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Bell Tolls for BackOffice

A Microsoft perennial is about to be decommissioned, as Redmond consigns BackOffice to the software scrap-heap at the end of September.

BackOffice is Microsoft's suite of server products designed primarily for small- to medium-sized organizations, with limitations on product functionality and licensing terms. It currently includes, among other programs, Windows 2000 Server, SQL 2000 Server, Exchange 2000 Server, ISA Server 2000, SMS 2.0 Server and Host Integration Server 2000.

But according to Cynthia Sample, Microsoft's group product manager for the .NET enterprise server line, BackOffice is a concept that's outlived its usefulness.

"We've done a lot of research on what users are using [BackOffice] for," Sample said. "When BackOffice first came out, all the server products came out with it, but since then we've shipped seven or eight new products, so it doesn't include everything anymore; it also doesn't include access to the Web."

Sept. 28 is the last day BackOffice will be for sale, Sample said. "But it's not as if the products are going away. The customer will still be able to get all the server products," just not in the BackOffice suite.

Another change is the licensing structure. A number of customers bought BackOffice because of its SQL license, which is expensive to buy as a stand-alone. With the elimination of BackOffice, Microsoft is switching to something called a core CAL, which includes some server products, but not SQL.

This has some folks grumbling, but Sample said the SQL CAL is still a good deal. "The SQL Server CAL price by itself isn't changing. It's still $146 per CAL. If these customers choose core CAL and want SQL Server in the CAL model, they can still get it through an enterprise agreement." Sample added that even though it will be more expensive for some businesses to license SQL without the BackOffice tie-in, Microsoft still sees SQL as the best database value on the market. SQL upgrade pricing didn't change from 1994 through SQL 7.0, and even though SQL 2000 is more expensive, it's still cheaper than Oracle.

So, like it or not, things could be changing for BackOffice users at the end of September.

Things won't change, however, for BackOffice's little brother, Small Business Server. SBS, which includes Win2K Server, Exchange 2000 Server, ISA Server 2000 and SQL Server 2000 among other components, is doing well in its niche. The next version's release date hasn't been set yet by Microsoft, but it's widely believed to be mid-2002. It's code-named "Bobcat."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization Review.

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