Don’t get me wrong. Companies retire products all the time; New product road maps are a necessary and valuable part of the technology ecosystem. How a vendor decides to retire a product, however, can be very telling with respect to how they view and treat their customers. Let’s talk about Microsoft.
Last week, Microsoft announced it’s server options for MS Windows Server 2012, due out sometime later this year. The announcement included three major components that, while they seem to be unrelated, both impact small and mid-size businesses. With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft is:
- Switching from per server to per CPU licensing.
- Eliminating Small Business Server
- Restricting which Server licenses can run on virtualized hardware.
In press interviews and its announcements, Microsoft is very clear that businesses running SBS must either now purchase separate Exchange and Sharepoint licenses or must move to the cloud (hopefully Office 365). The impact, however, is actually much greater for businesses with fewer than 75 users.
- Companies with 25 or fewer users can get the new “Essentials” edition of Server 2012. This version cannot, however, run in a virtual environment. Small businesses cannot, therefore, buy one server and run Windows, Exchange, and Sharepoint servers virtually without licensing the more expensive Server 2012 Standard Edition.
- The move to processor-based licensing will also push cost increases on small businesses. Many SMBs have purchased quad processor boxes to deliver performance and support virtualization. With a 2 processor limit on Server 2012 Standard Edition, many customers will need to double the number of paid Windows Server licenses.
Microsoft has made it clear that they expect SMBs to switch from SBS to a file server and run Exchange and Sharepoint in the cloud. This option, too, will represent significant cost increases for SMBs given Microsoft’s pricing model for Office 365 and the need to upgrade specific Office 2010 versions for full functionality.
If this move seems coercive, it just may be. As reported in PC World, Office 365 has not been the smash hit Microsoft predicted. The company is not releasing sales or usage numbers. As a Microsoft spokewoman quoted in the article stated:
“We’re not breaking out customer, user, or revenue numbers at this time”
And according to IDC Analyst Melissa Webster, “They’ll give metrics when the metrics are meaningful, demonstrating scale and depth.”
So with lackluster performance, Microsoft releases a licensing and pricing model that “encourages” SMBs to move into the cloud or pay a heavy hardware and licensing penalty for upgrading in-house systems.
Fortunately, small and mid-size businesses have alternatives. Google Apps for Business and other services offer more cost effective solutions for email, communication, and collaboration than Office 365. Beyond moving the Exchange and Sharepoint components of SBS to Google Apps, businesses can deploy secure cloud-based file services with full drive letter mapping and network place integration; access from PCs, MACs, and mobile devices; and integrated security and backup/recovery services.