Monday, February 18, 2008

Karl's Server Roadmap for Microsoft

I have a proposal for Microsoft regarding their low-end server line-up.

At least for the business world.

Most people haven't installed Cougar yet. But let me skip ahead to the next family of servers - due out in 2012.

By that time, I believe everyone will have come to grips with the fact that Exchange does not belong in the small office. As a consultant, your options are to become a hosting provider, become a hosting reseller, or simply find a hosting company for your clients' email.

With luck, we will also have come to grips with the fact that a public-facing web server shouldn't be in an office too small to handle an attack in real time. So that's hosted.

And let's all hope that bandwidth continues to increase while the prices decrease. So we'll all have two or three times the bandwidth we have today.

Let's assume that the micro businesses don't want a "home" server. So the first thing you do is scrape the label off with a razor blade and put on a label that says Biz Server Nano.

I imagine the market to be divided like this:

1) Biz Server Nano
- Core function is file sharing
- Cannot be joined to a domain
- No Active Directory
- Limited to 10 simultaneous users
- No additional CALs required or available
- No migration plans or procedures (after all, the most you'd have to do is create ten users)
- Backup capabilities, including tape backup
- Will not accept exchange, SQL, CRM, etc.
- Able to run a network-wide virus scanner
- Focused market is 1-5 users. Very happy with ten.
- Price range $400 (in today's dollars)

2) Small Business Server 2012
- Cougar-like
- Core functions are file sharing, remote access, sharepoint
- Limit one per network; must be "primary" domain controller
- 75 user limit
- Backup and imaging capabilities for all machines on the network
- Let's face it, the team got SBS2003 right. So it doesn't need to change much
- Patch management engine for the domain (something elegant like kaseya, not wsus)
- Focused market is 10-50 users
- Price range $600 plus $500 for 5 cals (in today's dollars)

I pondered here what a micro business needs in a server.

If you take Exchange and www out of the picture, it's pretty straight forward stuff. In fact, if the primary job is file sharing and backup, it's hard to justify a server for one or two people. I know that's heresy. Businesses just need servers.

So there should be a right-sized server for them.


I welcome any and all feedback on the concept of Biz Server Nano.

1) Do you believe we need a separate product for the micro business?

2) What features should it have?

Post your comments.



  1. Interesting article.

    Re data in the cloud - I think business owners either need to become more comfortable with their information assets stored outside of their network (after all, their bank account contents are!), or the cloud operators need to be less of a data island. The data island issue also ears its head when a public-facing web server needs to interface with back-end operational databases. We need less data islands.

    I agree we'll have more bandwidth, but it will be at the same cost as it is today. Especially if telco infrastructure and existing cable plant is forklift-upgraded.

    Like most technically-minded people (and I'm one too!), you focus on technical implementations and limitations, rather than how information is manipulated and valued in the organisation. The number of staff or end-user devices shouldn't determine the technical implementations and limitations imposed on that organisation.

    You arbitrarily limit Biz Server Nano to 10 users. Why? There are lots of companies out there in the 10-50 user range that only need file + print (and only file really needs centralising). If they use an e-mail hoster why do they need something bigger?

    Ditto Cougar. Why restrict it to one per network?

    I'm not saying the limitations are good or bad. I'm asking why are they there, and what purpose do they serve? Especially if I have to repurpose my entire network to get past whichever limitation impacts my information manipulation, or is p*ssing me off on any given day.

    I think Microsoft are slowly moving into a licensing model that might just be helping to deal with this, with an ever growing range of perpetual vs subscription licenses, add-on cals (think Exchange Server 2007 Standard + Enterprise CALs), and role-based configuration. It would be nice to see a greater granularity of licensing that could extend to the role-based configuration, and also an on-demand license model (i.e like true-up and true-down on a more frequent basis and across multiple roles). This could be a real pain - but not impossible - to implement though. Amazon S3 would be a pointer in this direction.

    Right sized server is just a bs marketing term. The only really right sized server is a bespoke one, which doesn't scale when you're trying to cookie cutter more and more.

    I'm sure I could ramble on some more if I gave it more time...

  2. Thanks for the great comments!

    One note. You say "The number of staff or end-user devices shouldn't determine the technical implementations and limitations imposed on that organisation."

    That might be true in the abstract. After all, a one-user network might need every feature in cougar.

    But, realistically, the average 1-2-3 person office has really different needs from the 6-10 user office or the 20-50 user office.

    The important point is this: The needs of the 1-5 office are unique and they deserve their own server.

    The needs of 10-50 users are also very specific. And they deserve their own server.


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