according to Microsoft. They will go to public beta some time in the first half of this year and both launch together in the second half of 2008, company officials said.

Microsoft is sharing more specifics about the two pending server bundles a week before the company's "Heroes Happen Here" launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008. Here are a couple of new tidbits I gleaned from chatting with Steven VanRoekel, Senior Director with Microsoft's Server and Tools Division:

* Both Essential Server bundles will come in two flavors: Standard and Premium.

* The Standard version of Cougar will consist of Windows Server 2008, Windows SharePoint Services v3, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange and Windows Live OneCare for Server, all running on a single server. The Premium version allows users to run Cougar on two servers, with a second instance of Windows Server 2008, plus SQL Server 2008, on the second server. The Standard version requires a standard client-access license (CAL); the premium, a premium CAL. (Previous Small Business Servers required a common CAL whether users had the standard or premium release.)

* Microsoft is adding more services to Cougar and pitching it as an example of a Software+Service solution. In addition to the aforementioned Windows Live OneCare for Server (which is a Forefront-security-engine-based antivirus-only solution), Microsoft also is users tight integration between Office Live Small Business, beefed-up Remote Web Workplace and Sharepoint Services 3.0 and Cougar.

* Centro, as Microsoft has detailed previously, will include Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, System Center Essentials, Forefront Security for Exchange, the next (still unnamed) version of ISA Server that is due out later this year, and for Premium customers, SQL Server 2008.

* While Microsoft is touting SQL Server 2008 as being part of Cougar and Centro, if the final release of that product isn't done in time to make it into the products, Microsoft will bundle SQL Server 2005 into the new servers and offer users a free upgrade to SQL Server 2008 once the final code is available. (Microsoft is currently saying that SQL Server 2008 will be released to manufacturing in the third quarter of this year.) If SQL Server 2008 is included in the server bundles, Microsoft will still offer users downgrade rights to SQL Server 2005 to ensure application compatibility.

* While Microsoft has touted Cougar and Centro as being 64-bit only releases, Microsoft will offer both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 as part of the premium releases. Only the second server (in Cougar Premium) and the fourth server (in Centro Premium) will be 32-bit; the others will be 64-bit. VanRoekel said Microsoft is doing this to ensure application compatibility.