Windows server has Linux in crosshairs

Targeted at lower-priced competition like Linux, Microsoft's new entry-level server product is targeted at small, cost-conscious businesses in Asia, says exec.

SINGAPORE--Microsoft's new entry-level server edition, Windows Server 2008 Foundation, is aimed squarely at Linux, and the software giant says its "simplicity" is expected to give it the edge over Linux as the choice server OS for the small business segment.

By competing with Linux on a lower price point and touting Windows' familiar interface, Microsoft said it hopes to make both servers and its server OS an easy choice for small businesses looking to deploy a server. Each server, preloaded with the OS, will cost below S$1,500 (US$1,029).

Haresh Khoobchandani, senior director, business and marketing organisation, Microsoft Singapore, spoke to ZDNet Asia on Friday's local launch of Windows Server 2008 Foundation.

Part of Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 product line, this edition is aimed at single-processor servers with fewer than 15 users.

Khoobchandani said small businesses in Asia are taking their IT deployments more seriously, which has created demand for a lower-priced entry-level server offering.

Microsoft hopes its partnering with manufacturers Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell to preload the OS on their hardware for the roll-out, will help make it simpler for small businesses to get started with the product.

"There's a big saving on cost, because businesses won't have to worry about bringing in technical expertise to deploy the OS," said Khoobchandani.

On competition posed by Linux, he said the familiarity of the "established" Windows experience is also expected to "take away the complexity of how to use a server".

Additionally, Microsoft is also looking to its independent software vendor (ISV) ecosystem for the edge over Linux. For its Singapore launch, it has partnered with two local ISVs to come out with a legal and HR application, available to SMBs on the platform for separate licenses issued by the ISVs.

Linux offers more advanced features such as virtualization for free, but Khoobchandani said a small company with below 25 seats is not likely to look into virtualization yet.

Microsoft estimates the small business segment in the Asia-Pacific region to span some 6 million such companies with an average of 25 PCs, and is worth about 38 percent of the region's total server market.

Khoobchandani said Microsoft estimates there to be about 100,000 small businesses in the island state. Globally, it estimates there are 32 million small businesses, 70 percent of which do not own a server.

Liow Poh Leong, System x and BladeCenter product line manager at IBM, told ZDNet Asia, the company expects the product to appeal to businesses that have so far been purchasing "home user type" PCs for their IT needs.

"This group of customers are extremely cost-conscious and the IT adoption rate is fairly low."

Adeline Soh, business director, Industry Standard Servers, HP Singapore, said SMBs in the region tend to be smaller than their global counterparts.

Quoting a recent HP survey, she said 75 percent of businesses in general, recognize the importance of aligning technology and business goals. "Increasingly, we see SMBs turning to technology to enable better business outcomes."