Thursday, April 2, 2009

Windows Server 2008 Foundation Unveiled

Microsoft on Wednesday announced an addition to its Windows Server product family, unveiling a new server specifically designed for very small businesses.

Windows Server 2008 Foundation supports file- and printer-sharing tasks for organizations with up to 15 users. Other functions enabled by the server include running applications, hosting Web sites and remote access. A Microsoft spokesperson said by e-mail that Foundation has the same security as Windows Server 2008 Standard, including BitLocker drive encryption.

Foundation supports Active Directory for managing user accounts and rights on the network. However, with Foundation, "Active Directory is only limited to the head node of a domain," explained Iain McDonald, general manager of Windows Server, in a video.

McDonald also noted that Foundation will not run in a virtualized environment. He explained the overall rationale for launching the product.

"We realized that there are parts of the economy that just aren't doing that well these days," McDonald said. "We also realize that there is a sizeable market out there where people are buying these lower-cost servers from various OEMs, so we created Windows Server 2008 Foundation."

Foundation will be sold pre-installed on machines produced by Microsoft's OEM partners such as Dell, HP and IBM "in the coming months," according to Microsoft's product announcement. A Microsoft blog described these machines as "low-end OEM servers that presently are selling at workstation prices" with a limitation of one socket and 8GB of RAM.

OEMs will set the price for the Foundation server products, and while these servers aren't on the market yet and pricing will vary per country, a Microsoft spokesperson noted that "HP expects a target price of under a thousand dollars."

For the most part, Foundation users will not have to purchase client access licenses (CALs) to run the server. There's an exception for Foundation users who want to run Terminal Services or Windows Rights Management Services. In those cases, users have to purchase standard CAL rights for each of those services.

So, Foundation users with simpler needs get a little break on licensing costs. In contrast, users of Microsoft's Windows Small Business Server (SBS), which supports up to 50 users, are required to purchase CALs.

Foundation lacks the all-in-one solution stack approach that Microsoft took with Windows SBS, which comes with Microsoft Exchange for e-mail, Forefront for security and SharePoint for collaboration -- all on top of Windows Server. However, not every small business needs all of that functionality.

And that's the principal reason why Microsoft came out with Foundation. It plugs a hole in Microsoft's Windows Server marketing, according to Paul DeGroot, senior analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

"SBS used to be simply the cheapest way to buy a copy of Windows Server," DeGroot explained in an e-mail. "It was cheaper to buy SBS, even with Exchange, than to buy Windows Server Standard. So if you are a partner and the customer just wanted a file and print server, you bought SBS and perhaps even ignored Exchange and everything else."

Microsoft subsequently increased the price of SBS, and that caused a rethink among potential buyers, DeGroot said. They now faced buying Windows Server just to get file- and print-sharing support.

"Microsoft created a hole in its product line, and Foundation fills it," he said.

Could small businesses use Microsoft's Windows Home Server (WHS) to meet their server needs, instead of Foundation? DeGroot said that WHS might even be a better solution for small businesses because of its backup feature. However, WHS is not licensed for business use "so Foundation Server provides a legal alternative for something like that."

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