Dont Panic ButtonMicrosoft has killed Windows Small Business Server development, trimming the Windows Server 2012 lineup to four editions: Datacenter, Standard, Essentials and Foundation. The takeaway: Microsoft is striving to shift small business customers to Office 365 and cloud services. But is Windows SBS really dead? And how are channel partners reacting just as Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC12) kicks off in Toronto? The VAR Guy offers some insights.

First, the facts. The Windows Server 2012 editions will include:



Windows Small Business Server and Windows Home Server are noticeably absent from that list.

Now the apparent fallout in some partner circles:

  • Numerous channel partners have raised concerns to Microsoft, alleging that the company has lost touch with its partner base by killing SBS -- one of Microsoft's most popular small business channel products over the past decade.
  • Microsoft claims Windows Server 2012 Essentials coupled with a separate Exchange Server deployment or Office 365 in the cloud easily fills the SBS void. But partners claim that approach is more complicated than the SBS approach.

So who's right? Alas, this isn't a black-and-white discussion. The VAR Guy sees shades of grey.

  • In Microsoft's defense: At some point the vast majority of channel partners need to shift their mindset from on-premises email to cloud email and related services. MSP veteran Stuart Crawford drives home that viewpoint in a recent blog. Microsoft hasn't spoken about actual SBS sales in recent years because the small business server market (as a whole) is shrinking. Small business expert Karl Palachuk notes that the SBS writing has been on the wall for quite some time.
  • In partners' defense: SBS is a very well known brand. It's far stronger than the Windows Server Essentials brand. In a blog post, Microsoft says Windows Small Business Server Essentials is now simply Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Alas, Microsoft went with the weaker brand...
  • A smarter move?: The VAR Guy believes Microsoft coud have folded the Windows Server Essentials brand, and instead tweaked the SBS brand... At least one partner recommended to The VAR Guy: Branding around SBS 365 or SBS Cloud would have more clearly communicated that pieces of SBS were no longer going to be on-premises -- starting with Exchange Server.

Time to Move Forward?

Regardless, plenty of partners are complaining about SBS's death. But The VAR Guy thinks partners should look at the bigger picture. The writing is on the wall. Small businesses are buying fewer and fewer servers. On-premises email in small business is on its death bed.

Instead of attending an SBS funeral, Microsoft partners should figure out how to find new life in cloud computing.