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Microsoft kills off Windows Home Server

Microsoft kills off Windows Home Server

Microsoft's Windows Home Server product is no more, to be replaced with Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

Microsoft has formally announced the server editions of Windows 8, and it's not good news for fans of Windows Home Server.

First released back in 2007 and last updated in April 2011, Windows Home Server was designed for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) looking to create home- and small-office friendly fileservers. As well as centralised backup functionality, the system includes media streaming via the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) protocol and remote access capabilities.

Sadly, the launch of Windows 8 will see Windows Home Server buried. According to documentation released by Microsoft this week, the features of Windows Home Server are to be subsumed into the Windows Server 2012 Essentials product, with Home Server disappearing as a distinct product.

'Windows Home Server has seen its greatest success in small office/home office (SOHO) environments and among the technology enthusiast community,' Microsoft explained in its release on the matter. 'For this reason, Microsoft is combining the features that were previously only found in Windows Home Server, such as support for DLNA-compliant devices and media streaming, into Windows Server 2012 Essentials and focusing our efforts into making Windows Server 2012 Essentials the ideal first server operating system for both small business and home use—offering an intuitive administration experience, elastic and resilient storage features with Storage Spaces, and robust data protection for the server and client computers.'

This doesn't mean that Windows Home Server will be disappearing immediately, however: the company has confirmed that the product will be available until the end of 2013, while OEMs looking to build embedded systems around it will have to option of buying Windows Home Server 2011 licences through to the end of 2025 - but with Microsoft no longer releasing upgrades and feature enhancements, it's unlikely that many will take advantage of this option.

The death of Windows Home Server comes as Microsoft tries to simplify its server offerings. Where the previous Windows Server release was available in a total of twelve different guises, Windows Server 2012 will be made available in just four: the OEM-only Windows Server 2012 Foundation, which comes with a 15 user account limit; Windows Server 2012 Essentials, priced at $425 assuming no licence plan is in place and limited to 25 user accounts; Windows Server 2012 Standard, priced at $882 and with support for two virtual instances; and Windows Server 2012 Datacentre, priced at $4,809 and with support for unlimited virtual instances.

24 Comments

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Bindibadgi 6th July 2012, 09:40 Quote
So, wait, Microsoft is taking on a wealth of free or very low cost and highly capable OS alternatives by charging over $400? Or is it not fighting it at all and trying to go for medium-business with 15 users? Does business need DLNA?
Almightyrastus 6th July 2012, 10:13 Quote
Right then, for the first time in my computing history, I'll be using an obsolete and unsupported OS as there is no way I am paying that to 'upgrade' my WHS2011 microserver.
Phil Rhodes 6th July 2012, 11:47 Quote
I don't understand what these are for, really. Streaming media? You mean, playing something over an SMB share? What do these server products do that can't be done by "a computer with an OS on it"?

Much as I hate to be the one to say this, but if it were possible for normal humans to make Samba shares (and mounting of NTFS volumes, and USB devices, etc) work on Linux, I'd ask why Johnny Average wouldn't just use Ubuntu. Servers are about the only place it seems to work well.
DragunovHUN 6th July 2012, 12:09 Quote
Quote:

Windows Home Server has seen its greatest success in [...]the technology enthusiast community [...]For this reason, Microsoft is combining the features[...]into Windows Server 2012 Essentials [...] priced at $425

Makes sense.
Marvin-HHGTTG 6th July 2012, 13:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
I don't understand what these are for, really. Streaming media? You mean, playing something over an SMB share? What do these server products do that can't be done by "a computer with an OS on it"?

Much as I hate to be the one to say this, but if it were possible for normal humans to make Samba shares (and mounting of NTFS volumes, and USB devices, etc) work on Linux, I'd ask why Johnny Average wouldn't just use Ubuntu. Servers are about the only place it seems to work well.

Well, basically being Windows it's easy enough for folk who are used to it to pick up, any Windows-compatible program will work on it (except HP printer drivers :shakesfist:), and it can automatically back up Windows machines in the home and wherever, and provides an easy GUI remote client for management. It also sorts out remote web access for the most part too.

Basically it's for people who are either used to Windows and would like an in-house solution, or for those who don't have the time/patience/inclination to install a Linux distro and then the relevant packages, do some configuring/lots of configuring and working mostly in the command line.

I tried the Linux route, but my server was to run Murmur (which didn't seem to work very well on Linux - it wouldn't set the Superuser password, or server password in fact), and so I ended up with WHS 2011, which was reasonably priced (~£35), certainly more so than this announcement.

I see Microsoft has seen that the WHS sales have eaten into their business server edition sales. This will just push more people to Linux. They had something good - a niche market that almost certainly had decent revenue, and have now ruined it.
Ergath 6th July 2012, 13:54 Quote
WHS is a great product and this is a great shame. I understand why MS have taken the decision - I'm guessing the number of WHS licences sold doesn't really warrant the development/support time it costs them - but I will miss it when it's gone.

Yeah sure, I can switch to a Linux box/NAS but the automatic disk imaging and restore function is a great comfort for those of us with a few different PCs and not much spare time; its a hell of a lot easier to reimage than to spend hours trying to troubleshoot.

Of course, Win8 could be so robust that you never need to reimage..... but I suspect not.
schmidtbag 6th July 2012, 14:46 Quote
This was probably the worst time MS could have ever made this decision. ARM is by far the best platform for a home server. They're low power, they're small, quiet/silent, but good enough to get the job done. I guess for Windows users it isn't so ideal because pretty much no server programs run on it. To make matters worse, many new ARM devices have that pathetic MS certification thing or whatever it is so people can't install an alternative server OS.

I agree with Phil Rhodes entirely. I feel as though if people really want a more user-friendly linux server, someone ought to develop a GUI for that. But in some ways I feel that is unnecessary considering the amount of tutorials out there. CLI isn't that hard. If you learn it properly, its faster and easier than a GUI. I know too many people who are great with computers, have no problem with linux whatsoever, are aware and accepting of its downsides, yet they don't even try using it on one of their spare unused computers or a computer that would be better off running it (like a home server).
TheManicGibbon 6th July 2012, 15:08 Quote
Surely you mean that OEMs can buy it until 2015, and not 2025 like it says in the article...

Seems a stupid decision though, I always thought WHS was a good idea.
kenco_uk 6th July 2012, 15:29 Quote
I wouldn't mind so much if the price wasn't so high. WHS 2011 was around £80 iirc - an absolute bargain for an OS. WS2012E is just too much money for home/small business/enthusiast users. Granted, it's got funky new features, but they're not worth the massive price hike. They could do a WHS2012 limited to, say 5 users, no vs support, limited support for server programs (i.e. sql, exchange, ts, vpn etc) or.. well.. no support. AD would be a bit overkill for 5 users.

In fact, if Win8 comes with the drive pooling tech by default, may as well change to a desktop os and run it barebones for a headless server.
Marvin-HHGTTG 6th July 2012, 16:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenco_uk
I wouldn't mind so much if the price wasn't so high. WHS 2011 was around £80 iirc - an absolute bargain for an OS. WS2012E is just too much money for home/small business/enthusiast users. Granted, it's got funky new features, but they're not worth the massive price hike. They could do a WHS2012 limited to, say 5 users, no vs support, limited support for server programs (i.e. sql, exchange, ts, vpn etc) or.. well.. no support. AD would be a bit overkill for 5 users.

In fact, if Win8 comes with the drive pooling tech by default, may as well change to a desktop os and run it barebones for a headless server.

£80? No, it's more of a bargain than that.

I think Microsoft have killed it because it eats into their higher sales, not because it doesn't have enough sales to warrant development.
Gareth Halfacree 6th July 2012, 16:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheManicGibbon
Surely you mean that OEMs can buy it until 2015, and not 2025 like it says in the article...
Nup - 2025, according to Microsoft - and if Microsoft doesn't know, god help us.
TheManicGibbon 6th July 2012, 17:06 Quote
Wow, that seems...crazy
Tattysnuc 6th July 2012, 17:37 Quote
Seems fair enough to me. It can only be a good thing for hardware support, as well as being a sustainable product for a longer period of time.

WHS is a very niche program, and ms do offer better products.... just at a cost. They're out there to sell software folks, and at £38 per version WHS is a very small part of the market. It must cost them a disproportionate amount to develop and support it....
Gundam God 7th July 2012, 01:11 Quote
So will 2012E have DE back or am I going to have to stick with WHS until I can be bothered to look into alternatives (i.e. unraid) ?
fluxtatic 7th July 2012, 05:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
This was probably the worst time MS could have ever made this decision. ARM is by far the best platform for a home server. They're low power, they're small, quiet/silent, but good enough to get the job done. I guess for Windows users it isn't so ideal because pretty much no server programs run on it. To make matters worse, many new ARM devices have that pathetic MS certification thing or whatever it is so people can't install an alternative server OS.

What? That applies to so-far-nonexistent tablets running Windows RT, unless I missed something. What you say is true, as far as it goes, but this has no bearing on servers whatsoever. Ubuntu has already been demonstrated running on ARM. At this point, it's likely a matter of ROI - there will need to be ARM servers in a whole lot of datacenters before some OEM decides to take a chance on releasing commodity hardware for this sort of community. It's largely a matter of not wanting to take a chance before demand has been proven right now. Maybe someone should get on porting a server flavor of Linux to RPi - there'd be nerds creaming their jeans the world over for that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
I agree with Phil Rhodes entirely. I feel as though if people really want a more user-friendly linux server, someone ought to develop a GUI for that. But in some ways I feel that is unnecessary considering the amount of tutorials out there. CLI isn't that hard. If you learn it properly, its faster and easier than a GUI. I know too many people who are great with computers, have no problem with linux whatsoever, are aware and accepting of its downsides, yet they don't even try using it on one of their spare unused computers or a computer that would be better off running it (like a home server).

I tried - Ubuntu Server Edition, Ubuntu desktop, Linux Mint. Mint came closest, but after dicking around with it for three days, what finally killed it was not being able to find a remote client that would work with both Mint and Win7 64-bit. I could get to the machine, but I would only get a black screen. Damn near everywhere I went looking for how to do this or that, it was people either talking down to the n00bs, or people assuming a level of knowledge with Linux that I didn't have. At least with Windows I can find support from people that aren't total assholes (not that all Linux users are assholes, but those that 'offer' support sure seem to be.) I would agree, though - yes, 'real server admins' don't need no stinkin GUI...but this is also the real world. According to rumor, MS originally wasn't going to put a GUI in Server 2012, until it became clear that Windows admins aren't all samurai. I know I'd go a little batty if I had to try to admin a server with no GUI whatsoever. I could actually see the Live Tiles idea being useful and cool for a server - let me remote in and see without opening anything what's going on.

That said, I still do plenty on the command line in Windows. While I may not remember one of the half-dozen ways I can get to a function in the GUI, I can remember how to get to the command in CLI. If it's something not already in the %path and I use it more than once, I put it there, leaving it a matter of opening a command prompt and a single command to get to it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gundam God
So will 2012E have DE back or am I going to have to stick with WHS until I can be bothered to look into alternatives (i.e. unraid) ?

Most likely - iirc, Win8 itself will have it, but now they're calling it Storage Spaces. Might only be in Pro and up, so 2012E may not (want the coolest feature? It only doubles the price!)

Very disappointing, this news. I kinda dug WHS 2011. I wiped it as I didn't think my hardware could handle it (Brazos E350), but the issue was likely something else. That's when I tried Linux...after that debacle, I threw Win7 on it and called it good. But I'm getting an itch to try WHS again.
PingCrosby 7th July 2012, 15:33 Quote
Am I on ' The Secret World's' website? its driving me up the wall, what an intrusive advert
schmidtbag 7th July 2012, 17:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
What? That applies to so-far-nonexistent tablets running Windows RT, unless I missed something. What you say is true, as far as it goes, but this has no bearing on servers whatsoever. Ubuntu has already been demonstrated running on ARM. At this point, it's likely a matter of ROI - there will need to be ARM servers in a whole lot of datacenters before some OEM decides to take a chance on releasing commodity hardware for this sort of community. It's largely a matter of not wanting to take a chance before demand has been proven right now. Maybe someone should get on porting a server flavor of Linux to RPi - there'd be nerds creaming their jeans the world over for that.
I see your point about reliability, but it needs to start somewhere. MS not releasing this is not going to make it happen any time soon, so that argument is somewhat irrelevant. You could argue that MS is wasting their time with RT because there's almost no programs available, but there needs to be a beginning at some point. Also, I didn't say that tablets should be used for servers. Obviously they're the main focus of RT because RT isn't a server OS and RT is too bloated to work on most other ARM devices.
Quote:
I tried - Ubuntu Server Edition, Ubuntu desktop, Linux Mint. Mint came closest, but after dicking around with it for three days, what finally killed it was not being able to find a remote client that would work with both Mint and Win7 64-bit. I could get to the machine, but I would only get a black screen. Damn near everywhere I went looking for how to do this or that, it was people either talking down to the n00bs, or people assuming a level of knowledge with Linux that I didn't have. At least with Windows I can find support from people that aren't total assholes (not that all Linux users are assholes, but those that 'offer' support sure seem to be.) I would agree, though - yes, 'real server admins' don't need no stinkin GUI...but this is also the real world. According to rumor, MS originally wasn't going to put a GUI in Server 2012, until it became clear that Windows admins aren't all samurai. I know I'd go a little batty if I had to try to admin a server with no GUI whatsoever. I could actually see the Live Tiles idea being useful and cool for a server - let me remote in and see without opening anything what's going on.
What remote clients did you use that didn't work? Linux and VNC or SSH are very effective, easy, and cross-platform. Assuming you were using VNC, the VNC server matters significantly. for example, x11vnc has almost no similarity to vnc4server aside from the fact that they're both VNCs. x11vnc is pretty easy to set up, has a LOT of features and does what you expect it to do if you were running Windows (it transmits your currently active desktop). Pretty much all other VNC programs on linux don't work that way. They create a separate display that has no relation to your first one, and if you don't tell what that display to do, it will be blank. There are ways of getting those other VNCs to share your active display but generally I've found that X over SSH has been far more useful to me than VNC or RDP or anything else for that matter.

While I agree that if you want a GOOD server, you won't run a GUI (because GUIs are a little demanding for something that isn't vital), using ubuntu might not be the best choice either. It may be decent for beginners but much like Windows, it crams too much stuff in that don't need to be there, it assumes what you want, and I personally don't find it very stable or reliable (which is weird in the linux world). Ubuntu, IMO, is ruining the image of linux.
Quote:
That said, I still do plenty on the command line in Windows. While I may not remember one of the half-dozen ways I can get to a function in the GUI, I can remember how to get to the command in CLI. If it's something not already in the %path and I use it more than once, I put it there, leaving it a matter of opening a command prompt and a single command to get to it.
I really like the CLI, I find it really fast and often easier. However, I absolutely despise the Windows CLI - it lacks too many features (and I don't use shells like ZSH) and I find it very user unfriendly.
Quote:
Very disappointing, this news. I kinda dug WHS 2011. I wiped it as I didn't think my hardware could handle it (Brazos E350), but the issue was likely something else. That's when I tried Linux...after that debacle, I threw Win7 on it and called it good. But I'm getting an itch to try WHS again.
Ah, you never mentioned it was an AMD platform, I thought you were referring to ARM. Yeah, on a netbook I Ubuntu or Mint might run a little slow at times. Ubuntu and Mint are just about the heaviest linux distros out there. I personally find Win7 also too heavy for netbooks unless you spend the time to dumb it down a little but I'm a major optimizer. It's somewhat hard to recommend a distro to a beginner that will run well on a netbook. I myself use Debian and Arch, but I expect you'll find those a little too difficult since they're the kind of OS you piece together from the ground up. When I had my 900MHz celeron netbook, I ran Debian on it and it performed better than the average office computer running Windows XP, and it could do more than the average XP setup.
law99 7th July 2012, 22:56 Quote
Setting up a samba share with linux isn't hard... the hard part is whether gigabit will auto negotiate properly and run at those speeds. At least from when I started using gigabit networks. It wasn't a problem when I was on 100mb obviously.

The worst part was, although a great community, the Ubuntu lot, or debian, all came back with the same answers... the issues were known and probably not going to be worked out any time soon.
law99 7th July 2012, 22:59 Quote
at least with Ubuntu, you can install just the GUI and bare essentials and use startx to launch it with it defaulting to not running on boot. That way you get the GUI for when you are sick of sanity checks and cd ; ls type nonsense. Plus, I never understood how to use a text editor in the shell. It is just way too before my time. I much prefer a combination cli and gui.
Phil Rhodes 8th July 2012, 02:44 Quote
Quote:
at least with Ubuntu, you can...

Linux can do a lot - if you can get it to work...
schmidtbag 8th July 2012, 05:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by law99
at least with Ubuntu, you can install just the GUI and bare essentials and use startx to launch it with it defaulting to not running on boot. That way you get the GUI for when you are sick of sanity checks and cd ; ls type nonsense. Plus, I never understood how to use a text editor in the shell. It is just way too before my time. I much prefer a combination cli and gui.

to me, file sharing is one of very few things I find windows does better than linux.

have you ever tried using nano? that's my favorite CLI based text editor. I personally hate vi.
Cthippo 8th July 2012, 15:21 Quote
I used FreeNAS on a mini-ITX board for my server and it works brilliantly. I don't leave my server running all the time, so when I need it I plug it in (cord has to run across the hall), push the power button, and wait for it to beep. That's it. It shows up as a network drive on any of the desktops. Highly recommended.
PlayLoud 8th July 2012, 21:30 Quote
I've never tried Windows Home Server, but I know how much trouble I have getting file shares to work in XP/Vista/7. Even when I have all file sharing turned on, and all permissions set to allow access, there are times Windows gives me a permission error.

I set up Ubuntu Desktop a while back (for a dedicated Folding@home rig that I built). I later put some hard drives in the system and set up Samba. I had to review the instructions on help sites, step by step, as I know virtually ZERO about Linux, but I was able to figure it out. Now, the samba shares work perfectly, 100% of the time. I can't do much in Linux, but I now have it running Folding@home 24/7, as well as my Teamspeak 3 Server, as well as my Samba shares. The only time I have to reboot, is if the power goes out longer than my UPS allows for.

I would be curious as to what Windows Home Server can do better. If I had the share problems I had in other versions of Windows, I already know I wouldn't like it.
Silent_Raider 11th July 2012, 20:06 Quote
This is such a shame. I've used both the original WHS and WHS 2011. For an easy to set up Media Server, WHS 2011 is hard to beat. The OS runs $50 right now (and sometimes cheaper), and it provides the ease and flexibility to set up a solid system. I would never pay $425 for a home operating system. I didn't want to deal with setting up Linux and media sharing before. Now it looks like we won't have a choice :(

Again, such a shame and bad decision on Microsoft's part, especially since they already killed off Media Center.
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