Microsoft Beta Tests Windows Small Business Server Aurora

Microsoft Beta Tests Windows Small Business Server Aurora

Can Microsoft blur the lines between Windows Small Business Server and cloud computing? The answer is beginning to emerge as the software giant launches a Windows Small Business Server (SBS) Aurora beta test. In somewhat related news Microsoft also is testing a new Windows Home Server, code-named Vail. Here's a closer look at both efforts, and the potential implications for VARs and MSPs.

As you may recall, Microsoft offered some clues about SBS Aurora during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC10), held July 2010 in Washington, D.C. The Aurora strategy calls for SBS to integrate with third-party cloud services, such as online storage and SaaS security, The VAR Guy believes. Plus, third-party managed services tools -- including remote monitoring and management (RMM) software) are expected to integrate with Aurora. Early SBS Aurora advocates include RMM specialist Level Platforms.

Still, Microsoft didn't say too much about Aurora during WPC. The reason: The software giant wasn't quite ready to beta test the Aurora SBS code. Channel partners can find SBS Aurora beta test information here. On a related note, the SBS Diva blog explores potential integration between SBS Aurora and Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS). Meanwhile, Microsoft also is beta testing Windows Home Server Vail; you can find deeper details here.

Talent vs. Technology

The SBS Aurora beta test arrives at an intriguing time. Loyal readers may recall that one of Microsoft’s top small business executives, Birger Steen, is leaving the software giant to join Parallels, which helps hosting providers to rapidly launch SaaS and cloud services.

During the recent CompTIA Breakaway 2010 conference in San Antonio, Microsoft Worldwide Partner Sales VP Ross Brown conceded that the software giant needed to engage small business VARs more aggressively, especially as end-customers weigh on-premises vs. cloud and SaaS solutions.

Rise of Hybrid Clouds?

The VAR Guy is paying particularly close attention to SBS Aurora. During recent meetings with a range of VARs, channel partners indicated that SBS 2008 sales were a bit slower than expected because customers weren't ready to open their wallets for new hardware.

But SBS Aurora potentially changes the rules of the game. By integrating with a range of cloud and managed services, some MSPs may wind up promoting SBS Aurora as the foundation for customers' hybrid cloud systems. Key observers include Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a solutions provider that is providing SBS Aurora feedback to Microsoft.

Also of note: The SMB Nation Fall 2010 conference (Oct. 22-24, Las Vegas) theme involves hybrid clouds, so it's safe to expect more SBS Aurora updates at that event.

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