The Sad End to a Suite of Unattained Potential

I was so excited about the product from the minute I heard of it.  In January, 2007 Kevin Beares took me into his office and showed me the three servers running a VERY early alpha (read: dogfood) build of what would eventually be called Microsoft Essential Business Server 2008.  As he explained the technology I was thrilled… it was what I always hoped would become of SBS, but for mid-market.

I was quite involved in the pre-release of the product, writing courseware, presentations, and labs for both Microsoft and Microsoft Canada.  I was, to many in Canada, the public technical face of the product, having presented the product in most of the major markets to partners and potential clients months before the release.

The problem was that when the product did release, there wasn’t as much excitement as everyone had hoped.

EBS was a good first generation product, a very respectable big cousin to Small Business Server, and while there was no doubt there were kinks to be worked out, those would come in the second version.  This is not new. 

Several months ago, when sales of EBS machines were as close to zero as statistically possible, I was asked what I felt Microsoft could have – or should have done differently.  I had two simple answers, one of which was probably bad judgment, but a call that I would have made too, had it been my decision.  I will not share that opinion publicly.

The second thing that went wrong with EBS was luck, or at least timing.  Unfortunately they had a product that would cost the customer $20,000 minimum between hardware and software, plus likely the same amount in consulting costs, and they launched it a couple of weeks after the world economy crashed – when people were looking to cut costs.  No amount of Microsoft Spin would be able to convince the majority of companies who would have benefitted from the product that they should spend the money.

I was so proud a year ago to announce that I was among the inaugural class Microsoft MVPs awarded in Essential Business Server; however you will; notice from my blog that I stopped writing about the product long ago because nobody was interested in what I had to say about it.  Thirteen months after that proud day my award category was switched to Windows Desktop Experience (read: Windows 7).  I hated to admit it, but I was happier to be one of 250-odd MVPs in a hugely popular technology than I was to be one of (at the time) 9 MVPs in a product with a worldwide install base of fewer than 100.

Still and all I was excited about the upcoming release of EBS vNext.  It had great potential, the team listened to those of us who were telling them what was wrong with it.  It looked great, and I was even trying to get one of my clients to join the Technology Assessment (TAP) Program because they could eventually have been the big EBS shop when the technology flourished.  They decided not to join, and now I am glad they did.

This morning’s announcement saddened me, although it did not surprise me.  Like Response Point before it, some technologies are just a hard sell, especially when there are so many alternatives. 

Still and all, I want to thank all of the people who were responsible for bringing us EBS – Nick, Kevin, Chuck, Mike, and so many more.  You did a great job, but your technology was killed by the times.

Read the official Microsoft statement at http://www.microsoft.com/ebs/en/us/default.aspx.

Good-bye EBS; the few of us know did know you are sorry to see you go.

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