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Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC)
kicks off today in Houston, Texas,
and the software giant’s ramping up for the release of Windows Small Business
Server 2008 (SBS) and Essential Business
Server 2008 (EBS) which could help partners increase their customer base by 25
percent to 50 percent.

SBS and EBS, collectively
known as Windows Essential Server Solutions (ESS),
will officially launch on November 12, says Steven VanRoekel, Senior Director,
Windows Server Solutions Group in a statement, but Microsoft considers WPC
the official SBS and EBS launch to

With both solutions at the release candidate one stage and
available for download and evaluation, VanRoekel says the WPC
launch is the first step toward helping partners plan and prepare for SBS
and EBS availability. 

VanRoekel says Microsoft collaborated with partners during ESS
product design, development and testing processes to ensure partners could
easily sell, implement and manage the solutions "in an easily repeatable
manner" to increase the amount of customers served.

Partners also forecast cost savings with ESS,
because the technology provides a consistent infrastructure partners can easily
deploy to more customers, freeing up time and money for new business
applications and capabilities like collaboration and support for remote or
mobile workers. These applications generate higher margins for partners and can
help increase their customer base.

"Some partners told us they believe they will be able
to increase their customer base by 25 percent to 50 percent with SBS
2008. Other partners foresee 20 percent to50 percent growth of their customer
base with EBS 2008, because it allows them to more easily deliver products,
consulting and deployment services for midsized clients," VanRoekel says.

"These are uniform, predictable and familiar solutions
so partners can reduce the costs of deployment and support more customers more
efficiently," says Joel Sider, senior Product Manager for Windows ESS.

Sider says Microsoft is also investing in extensive training
and support programs and aims to train more than 25,000 partners through events
and online tools over the next year. At WPC alone,
he says he expect more than 2,000 partners will take advantage of solutions
education offerings.

One such tool is the We Solutions Pathway, which lets partners
to easily assess customers’ current Microsoft server investments and save up to
45 percent on upgrades or migrations to ESS.

Over 150 applications that are certified to run on Windows
Server 2008 will be also compatible with SBS
and EBS, says Sider, including virtualization capabilities.  With the release of Microsoft’s own Hyper-V
technology, Sider says opportunities for VARs are even greater than before, and
that Microsoft was currently working to ensure SBS
and EBS will support the most common virtualization scenarios. 

"We’re working through the key scenarios that we’ll
support with these products, and we know partners are really excited about the
ways they can use those capabilities to help their customers," Sider says.

Software development kits have been made available on the
Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), so software partners can integrate their
applications with the EBS and SBS’s central
administration consoles.

"We’re working with a lot of key software partners
because centralizing management of IT is key for partners delivering these
solutions," he says.  Right now,
Sider says, Citrix and Computer Associates along with Trend Micro and Symantec
are third-party partners making their applications manageable through the

Hardware makers like AMD,
Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu-Siemens, Intel and IBM
are also on board, delivering hardware and software that will integrate
seamlessly with the SBS and EBS solutions,
says Sider.