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Ahead of its unveiling and hands-on demonstration at the TechEd: IT Forum in Barcelona, Spain next week, Microsoft has announced that Centro will be officially known as the Windows Essential Business Server.

With something in the region of 1.4 million mid-sized businesses around the globe, it does not take a genius to appreciate that their needs are not only varied but often unique. Yet to be able to sustain corporate growth it is vital that they have access to the same kinds of powerful technology solutions that are enjoyed to such good effect by larger enterprises. Which is where Microsoft is stepping in with the Windows Essential Business Server, an integrated IT solution for midsized organizations.

Steven VanRoekel, Director of the Windows Server Solution Group at Microsoft has announced that hardware partners including the likes of Fujitsu-Siemens, HP, IBM and Intel, will support Windows Essential Business Server, and on the software side CA, Citrix, FullArmor, McAfee, Quest, Symantec and Trend Micro plan to provide "Add-In" solutions to enhance the product's benefits.

But the big question, ahead of TechEd Barcelona, remains: what exactly is Windows Essential Business Server?

VanRoekel explains that is combines the technologies of "Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Security for Exchange, System Center Essentials, the next version of ISA Server and SQL Server 2008 into an "all-in-one" solution. With Windows Essential Business Server, IT professionals will find the acquisition, setup and ongoing management of IT vastly simplified. It provides a unified console for management of key IT workloads, it is pre-configured with a tremendous amount of built-in best practices, and it will be licensed - with a Standard and Premium Edition - in a way that makes IT budgeting and purchase simpler and more predictable. Windows Essential Business Server provides a single Client Access License for all included products and offers new technologies that simplify license management. Within the administration console, IT professionals can easily ascertain how many licenses they have, who the licenses are assigned to and - when an employee leaves the company - easily re-assign licenses. We have extensively researched the needs of IT professionals in midsized organizations through studies and surveys, and talked with them directly through hundreds of customer visits, focus groups, and meetings with customer and partner advisory boards."

So there you have it, or rather you don't because Windows Essential Business Server is not expected to be available until the second half of 2008 at the earliest, as part of the Windows Server 2008 "wave" of products. It is currently in private beta though, and if you are lucky you might even still be able to sign up by following the instructions here.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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