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Windows server targets branch, small office users

Microsoft rounded out its server lineup for small and midsized businesses by releasing Windows Foundations.

The server, which has a user limit of 15, is designed to provide small businesses with an entry-level support for such tasks as file and print, remote access or running business applications. The server is available only through a collection of Microsoft hardware partners who will sell hardware pre-loaded with Foundations much like an appliance.

Experts, however, say that larger companies might find Foundations a fit for small branch offices as a dedicated on-site server managed remotely.

At its heart, Foundations is Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition, but the operating system is encumbered by a set of limitations that include running only on a single processor 64-bit server with a maximum of 8GB of memory. Foundations also does not support virtualization, but will support any software certified for Windows Server 2008.

“For larger businesses that have Windows skills and remote offices with few people in them, this is a killer solution,” says Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC. “It is cost effective, and they only need a one processor unit. It is a good solution for that part of the market.”

Gillen says smaller businesses could benefit by having access to a low-cost file-and-print server.

“This is a market Microsoft could not penetrate,” Gillen says. “There is an emerging trend with ultra low-cost servers. If a user spends $300 on a server will they spend $800 on an operating system? Microsoft was out of synch with market dynamics.”

Gillen said ultra low-cost servers are finding favor in Japan and IDC expects the trend to grow into other markets around the globe.

“You are going to see sub-$1,000 hardware and software,” says Chris Phillips, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Server Group.

Foundations will be available in 40 countries and support several languages including English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. Microsoft plans to add support for more languages later this year.

Microsoft started to round out its small and midsized server business in November with the release of Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008, its first ever bundle for midsized businesses, and Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008, which has evolved over the past 12 years.

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