When Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) recently killed Windows Small Business Server development, some partners investigated market alternatives. Is it time for SBS partners to check out the Intel Hybrid Cloud and the Intel AppUp Small Business Service? Here are some observations.

First, the background. Microsoft killed SBS amid slowing demand for on-premises small business servers. Partners can instead choose from several Windows Server 2012 options (on-premises) or Office 365 cloud applications like Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

Some partners believe SBS's death is Microsoft's attempt to accelerate Office 365 cloud sales.

Whatever the case, some solutions providers aren't willing to abandon on-premises small business server hardware sales. That's where Intel Hybrid Cloud solutions and AppUp enter the conversation.

Definition Please

Intel Hybrid Cloud allows VARs to mix and match on-premises hardware (Dell or Lenovo servers) with managed services and cloud services. The tricky news: Many Intel Hybrid Cloud configurations leverage Windows SBS. But it's a safe bet Intel Hybrid Cloud will leverage Windows Server 2o12 when it arrives this fall. Also, Intel Hybrid Cloud can run several Linux distributions -- such as SUSE, CentOS, Ubuntu and ClearOS Enterprise.

Nice. But the real power of Intel Hybrid Cloud involves Intel AppUp, which allows partners and customers to choose from a range of on-premises and cloud applications.

So is Intel Hybrid Cloud a true replacement for Windows Small Business Server? Yes and no. Intel appears to offer all the major capabilities that small business customers need. But The VAR Guy has not heard any major updates about how the Intel Hybrid Cloud product line is selling, In fact, Intel has been downright quiet about the hybrid cloud and AppUp efforts in recent weeks.

Perhaps Intel will raise its voice when Windows Server 2012 arrives in a few weeks. InĀ  the meantime The VAR Guy awaits related chatter from partners...