Microsoft on Wednesday made Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008 available to customers. The new products are the culmination of years of work at meeting the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, respectively. Both are based on the well-received Windows Server 2008 product family, and include similar feature sets.

"Around the world, small and midsize businesses are the engine that drives economic growth and opportunity," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "To help these businesses succeed, Microsoft has focused on creating integrated, affordable server solutions that are optimized to meet the needs of companies with limited IT resources. Small Business Server and Essential Business Server deliver a comprehensive set of capabilities that will help small and midsize business thrive and grow."

Both products contain such proven Microsoft technologies as Windows Server, Exchange Server (email), and SharePoint Services (document collaboration), as well as similar new administrative consoles that aggregate most of the commonly-needed tools into a single user interface. SBS 2008 is designed for two physical servers, while EBS 2008 requires at least three and can scale to larger workforces.

Given the current financial climate, Microsoft hopes to ease the burden of acquiring these new products by introducing new licensing and financing options that spread the costs out over 24 to 60 months, and the financing applies not just to the software but also to the hardware and partner services. Server companies such as Dell, HP, IBM, and others are offering SBS- and EBS 2008-specific solutions and thousands of Microsoft partners are available worldwide to assist customers in getting up and running with the new systems.

One potential chink in the SBS/EBS 2008 armor is that these products are very much traditional server systems that must be installed and managed on-site, while much of the industry is turning to cloud-based systems instead. Even Microsoft is getting into that game with its Azure and Microsoft Online Services (MOS) offerings, opening up the possibility that future SBS/EBS products will include some online offerings in lieu of on-site email and collaboration servers.

I've written a lot about SBS and EBS 2008 on the SuperSite for Windows already, but my reviews of each product will be available later this month as well.
http://www.winsupersite.com/server