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Microsoft has drastically slimmed down the number of editions it will support for its upcoming Windows Server 2012 platform to just four.
This includes one edition that effectively replaces the popular Windows Small Business Server (SBS) product, much to the consternation of Microsoft partners and SMB customers alike.
Microsoft said that Windows Server 2012 will deliver a dramatically simplified licensing experience by being divided into just four editions. That will allow customers to choose the edition that suits them based on the size of the organisation and their requirements for virtualisation and cloud computing, it said.
The Datacenter and Standard editions are aimed at larger organisations, with the first for highly virtualised environments while the second is for those with low density or non-virtualised environments. Both these are licensed based on number of processors, plus client access licences (CALs) for each client that connects to the server.
Windows Server Essentials is the edition aimed at small businesses, and thus has a 25 user account limit. The final edition, Windows Server Foundation, can only be installed on server hardware by OEMs.
Much of the fuss over the announcement centres on Windows Server Essentials, as this effectively replaces Windows SBS, a move that has enraged many Microsoft channel partners and customers, as detailed by V3's sister site CRN.
The move follows Microsoft's announcement that it is also killing off its Windows Home Server product for consumers.
Windows SBS, based on Windows Server 2008, has proven very popular with small businesses because of its inclusion of the Exchange email server and SharePoint collaboration functionality.
In contrast, Windows Server Essentials is a bare server that is designed to offer pre-configured connectivity to Microsoft's cloud based services such Office 365.
Explaining the move, David Fabritius of Microsoft's Windows Server Marketing team wrote on The Official SBS Blog that making Essentials into a core edition of Windows Server 2012 will more clearly communicate how it fits into the Windows Server family.
"Windows Server 2012 Essentials has been designed to give you the flexibility to choose which applications and services run on-premises and which run in the cloud. In contrast to Windows SBS Standard, Essentials offers lower up-front acquisition and deployment costs," he claimed.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials will be priced from $425, while the Standard edition is priced from $882 and the Datacenter edition $4,809.
Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.