Executive Summary:

Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008 fills the gap between SBS 2008 and the enterprise-oriented standalone servers that the company also sells. EBS 2008 is based on the same Windows Server core as SBS 2008, and it uses a similar administrative console. It's also quite a bit more complex—it’s a 64-bit product suite that must be installed on at least three separate 64-bit servers. As with SBS 2008, EBS 2008 will come with separate standard and premium CALs that cover all of the products included in both editions. EBS 2008 is a complex and untested product, but given Microsoft's successes with SBS 2008, there's reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008 is a new entry in the Essential Business Solutions product line, and one that nicely fills the gap between Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 and the enterprise-oriented standalone servers that the company also sells. EBS 2008 is based on the same Windows Server core as SBS 2008, and it uses a similar administrative console. It’s also quite a bit more complex, with a three-server installation requirement. Here’s what you need to know about EBS 2008.

The Market for EBS 2008
With EBS 2008, Microsoft is targeting the midsized business market: companies with 25 to 500 PCs and 50 to 1,000 employees. This market sits firmly between the small business market and what Microsoft describes as the corporate market, the latter of which includes companies of 500 to 1,000 PCs and 1,000 to 5,000 employees.

According to Microsoft’s research, IT in midsized businesses is managed by so-called IT generalists, the Jack-of-All-Trades of the administrative world who know a little about a broad range of topics and spend most of their time reacting to problems rather than proactively deploying technologies that make the most sense for their businesses. Midsized businesses have told Microsoft that their technology needs include getting their environments to a secure state and keeping them there, supporting desktop PCs and users, deploying the various machines and devices needed by the business, tracking IT assets, complying with specific industry regulations, and performing regular backups of PCs and of corporate data. As with small businesses, business applications are critical and spending is tightly controlled.

The EBS Product Mix
EBS 2008 Standard Edition is a product suite that must be installed on three separate 64-bit servers: a management server that includes the standard editions of Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007 (SCE 2007); a messaging server with Server 2008, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, and Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server; and a security server with Server 2008, Exchange 2007 (Edge Services), and Forefront Threat Management Gateway for Medium Businesses.

EBS 2008 Premium Edition takes the standard edition and adds a fourth database server that can be installed in 64-bit (x64) or 32-bit versions. This server includes Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition. Both versions are served by a single CAL for all included products, an integrated setup routine, and a centralized management console that serves as a front end to all of the installed products.

What’s in EBS 2008?
Although EBS 2008 is obviously a new product, it also builds on the years of experience Microsoft has serving small businesses with SBS and larger businesses with its more traditional standalone servers. As such, it establishes an interesting computing environment that’s both seamlessly integrated and more complex than a single-server product. The new EBS administrative console is simple and similar to SBS but includes integrated license management that, in a nod toward the needs of midsized businesses, tracks a company’s technology assets.

EBS 2008 also builds off the “green shield of health” model first employed by SBS 2003, providing a central location to track the health and security of your entire environment. It essentially monitors hundreds of traditional Windows events, distills them into plain English workload indicators, and then prioritizes them so you can easily fix things that aren’t working properly.

Just as important, the EBS console can be extended by third parties. Already a wide range of support has emerged, with companies such as CA, FullArmor, HP, IBM, Intel, Mimosa, Quest Software, Symantec, Trend Micro, and others building add-ons in the areas of backup, antivirus, workflow, line-ofbusiness (LOB) applications, and more. EBS add-ons are installed under the Business Applications tab in the administrative console.

Microsoft has also made deployment somewhat easier by building its best practices guidance into both the online Help and the setup routine to ensure that customers get up and running with EBS correctly. The company has condensed what it says would be 129 setup screens—if the individual products were installed separately—to just 30 with EBS. That’s still quite a lot, and deploying an EBS setup in your environment—then migrating your existing data over to it—will likely be a daunting process for many.

Also, it’s worth noting that Microsoft is now investigating best practices for installing EBS in a virtual environment such as Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. At the time of this writing, that best-practices guide wasn’t available, but Microsoft claims the final EBS release will support virtual environments. EBS 2008 will launch alongside SBS 2008 in early November 2008.

Pricing Model
As with SBS 2008, EBS 2008 will come with separate standard and premium CALs that cover all of the products included in both editions. The retail cost of EBS 2008 Standard is $5,472, a savings of more than $2,000 over the cost of the individual products purchased separately. A standard edition CAL costs $81 (compared with $112 for standalone CALs). On the premium edition side, the retail cost is $7,163, a savings of more than $3,000 over the cost of the individual products purchased separately. A premium edition CAL is $195 (versus $274 for standalone CALs).

Recommendations
EBS 2008 is a complex and untested product, but given Microsoft’s successes with SBS 2008, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic. That said, midsized businesses interested in EBS should be aware that this product doesn’t drop into an existing environment. Instead, it’s designed to replace what you’re already using. And that’s OK if you make sure to plan for the potentially lengthy and complex process of migrating from your existing infrastructure to EBS.