Microsoft targets midsize companies with promotion

Von Carol Sliwa

Following the success of its software package aimed at small businesses, Microsoft Corp. Thursday made its first concerted effort to court midsize companies with a Windows Server System promotion.

Companies with between 25 and 250 PCs will be targeted with a new discounted offer for a single stock-keeping unit (SKU) that combines three copies of the standard edition of Windows Server 2003, one instance of Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition and the workgroup edition of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005. The promotion, due in August, knocks about 20 percent off Microsoft"s Open volume license program prices.

The bundle will also include 50 combination client access licenses (CAL) for Windows Server and Exchange and discount options for up to 250 additional CALs.

"Microsoft has done fairly well with the small-business market by combining a host of SKUs within one integrated offering," said Mika Krammer, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "They"ve dealt well with the large enterprise market, which has a lot of its own skills to select and integrate technology. But the midmarket has been somewhat underserved by Microsoft."

Krammer said Microsoft will likely tweak the offering or add more bundled SKUs as it figures out the optimal midmarket package. In the meantime, the existing promotion could hold appeal for Windows Server users upgrading from Windows NT 4 or Novell Inc. NetWare users uneasy about following the vendor"s Linux path, she said. But a midsize company will have to want all three server products to benefit, Krammer said.

MOM"s price tag turned off C.E. Franklin Ltd. in the past, according to David Curran, manager of IT at the Calgary, Alberta-based distributor of supplies to the oil and gas drilling and production industry. Curran said he"d like to get MOM to ease administration and help with system alerts at times of trouble.

C.E. Franklin is planning to replace its aging NT 4 and Exchange 5.5 servers. But with 320 desktops, Curran said he"ll have to check if the promotion provides a better price than other volume discount options.

Realityworks Inc. in Eau Claire, Wis., was afforded an early opportunity, through Microsoft partner Inacom Information Systems in Madison, to take advantage of the midmarket promotion to upgrade the NT 4 and Exchange 5.5 servers that service its 58 desktops. MOM was "icing on the cake," said Buzz Burce, the company"s single network administrator.

In the past, Burce said he had to set up monitors and alerts for each individual server. But MOM will allow him to do that from a central place. "It"s just so much easier in one place," he said.

In conjunction with the promotion, Microsoft is also offering supporting documentation and tools to help midsize businesses with their deployments. The new guidance includes the Midsized Business IT Center Web site within Microsoft"s TechNet and a book titled "Windows Server System Deployment Guide for Midsized Businesses."