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
Official SBS Blog – http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2012/07/05/windows-small-business-server-essentials-becomes-windows-server-2012-essentials.aspx
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.
David Brereton says
Microsoft should remember its the #sbs ers who convert NON SERVER customers to grown up IT. The cloud can’t do this, its relationship based.
This is a price rise to the majority of our clients and also based on a big IF. The if is the connection speeds that our clients have…many of ours in the UK still stuck around 2Mbps – so they dont want to be in the cloud.
A sad day, and a massive mistake in our veiw.
Management change is badly needed at Microsoft before the berg is hit and the ship sinks. Sadly the warnings are being ignore from the lookouts in the field.
So customers who can’t move to Office 365, and haven’t budgeted for full Windows 2012/Exchange 2012 licensing will have 2 options.
1. Keep their current SBS2011 Std/Pro environment until they can budget the additional costs (indefinitely?)
2. Pay for a quality Hosted exchange option that meets their needs, provided by their trusted IT company? (If the trusted company thinks they can build a local hosted exchange solution and make it profitable).
I guess this is Microsoft’s way of increasing the value of Exchange On-Premises – because SBS was making it undervalued.
Sad from an emotional and historical point of view – for sure! But looking forward, this is the correct way to go. I have much fewer SBS conversations with customers than I did 5 or 6 years ago. Many SMB customers are going off of their own accord and signing up to cloud services like Google Apps, Xero Accounting, Yammer, Sugar CRM, Skydrive – whether they’re using these 100% in production or just experimenting with them doesn’t matter, it clearly indicates an appetite for cloud services where there’s no upfront acquisition costs, low monthly payments, easy to stop the service if it’s not working for their business, and easy enough for them to sign up to and trial without having to pay me to setup a POC.
I’m looking forward to the simplicity of managing more deployments of something like Windows Server Essentials with Exchange Online. I will still charge ongoing fees to manage just like I do with SBS. But I won’t lay awake at night as much wondering about those errors coming up in the Exchange database and how I’m going to fix them, or the fact the customer keeps forgetting to back up and the log files are going to crash the system for disk space. Less complex issues = higher margin service = happier customer = customer willing to spend more money on higher value services.
A long long time a go I used to make lot’s of money selling, installing and configuring a piece of software called WinGate, software that enables a dial-up modem to be shared on a network and give everyone access to the internet. It was a good cash cow. These days there’s no money to be made in plugging in a broadband modem/router. But I dont dwell on it. Instead, I see the benefit of ubiquitous internet connection and all the oppportunity this gives us as IT service providers.
That’s the way I encourage you to think of Cloud: none of my customers would ever have considered buying Sharepoint or Lync in the past – but now I’m excited by the fact these technologies have been somewhat commoditised and made affordable to everyone through the Cloud, so suddenly there’s a bunch of customers out their with these technologies (so I don’t have to sell it to them) which effectively means a growing customer base for me to deliver high-value services such as Sharepoint design, building workflows and systems, training etc.
Will add more to the cost, we now need to buy 2 additional server licenses, one for HyperV and the virtual Exchange, and another for Remote Desktop. Microsoft know how to gouge their partner base, and we are stuck as there are no decent alternatives. Cloud is not the answer for a lot of clients despite all the coolaid.
James Feldman says
Looks like Kerio will become a much more significant part of our small business offerings. If Kerio Connect can successfully run on Essentials 2012, it’s a no-brainer…
Have just seen they now give rights to run 2 virtual machines from 1 standard license, so the sky may not be falling just yet.
Mark O'Shea says
Wayne and I have had many discussions around the future of SBS while I was still at MS, and even before there were any official announcements I had decided that SBS was a dead product. Not from a technology perspective, not from a solution capabilities perspective, but from the viewpoint of being completely misaligned with the direction Microsoft was clearly taking as an organisation.
As one of the initial driving forces behind SBS in the Australian SMB partner channel finishing with SBS 2003, it was a product I went over and above my reponsibilities for to get the word out on the product, and Australia really was a trailblazer during this period with very strong sales on a global scale.
Even from a channel education or responsibility perspective there were issues. Most SBS revenue came from OEM/System Builder sales, which means that pretty much every other part of Microsoft wasn’t particularly interested in it, to put it mildly. The OEM team is a separate, very lightly staffed group within Microsoft that is not part of the partner group. Microsoft really wants customers on a subscription of some sort, whether it be SA, or now Office 365 etc, and SBS just never delivered on this front.
The fact that SBS Standard continued to sell well is a testament to the enthusiasm that channel partners have for the product, despite the way MS may have engaged in local markets. There is no denying that many succesful SMB partners built great business models around SBS, and many have diversified somewhat as they have grown, but SBS was a key factor in their growth.
As Ryan calls out above, there was no doubt that chicken little’s cry of “the sky is falling” was going to be heard loud and clear from the SBS community, but for me this was just something that was inevitable. Maybe it’s just happening much sooner than expected for some versus others.
Hopefully none of this offended or irritated, these are just my views and not designed to poke sticks at those who are already wounded by the news.
Wayne Small says
Love all the comments guys – check out some more thoughts from myself here http://sbsfaq.com/?p=3631
So the important question to ask is… Is sbsfaq site getting a rename?
Wayne Small says
Well Matt it’s been something I’ve thought about for a long time and on June 4th, I announced a rename http://sbsfaq.com/?p=3564
Graphics are being designed as we speak 🙂 Stay tuned!
To bad Essentials is a really Awful solution. Your off better eating up front costs and get Server STD.
So, MS are dumping the SBS community. As a reseller my first thought is to look at the Apple offerings if we’re going to have to restructure our product line. MS seem to have totally lost the plot on this one. iCloud here we come…
Re “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.” Are there any advantages to using Office 365 over Google Apps for this functionality?
I am currently using SBS2003 with Google Apps and looking at migrating to 2012 Essentials and wonder whether it will also be beneficial to use the Exchange only option of Office 365, seeing as I only use Google Apps for emails and IM.