Microsoft's 'Aurora' hybrid cloud server is available, but Office 365 add-on not until fall

Microsoft's hybrid cloud/on-premises server for small business is available as of this week. But the Office 365 cloud component won't really be usable until this fall.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Three months after Microsoft's "Aurora" hybrid cloud/on-premises server for small business was released to manufacturing, the product is available via a variety of channels.

As of this week, the product known officially as Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is available to customers via volume licensing, retail, and "from most of our OEM partners, with more offers and OEM products becoming available in the next few months," according to a July 7 blog post on the Windows Small Business Server blog. The Office 365 integration module isn't available yet, however; it sounds like it is coming some time this fall.

Update: Here's some additional information from a Microsoft spokesperson regarding the Office 365 capabilities of Aurora:

"Office 365 and SBS 2011 Essentials do work together currently. Right now, you can run the core infrastructure you need on-premise and work with online services such as O365 for collaboration and line of business (LOB) application support. The difference coming this fall is that the Office 365 Integration Module for SBS Essentials will be available. This module will provide customers with additional functionality to combine these two products without increasing complexity."

Aurora was designed to be an on-premises Server Core, supplemented by Office 365 and other still-unspecified Microsoft cloud products. (Windows Intune or Dynamics CRM Online could be possible other cloud add-ons, I'd think.)

Add-ins will be able to be online, on-premise, or a mixture of both, according to the company. The two add-on options for the product:

  • Online Service Add-in - Software that integrates Essentials functionality with a hosted online service, e.g., Cloud backup, Office 365, Hosted Email, Online CRM, etc.
  • On-premise Add-in - Software that enhances the intranet functionality of Essentials, e.g., Server Power Management tools, Security & Group Policy, Anti-Malware, etc.

Microsoft is positioning Aurora as suited for small businesses of up to 25 users). "It can seamlessly integrate into online services such as Office 365, cloud backup, and cloud management solutions," according to a product data sheet. Cloud and on-premises roducts from third-party software/services vendors also can integrate with Aurora.

Aurora is one of several Colorado-themed server products Microsoft introduced in the past year or so. Others included “Breckenridge” — a k a Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials -- and  “Vail” — a k a Windows Home Server 2011. Microsoft also is selling a new version of its Small Business Server that was codenamed SBS 7.

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