Microsoft dings Amazon's S3

Insists a (Windows) server is still an SMB's best friend

An avid digital photographer, Steven VanRoekel said he tried to use Amazon's S3 online storage service to back up his hard drive full of photos.

What the senior director in the server and tools division at Microsoft Corp. discovered, he claimed, was that uploading 200GB of images to S3 would take almost two weeks on his home DSL connection, even if run around the clock.

Restricting the upload just to overnight hours would've stretched the process out to more than six weeks, VanRoekel said.

VanRoekel's experience confirmed what he, as head of Microsoft's small and midsize business (SMB) Windows products, is betting on professionally: that going 100% to the online cloud brings its own set of problems to nontech-savvy small businesses.

And that Windows Server bundles for SMBs will, with the strategic injection of certain Web features, trump 100% Web-hosted applications such as S3 or Google's Apps.

"We're bringing new technology that creates great synergy between online and local apps," he said.

Microsoft announced Wednesday that it is adding the recently upgraded Office Live Small Business to Windows Small Business Server 2008 when it ships in the second half of this year.

The upgrade to SBS 2003 R2, SBS 2008 will also ship with the Web-based SharePoint Services 3.0 as well as support for the newest Windows Mobile phones.

In addition, SBS 2008 will come with two new security products: Forefront Security for Exchange and Windows Live OneCare for Server.

SBS 2008 will form the lower end of Microsoft's new Essential Server Solutions lineup. The high end will be occupied by Windows Essential Business Server (EBS), the bundle formerly code-named Centro, which is aimed at midsize firms.

EBS won't have SBS's Web features. But it will provide an administration console based on System Center Essentials that will be able to manage third-party applications written for it, VanRoekel said.

VanRoekel said there are several reasons targeted server bundles such as SBS or EBS will continue to thrive.

One is the 400,000 partners that sell and support SBS 2003 R2 today, an army Microsoft will be able to mobilize to sell Essential Server. That's in contrast to the Web-only marketing efforts of Amazon and Google.

Also, companies underestimate how much their storage needs will grow -- and how much pricey bandwidth is needed to make hosted applications perform as well as on-premise ones, he said.

VanRoekel did not have to mention a third reason: the potential vulnerability of hosted applications, as best exemplified by the several-hour outage of S3 last Friday that left many customers steamed.

Linux applications not credible?

SBS 2008 will ship in two flavors -- a standard and a premium edition. The latter will bundle a second license of Windows Server 2008 along with SQL Server 2008. Because of Windows Server 2008's built-in virtualization capabilities, the premium edition can be run on one or two physical servers.

Similarly, the standard edition of EBS will ship as a set of three components, each running on a separate copy of Windows Server 2008, while the premium edition adds a fourth component, SQL Server 2008. EBS can also be run on as many as four physical pieces of hardware or, through virtualization, compressed onto a single server, VanRoekel said.

SBS and EBS also compete with open-source/Linux server applications, though VanRoekel dismissed them as still not being "credible."

"Maybe the initial software cost [for Linux] is less expensive, but ultimately you will get less value," he said.

That begged the question of how much SBS or EBS will cost, which VanRoekel declined to answer. But he acknowledged that SaaS and open source were putting pressure on Microsoft, and promised customers will be pleasantly surprised when prices are announced later this year.

"We will get to something that is attractive to customers in this new world," he said.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon