Microsoft have announced Windows Server 2012 Essentials here. Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the next version of what used to be called Small Business Server Essentials. It’s also the end of an era in many ways, as Microsoft have signalled that this is the new design for what was SBS moving forwards. That means there are going to be some changes to what people have come to know and love about what used to be SBS for so many years. Here’s an overview of those key changes.
These days everyone needs email to get their job done. In all previous versions of SBS, that’s been done by having Exchange Server installed on the SBS box itself. This is the way it’s been since SBS 4.0 launched back in 1997, and only in the last 18 months, has there been any variation with Microsoft splitting SBS 2011 into Standard (with Exchange on box) and Essentials (without Exchange on box).
Microsoft have designed Windows Server 2012 Essentials to work with three different types of mail systems.
- Office 365
- Hosted Exchange
- OnPremise Exchange
The first two are pretty much what SBS 2011 Essentials was designed to do. There will be add ins in the console on the server itself to allow you to manage a large part of the mail system even thought it’s hosted in the cloud. The last one however is different. OnPremise Exchange is NOT Exchange running ON the SBS server itself. It requires the use of a 2nd server that you will purchase and install Exchange onto. Microsoft will be providing a white paper on how to configure Windows Server 2012 Essentials to work with it and the console will give some functionality towards it, but this is not to the same level as it has been in the past 15 years. You will need to manually install Exchange 2010 (or future versions) yourself. You will need to purchase Exchange Server and CALs separately to the Windows Server 2012 Essentials server. That is going to mean a price rise for SMB clients and it’s something that needs to be seriously considered. It also means that SMB IT Professionals will need to skill up on Exchange installation and configuration as there will be no more SBS wizards to do all the hard work for you. Maybe now people will appreciate the effort that the SBS team put in to make this so easy for them to do
Originally SBS 4.0 was designed to suit up to 25 users, that grew over the years to 50 in SBS 2000 and 75 in SBS 2003, SBS 2008 and SBS 2011 Standard. This new Windows Server 2012 Essentials however is different again – it’s designed with a limit of 25 users. After that you need to break it out into the normal Windows Server products with the normal Windows Server CALs.
Sharepoint has been included in SBS for many years. In Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the idea is that you’ll be using either Office 365 or some form of hosted Sharepoint solution. You can of course install a 2nd server and install Sharepoint on that if you want. Microsoft have not been clear on installing Sharepoint on the Windows Server 2012 Essentials server itself however.
Since SBS 2003 R2, SBS has incorporated an automated patch management system for it’s servers and workstations. This has been pretty cool and provides for centralised control over the patchs deployed in your SBS network. With Windows Server 2012 Essentials, there is no central patch management. The idea is that you will configure your machines to do their patching individually. An alternate to this which works great for PC’s is to use Windows Intune to do the patch management for you. I guess Microsoft are hoping that this will be enough for most small business clients.
What does this mean for the SBS 2011 Standard?
SBS 2011 Standard as we know is is the last version of SBS to be built with up to 75 user support and on server Exchange/Sharepoint/Patch Management. There will be a date after which Microsoft will surely discontinue sales of SBS 2011 standard – but that date is not public as yet.
What does this mean for sites with more than 25 users?
I feel Microsoft are really letting the team down here – whilst their statistics say that the majority of SBS sites are less than 15 users, I know many SBS sites running happily with 40 to 70 users that will now be forced to pay more for their IT infrastructure requirements with this change.
What pricing information will be for Windows Server 2012 Essentials?
Microsoft released pricing information here
What will be the CAL licensing for Windows Server 2012 Essentials?
Microsoft has released licensing information here
Will there be a beta for Windows Server 2012 Essentials?
I can’t say anything more right now on that subject. I will post information as it’s released publicly.
More FAQs direct from Microsoft
Windows Server 2012 Essentials FAQ – http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?Linkid=257790
Windows Server 2012 Licensing information – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/2012-editions.aspx
Am I a little upset by this announcement? For sure. I’ve been a passionate SBS supporter for 15 years now, and an MVP for 12. I think that whilst the new product has merit, it’s very short of the mark in terms of what our SMB customers need. I’ll be continuing to deploy the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials for clients and will continue to support it for my clients, but the sad fact is, SBS as we know it is dead. I can’t NOT be a little emotional about that now can I ?
UPDATE: July 9th – Here’s another post I’ve done about Windows Server 2012 Essentials “What’s in the box of Windows Server 2012 Essentials” it talks about some of the features in this new SBS replacement.