Windows Server 2012 Essentials, which will ultimately replace the existing Small Business Server (SBS) and Home Server products, has reached the Release Candidate milestone today! Essentials provides a simple to install and configure version of Windows Server 2012 intended for Small Business environments with up to 25-users and 50-devices. Essentials features a simplified server admin dashboard, fashioned after the new Windows Server 2012 Server Manager tool, and built-in support for integrating your on-premises network with Office 365 mail and collaboration cloud services.
Upgrading from Essentials ...
In addition, as your usage needs increase, Essentials can be in-place upgraded to a full copy of Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition (SE) with a single command line tool. The resulting upgraded server can support up to 75-users and 75-devices. If you need to grow beyond 75-users down the road, you can turn off the "Essentials features" and manage the server just as you would do for a freshly installed Windows Server 2012 SE server. I love this capability - it goes a long way to address the biggest upgrade / migration "pain points" I've seen in the past with SBS installations.
Details about the new RC features ...
More details about the new features now available in the Release Candidate are listed at the following link location:
In particular, I like the Verified DHCP Support to easily enable DHCP on an Essentials server, along with the improved SSL certificate capabilities in the revised Domain Wizard.
Leverage Virtualization to Provide Flexibility ...
Virtualization rights for Essentials remain the same as the Small Business Server product: Essentials can be virtualized as a guest on a full Windows Server host using the Hyper-V role or on the free Hyper-V Server host product, but Essentials cannot itself host virtual machines. I'm seeing a lot of interest from IT Pros who are planning to package Hyper-V Server, Windows Server Essentials, and Exchange into a "bundle" as a single physical host server with two child VMs (ie., one VM running Essentials and the other VM running Exchange) - for environments that prefer to stick with an on-premises mail option due to business requirements in some industries.
Download the RC for testing in your lab ...
The product team currently plans to release the RTM version of Windows Server 2012 Essentials towards the end of 2012. In the meantime, you can download the latest Release Candidate of Windows Server 2012 Essentials here for testing in your lab.
Be sure to check out these additional resources:
Keith Mayer is a Senior Technical Evangelist at Microsoft, focused on helping ISV partners leverage the Azure cloud platform. Keith has over 20 years of experience as a technical leader of complex IT projects, in diverse roles, such as Network Engineer, IT Manager, Technical Instructor and Consultant. He has consulted and trained thousands of customers and partners worldwide on design of enterprise technology solutions.
Keith is currently certified on several Microsoft technologies, including Private Cloud, System Center, Hyper-V, Windows, Windows Server, SharePoint and Exchange. He also holds other industry certifications from VMware, IBM, Cisco, Citrix, HP, CheckPoint, CompTIA and Interwoven.
You can contact Keith online at http://aka.ms/AskKeith.