As the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC10) kicks off today in Washington, D.C., there's growing buzz about Windows Small Business Server gaining new cloud computing capabilities. But is there really a place for Windows Small Business Server in the age of cloud computing? And will managed services providers (MSPs) link SBS to the cloud? Here are some perspectives.

No doubt, Windows Small Business Server is one of the world's most widely installed small business software platforms. Over the past decade everyone from IBM to Novell has attempted -- and failed -- to displace SBS. But the times may be changing -- especially as more and more small businesses evaluate SaaS (software as a service) and cloud computing options.

Some pundits think small businesses will completely abandon on-premises servers. And Microsoft rivals like Red Hat say they'll use the cloud to gain small business customers.

Balancing Act

Still, I realize plenty of small businesses will march forward with hybrid solutions, blending on-premise applications with cloud options. Not by coincidence, Microsoft and a range of partners -- including Intel, Lenovo and Level Platforms -- are working to reposition SBS as a cloud-attached on-premises solution. Already, it's a big theme here at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

Some of the buzz started before the conference kicked off. For instance, Intel has been talking up the Intel Hybrid Cloud, a pay-as-you-go server that MSPs can offer to end-customers. The Intel Hybrid Cloud solution runs Windows Server or SBS on Lenovo or white-box hardware. And it sounds like Level Platforms' remote monitoring and management (RMM) software, called Managed Workplace, is part of the Intel Hybrid Cloud solution set.

Wintel Meets the Cloud?

I'll be spending some time with Intel and Microsoft at the conference, learning more about the Intel Hybrid Cloud as well as Microsoft's own plans for linking Small Business Server to cloud computing.

Microsoft certainly seems intent on winning more market share within SMB organizations. A few days before the conference started, the company announced a new team -- called the Small, Medium Business and Distribution organization -- to focus on sales and marketing efforts for small and medium sized business. Microsoft VP Cindy Bates is leading that team and its channel efforts.

I'll be watching with cautious optimism. I know thousands of partners continue to promote Small Business Server. But I wonder how SBS sales are performing amid growing interest in cloud computing. I intend to find some answers here at the conference.

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