No confusion between IBM (Lotus Foundations) and Microsoft (Windows Server Foundation)

This is no April Fool’s Day joke in the SMB space.

Today Microsoft announced Windows Server Foundation, a low-end server solution that I’ll define in a moment. It appears similar in name to IBM’s Lotus Foundations and already some analyst such as Joe Wilcox and initially repeated by big Small Business Server (SBS) blogger Susan Bradley are concluding Microsoft introduced Windows Server Foundation to compete with Lotus Foundations. Such is not the case and I will make this clear in the road map I lay out below. I have recently received private briefings from both Microsoft and IBM on their respective “foundations” and have conducted additional research to bring you a meaningful blog on this important SMB matter.

Defining Windows Server Foundation

This is a “stripped-down” version of Windows Server 2008 Standard edition that is a true compete against low-end Linux and “Open Source” solutions. I liken it to taking Windows XP Pro peer-to-peer networking to the next level. The meat on the bones is 64-bit version only, no virtualization, has a 15-user limitation, supports Routing and Remote Access Services (RRAS) and Terminal Services (TS) for up to 50-users and has a ten user (10) limit on Internet Authentication Service. It also can effectively serve a remote office\branch office as a domain controller. This might be a great solution as a “second server” to run your dedicated on-premise line of business (LOB) application.  You can learn more details on Windows Server Foundation HERE.

Meet Windows Server Foundation!

Meet Windows Server Foundation!

What’s missing is built-in messaging and collaboration capabilities. I consider e-mail (Exchange) and basic collaboration (SharePoint) to be an essential solution for a company beyond a certain size. And Remote Web Workplace isn’t supported by design – just the way it is. In fact – here is a contrarian point of view that I found interesting.

Note that Windows Server Foundation is only sold via its OEM partners such as HP. It can be purchased by end-user customers or channel partners (such as SMB consultants and SBSers). The question we will all be asking over the next few months as we get to know this product is: With WSF, is there enough “there” there?

Defining Lotus Foundations

This is a full-featured small and medium (SMB) server solution that represents a paradigm shift. Take one headless appliance that uses a combination of solid state drive and traditional memory architecture to improve start-up or boot times. Much of the operating system is actually embedded on a solid state drive (called flash memory and manufactured by companies such as SanDisk) and then the data components utilize traditional storage (read “disks”). Then apply the “managed services concept” where the machine was designed to be managed remotely and you have Lotus Foundations. The “official language” from IBM is “automate your IT experience” so you don’t even know that the server or the consultant are “there.” I call it a “mail order bride” in a kind way in that the server could literally be shipped by a channel partner to the customers (Lotus Foundations is ONLY SOLD to channel partners and not end-user customers).

Lotus Foundations - Meet and Greet!

Lotus Foundations - Meet and Greet!

For the feature creatures amongst us, you will appreciate the following application roll call:

  • Front Office Applications. Something long-time Small Business Server consultants (SBSers) miss when looking at Lotus Foundations is that is comes with the Lotus Symphony suite as part of its licensing. So that means end-users are licensed for word processing, presentation and spreadsheet software. So I put this feature first to highlight it.
  • Email and Collaboration. This mission critical application we’re all addicted to is included in the form of Lotus Notes – perhaps something you’ve heard about over the course of your career. The collaboration is compounded by the addition of Lotus Qucikr.
  • Backup and recovery. This is the part I need to learn more about and intend to do so (I will write a full-featured article about Lotus Foundations in the future). But as I understand it, the development paradigm is for on-site disk-based backup (no tapes) that perform incremental backups every 15-mins. (Personally I believe in a hybrid strategy at my company of both on-site and cloud backup – and this would be possible with Lotus Foundations).
  • Security. Built-in firewall, anti-spam, anti-virus and built-in VPN support. Enough said and more details later in a future article on the actually functionality of these components.

Road Map

In my humble opinion, here is the road map that I see in the context of the small business lifecycle.

  • Phase One: Startup Small Office\Home Office (The lower-case “s”)
    • Standalone laptop computer
    • Windows Home Server*
  • Phase Two: Early Stage Growth (The capital “S”)
    • Windows Server Foundation** as a capable replacement for peer-to-peer networking
  • Phase Three: Bona-fide Small Business! (Core SMB space)
    • Lotus Foundations vs. Small Business Server 2008. This is the real match-up that I discuss in the next section.


(*) Windows Home Server, known as WHS, has a role as a “backup server” in a Small Business Server scenario. Look for this article from Aaron Booker in my SMB PC magazine soon on this exact topic and how industry players like Level Platforms “get it” and support this backup strategy.

(**) Windows Server Foundation makes a fantastic branch office solution or additional domain controller (yes – it has Active Directory on-board). Although I initially mentioned that up top in this blog, the context here is to have Windows Server Foundation present in Phase Three of the small business lifecycle.

Competitive Analysis

Windows Server Foundation was designed, in my opinion, to compete effectively against the low-end “free” Linux competitors. So its product development origins are from a compete point of view. I also believe it was designed for the unfortunate 6 billion earthlings worldwide. Whereas full-featured small business servers like Small Business Server 2008 and Lotus Foundations are capable workhorses serving the fortunate 1 billion in developed countries, the unfortunate 6 billion in developing countries have adopted an affection for open source software and an affinity for piracy. To me, Microsoft created Windows Server Foundation foremost for the worldwide market, which is why it is being released in 40 countries. Its development paradigm was not for upper caste, upper middle-class wealthy Americans and Europeans (although they are allowed to use it –  BIG GRIN). Speaking of social goodness, the official MSFT press release speaks towards donation some of the sale proceeds to and to better serve non-profits and social network entrepreneurs.

I also see Windows Server Foundation serving a “hybrid model” very effectively. I look at how we work at SMB Nation. Our on-premise server handles much of the traditional file and print local area network (LAN) duties very nicely. Throw-in our dependency on Microsoft Exchange Server for e-mail and Windows SharePoint Services for CompanyWeb collaboration and you got it nailed on-site. But our critical line-of-business application, an ERP solution called NetSuite, is hosted. And we use Google as our primary search engine, which is also implicitly hosted in the cloud.

Small Business Server 2008 vs. Lotus Foundations. I’ll save you a lot of reading and just say it. Lotus Foundations is the first serious competitor against the Microsoft Small Business Server franchise. I covered this discussion in Chapter 1 of my new Small Business Server 2008 Blueprint book. There are a couple of subtle difference that frame up the competitive analysis between Lotus Foundations and Small Business Server. These differences are (but note limited to):

  • Lotus Foundations ships with a robust security (firewall, anti-spam, anti-virus) and front office productivity applications.
  • Small Business Server 2008 – Premium edition ships with SQL Server.

This competitive analysis will be covered soon in a new blog posting and article in SMB PC magazine. So stay tuned – there is much more to write on this topic, such as the time many many years ago that the MSFT SBS team considered a headless appliance version of SBS!

Humor Zone

The following always drives WagEd and the PR folks nuts but I can’t resist. I believe that US Department of Justice (DOJ) and European Union (EU) don’t need to launch an investigation into the use of the phrase “Foundation” or “Foundations.” I can honest say there was no collusion between IBM and Microsoft on this one and in all likelihood no communication between the firms (go after crooks like Madoff instead!). So Joe – with all due respect to you and your media brethren who took the Latin term “solum” (that is “foundation” for the rest of us) to read into today’s Windows Server Foundation announcement that it was designed to compete with Lotus Foundations, you are simply wrong on this one.  And BTW – in a follow-up blog post from Susan Bradley, she agrees with me!

Did you know that we will be discussing Windows Server Foundations at my SMB Nation Spring conference in early May in the NYC-area – it’s TRUE!


Harry Brelsford | CEO | SMB Nation



Filed under SMB PC Magazine

12 responses to “No confusion between IBM (Lotus Foundations) and Microsoft (Windows Server Foundation)

  1. Pingback: CNET.COM - Windows Server 2008 Foundation: April Fools? | Web 2.0, SMB & Lotus Foundations

  2. Amy Babinchak

    Excellent post Harry. I think that Foundation Server will find 3 positions in the US market.

    1. A real server for those peer-peer folks that are afraid of servers because they think they are expensive. They can now baby step their way into technology.
    2. A second server for smaller SBS deployments. Got 4-6 people that need terminal services? Have an app that less than 15 people at your company use but still wants it’s own server? I’m not a fan of loading anything extra onto SBS. This server makes that stance much more affordable.
    3. A branch office server. Businesses no longer grow the main office.

    I’m not sure about Lotus Foundation. With the advent of Hosted Exchange I think that Notes just isn’t going to be a big seller in the small biz space. You’d be hard pressed to find a small business that knows what Notes will do for them; whereas Exchange has built more of a name for itself. Ditto for their office products. I think that Open Office is a much more serious threat to MS Office.

  3. Hey Harry,

    Thanks for this post. Obvioously, Joe got it wrong on this one. It is important that people understand the difference since he seemed to want to tie the two together.

    You rock!


  4. Harry,

    Thanks for the post and for the clear description of the Windows Server 2008 Foundation! I attended a partner business presentation this week at Microsoft’s Bellevue Office that was focused on the business case for BPOS (Microsoft Online Services’ Business Productivity Online Suite).

    Many of the partners in the room were Small Business Specialists and a common theme of their feedback to the disucssion was how to fit BPOS in with their existing Windows Small Business Server practice. Depending on the specific client needs, BPOS seemed to have much merit but at the same time significantly raised per user costs for customers with SBS servers.

    Perhaps Windows Server 2008 Foundation could fill a specific niche were a domain controller and file storage or terminal server application hosting is needed but the client would rather host their email, colaboration and sharepoint in Microsoft’s Online offering.

    What are your thoughts about this?

  5. Good comparison between the two products, but I don’t quite agree with your roadmap.

    I am personally a great fan of WHS as a backup solution for home and SOHO environments so I entirely concur with your first stage, but not with the second as it introduces the potential for a discontinuity when looking at the third stage.

    Unless I am missing a lot from the licensing position with Windows Server Foundation, I don’t see why I wouldn’t go straight to Lotus Foundations (possibly without the “Start” element, i.e. Domino, in order to compare directly with WSF).

    In the aforesaid business, so far no IT expertise has been required (WHS requires none). Virtually none is required by Lotus Foundations, but I expect some to be required for Windows Server Foundation (unless MS has done a job on the admin interface).

    In my experience, Lotus Foundations “just runs”. Apart from managing the users (very simple) and the occasional click to accept a new release of the O/S I would have had to do nothing with mine. (actually, as a Domino consultant I’ve been hacking it left right and centre, but that’s my problem 🙂

    The IDB technology is sweet! As you say, it does an incremental backup on to a dedicated disk every 15 mins (though this can be configured). All one has to do is occasionally change the hot-swappable hard drive that collects the backups. It does not (as yet) include the “Vault” technology that was in the Nitix range of offerings and allows one to automatically off-site the backups, but it is coming soon.


  6. I enjoyed your blog on foundation server. I think however you might be missing the point. Look at Foundation server in terms of what Microsoft is offering in terms of cloud computing,

    Two huge weaknesses in cloud computing are bandwidth requirements for client server apps and clients reluctance to trust mission critical data to the cloud.
    With foundation server I can run my crucial apps locally and use the live offerings for email and such. If that was really Microsoft strategy I think it’s brilliant.

    Also as a business as I begin to trust the cloud more I’ll be more open to moving to more cloud based apps. Remember baby steps.

    I think the weakness of IBM lotus foundation server is the complexity of all the apps on a single server and also the inability to run LOB applications. And of course it locks you into proprietary hardware solution.

  7. Lawrence,
    I don’t understand your comment…
    I think the weakness of IBM lotus foundation server is the complexity of all the apps on a single server and also the inability to run LOB applications. And of course it locks you into proprietary hardware solution.

    Lotus Foundations isn’t complex – it just runs and you only need to run the apps you want.
    Don’t need the Apache Web server ? Then don’t run it.
    Don’t need the MySQL server ? Then don’t run it.
    etc etc
    You can run additional LOB apps natively or or legacy MSServer apps within the VMWare shell.

    If you want the appliance then you can have it but the whole LFS kit is also available as a software only sale so you can install it on your existing hardware and if the hardware dies or needs upgrading then you don’t lose entitlement to your user licences.

  8. Pingback: » Windows Server 2008 Foundation

  9. Great Article Harry. There are also some great comments out there regarding Lotus Foundations and it is really exciting to see the feedback everyone else has. We’ve been reselling Lotus Foundations since last year when IBM made the official announcement and we have brought many clients on board. The IDB technology is easy to use and the web interface for the entire server is even easier.

    VMWare components were just released a couple of weeks ago and we are doing some pretty cool things with it including running a virtual machine with Small Business Server 2003 – (Yes, we’re running a Windows-server O/S on Linux, sounds crazy hey?) Inside our own office we also use a variety of virtual machines as test beds for different O/S configurations for our development teams.

    I can understand that Microsoft wanted to get a piece of the action but I would still suggest to my clients to spend a little bit more on a SBS or Lotus Foundations solution. We deal with clients ranging from 1 – 50 users and they all want to grow eventually. This new Microsoft solution simply restricts that growth unless you buy a whole new license.

  10. Randy Shimizu

    Personally I would liked to see Lotus foundations positioned more as a software product.

    As for Notes, IBM will have to put in lot of marketing resources to reclaim market share in this space.

  11. I’m late to the party here, but have a good experience to share. I inherited an MS Active Directory environment at a charity where I volunteer and after learning and documenting the fine complexities of the infrastructure, I replaced the whole thing in an afternoon with a Lotus Foundations server. Concerns about security holes, disaster recovery, backup, or crashes are now distant worries. This server is a rock and a true appliance. My limited volunteer administration time has plummeted allowing me to focus on more value-adding tasks. I’m so impressed I now have one taking care of my personal home front.

  12. Pingback: Windows Server 2008 Foundation « The Sikh Geek

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s