SBS and Beyond Taking Shape

Posted: July 14, 2010 in Aurora, SBS 2008, SBS 7, Windows 7, Windows Home Server

On Monday, July 12, 2010, Microsoft announced two new SBS offerings. While one is a linear step forward along the path that previous versions of SBS have set, the other is a departure in how it is implemented, and certainly how it is priced and deployed.

SBS 7, as it is code-named, is a welcomed upgrade to SBS 2008.  It moves SBS from its baseline products of Windows Server 2008, Exchange 2007 and SharePoint Services 3.0 to Windows Server 2008 R2, Exchange 2010, and SharePoint Foundation 2010.  These are hardly cosmetic changes.  Windows Server R2 is a substantial version change (and I wonder why they didn’t name it 2010), and the same is true for Exchange and SharePoint.

As of yet, not enough details have emerged about the upgrade process and pricing.  We are not certain but very hopeful that an in place upgrade will be available, unlike the migration from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008, or whether Microsoft will give a pricing break to people who have recently purchased SBS 2008.  Stay tuned for more on this as details emerge, but with a public beta slated to start in August, it won’t be long.

Aurora is the code name for the other SBS announcement.  Aurora is aimed at businesses with five to 20 users and “ad-hoc IT budgets”, Microsoft said. “It’s a super-simple server for the very small business,” Windows Server senior product manager Michael Leworthy said at a press briefing.  That would be a lot of you, wouldn’t it?

If you have seen or used Microsoft Home Server, then this is a good starting place to think about Aurora.  It has a local server to handle networking, file sharing and active directory features for authentication and permissions, but Exchange, SharePoint and probably other products from Microsoft and third parties will be cloud offerings.  Simply put, it means that the services are being delivered to users from servers in the Internet cloud.

Really, cloud computing isn’t all that new, but it is the current hot term, so let’s treat it with all the mystical respect it deserves.

Still, the value added in Aurora will the the behind the scenes integration with cloud offerings.  Sign-in will disappear as you now experience it on web pages because it will be done for you, or at least that is how it is expected to be.  And the services in the cloud you subscribe to will be integrated onto the dashboards and control panels and wizards instead of having to manage them separately.

Aurora will also support a file system with duplication.  Aurora completely takes over all the storage devices on its host machine and manages them automatically.  There is little in the way of a file structure to deal with.  Shared and private folders are created from the dashboards and made available without the normal directory traversing.  Duplication means that under the hood, files are replicated to protect against drive loss.  This is similar to RAID storage concepts in the result it produces.

Microsoft assets that a small business owner with slight technical skills should be able to install and maintain Aurora, and that is probably true.  From my experience, though, the areas where small business owners really need help is at the client machine level and understanding how to deal with files in the first place.  And it certainly begs the question of who is going to help them approach their business needs with tools like SharePoint.  So thank goodness for me, eh?

Let me not forget to mention Vail, the code name for the new Windows Home Server.  It has moved to a 64-bit platform only with no 32-bit version. It also has a revamped administrator console now called a dashboard.  It supports Windows 7 groups and uses the same disk technology as Aurora.

I will be focusing on these products as they go through beta and become available.  Please visit again for more information.

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