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.
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).
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.
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.
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 TechSoup.org and Telecentre.org 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!
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