As Microsoft debuts Windows Small Business Server 2008 today, The VAR Guy is flashing back to a recent conversation he had with a top Microsoft partner in Australia. During that chat, our resident blogger was converted from an SBS 2008 skeptic into a true believer. Here's why.

First, a little background: Mathew Dickerson is founder and managing director of AXXIS Technology -- the rare solutions provider that thrives as a managed service provider and a Microsoft SBS partner. Dickerson, based in Australia, also the author of SLAM (Service Level Agreement Model), a top-selling book.

SaaS Threats?

During an October chat, The VAR Guy asked Dickerson if software as a service (SaaS) and managed services would begin to eat away at products like SBS. Dickerson's response: Australia has the highest per capita rate of SBS deployments, and he expects SBS 2008 -- launching today -- to have a very long lifespan.

One reason: Microsoft has de-coupled SQL Server from Small Business Server. Specifically, a "premium edition" of SBS allows customers to run SQL Server 2008 on a separate server from Windows Server 2008.

That subtle but strategic tweak from Microsoft should give SBS far more scalability, notes Dickerson. And yes, he expects plenty of existing SBS customers to make the move to SBS 2008.

Linux Competition?

Meanwhile, the open source community continues to chip away at the small business market with a range of options.

Still, The VAR Guy has been underwhelmed by the small business offerings from Novell -- which has never had a strong corporate brand in the small business space. (Did you even know Novell's offering is called Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition?) And alternatives from Xandros have a nice following but aren't exactly mainstream names.

So, the small business server market remains Microsoft's game to lose.

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