Microsoft announced the final feature-set for BackOffice Server 2000, its next-generation server suite based on Windows 2000 SP1. According to the company, BackOffice Server 2000 (BOS2K) will reduce the cost and complexity of building, deploying, and integrating server products in small and medium offices, and branch offices of larger enterprises. Taking a cue from customers who were upset that Microsoft's lower-end BackOffice Small Business Server (SBS) contained a number of features and ease-of-use improvements not present in the high-end product, the company has upgraded BOS2K with integrated fax and modem sharing, Internet Connection Sharing, Terminal Services-based remote management, and more. I spoke with product manager Joel Sloss about the upcoming release.
"The Shared Fax and Shared Modem Services have been totally redesigned to be more scalable for medium-sized businesses," Sloss said. "And management is simplified by a single console that exposes all of the suite components. The console is fully customizable, using HTML-based task pads with easy-to-use Wizards and a new power-user mode." Sloss noted that BOS2K was updated to include customers' most often requested changes, including a single point of administration and true firewall security, which is implemented with the new Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server.
Sloss said that BOS2K will ship "by the end of the year," with the first beta expected "sometime this summer." The suite includes Windows 2000 SP1, Exchange Server 2000 Standard with Outlook 2000 SR1, SQL Server 2000 Standard, Systems Management Server 2.0 SP2, ISA Server 2000, and Host Integration Server 2000. The biggest improvement over BOS 4.5 is a new licensing mode, MultiServer Deployment, which makes it easier to deploy one copy of BOS2K on several servers; in the past, all of the components of BOS had to be installed on the same server. Using MultiServer Deployment, an administrator might install SQL Server 2000 on one server and Exchange Server 2000 on another. But the second server would require a separate license for Windows 2000, since the first server would use up BOS2K's single Windows 2000 license. And the policy for Client Access Licenses (CAL) remains unchanged. When asked about the possibility that Microsoft might begin a subscription program for BOS2K so that customers would essentially rent, rather than purchase, the product, Sloss said that several new licensing models were under consideration. But he didn't divulge any details, referring me instead to the late-2000 launch of the product, when final pricing will be announced.
Microsoft recently consolidated its BackOffice Server product family under the new moniker Microsoft Servers. "It's a more generic way to refer to all of these products," Sloss said, noting that "BackOffice" was no longer an accurate name for the company's family of server products. "BackOffice Server is part of the Microsoft Server line now." Small Business Server customers can expect an upgrade soon as well, though SBS 4.5 customers will be able to upgrade directly to the full BOS2K if desired. And there will be an upgrade path from SBS 4.5 to Small Business Server 2000; SBS2K is a "turnkey" product targeted at businesses with no IT staff and 50 users or less