I’ve just attended a briefing on Microsoft Server and the future of the Small Business variant was one of the things we discussed.
There are a couple of issues with Small Business Server that make me question its future. One is that, at a time when cloud-based services are proving their ability to simplify computing for small businesses, Microsoft’s offering is more or less cloud-free.
A second issue is that by bundling onto one machine products that were designed to live on separate servers, Microsoft has made Small Business Server more complex to manage than a grown-up Windows server environment, especially when upgrading to a new version.
I’d like to see SBS migrated to a virtual environment, with separate VMs for Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory, all running as virtual machines. This is more or less how I run my own test system, and it works very well. It is more flexible, less fragile, requires no special tuning, and is easier to look after than single-server SBS.
That of course presumes that you think there still is a need for SBS at all. The other scenario I’d like to see enabled is one where the on-premise server is in effect a cache for cloud-based services. If a disaster occurs, there would be no interruption of business.
But what does Microsoft have in mind? It is not saying, though I was assured that it is an area of continuing investment – in other words, there will be another Small Business Server – and that sales remain healthy (then again, vendors always say that).
One of the complications for Microsoft is that SBS is generally installed and maintained by partners (of varying levels of competence) and it will take courage to disrupt that business. More than likely we will just get SBS 2010 with Exchange 2010, 2008 R2 and so on. In other words, more of the same.