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
"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
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
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
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.