At the first-ever Microsoft Business Summit today in Redmond, Washington, the company will announce its long-term goals for the midsized-business market, a market for its business-oriented products that's second in size only to the small-business market. Building off the temporary Windows Server System product bundle for midsized businesses that the company announced 2 months ago, Microsoft will ship a new server suite, code-named Centro, that's designed for midsized businesses.
The Centro product bundle will ship in the Longhorn Server time frame (2007) and will be based on the Standard Edition of Longhorn Server, not Windows Server 2003 or Windows 2003 Release 2 (R2). Other products in the bundle will include the standard editions of Longhorn Server, Microsoft Exchange Server 12, the next version of ISA Server (as well as other security technologies), and several key technologies that the company is developing as part of the Microsoft System Center family of products (which will include software- and patch-deployment capabilities, among other features).
At a basic level, Centro will be based on the Windows Small Business Server (SBS) model. The product bundle will include an integrated installation routine that installs all the products at once and will include simple, integrated management tools. Unlike SBS, however, Centro will span several servers and will integrate more easily with other standalone Microsoft server products. Microsoft is also working on migration tools that will make it easy for businesses to upgrade their existing infrastructures to Centro, a capability that SBS doesn't offer.
Microsoft is still working out the details of the Centro product bundle, both internally and with its hardware partners, who will sell Centro hardware bundles. Customers who want to install just the Centro software on their own servers can do so, I was told.
What's with the name Centro, you ask? "The name Centro comes from all the small towns in Italy," Steven Van Roekel, director of Mid-Market Solutions in the Window Server Group, told me in a prebriefing last week. "Every one of these towns has signs with the word "Centro" on them, pointing to the center, or middle of the town, and everything revolves around it. I thought it was an appropriate name for a product that targets medium-sized businesses." The Centro name, incidentally, is temporary: Microsoft will announce final branding for this product at a later time.