R. I. P. ISA/TMG Server and SBS Server

As I’m certain many of you know, Microsoft has announced the discontinuation of Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, which was later renamed to Threat Management Gateway (TMG) Server, and Small Business Server.  You can find those announcements here and here respectively.

I must admit I’m of mixed feelings about all this.  I had a fond love of both products.  In fact, I thought Small Business Server 2003 was one of the best products MS ever made.  You had so much cool stuff in one box. 

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Exchange Server 2003
  • SQL Server 2005
  • ISA Server 2004

While that all seemed like such a great idea all those years ago, having all that stuff on one box – especially a 32-bit box – turned out to be a bad idea.  It didn’t take much to fill up those four gigs of RAM with Exchange and SQL Server assuming you used both of them significantly.  Microsoft eventually broke SBS up into two servers with SBS 2008 and SBS 2011, however.  Another issue is that, while I knew what I was doing with SBS, a lot of other “IT Pros” did not.  It wasn’t uncommon at all for me to find an SBS box that was completely hosed and barely functioning – with the client constantly wondering why things sucked so much all the time.  The biggest issue was that most IT people attempted to manually configure all the features rather than using the wizards.  Even Susan Bradley, the SBS Diva, had something to say about that after someone posted a rogue article about configuring SBS – using the completely wrong approach.

This brings me to ISA/TMG.  Again, a great product.  The biggest problem with ISA/TMG was expense.  Today you can get Juniper’s SRX100 fully loaded for less than $1000 with great performance for the majority of small businesses.  The cheapest ISA/TMG computer I ever saw was just over $3000.  No one is going to pay that for a firewall.  Not to mention the fact that I don’t think as many people plugged into ISA/TMG via addon’s as MS had hoped. 

Lastly, of course, as to why these products are going the way of the dinosaur, is The Cloud.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am NOT a big fan of the cloud.  To me its just another round of outsourcing.  Another round of CEO’s and CIO’s stupidly expecting top notch Cadillac quality performance and service out of some people who do not work for them.  We tried it in the 90’s when we fired our IT staff and asked another company to send in theirs to run the show and we tried it again in 2003 when we sent everything to outsource companies in India.  Neither case has worked thus far – at least not to expectation.

Of course, the only thing we know for certain is that the only constant is change.  It’s time to grab some new skills and move forward.  The glory days of having 2 – 3 dozen or so small business clients using SBS 2003 and making a decent living off of them by providing customized service at a great price are long over.  Today we have the “one size fits all” Cloud.  Today, we move our stuff to big servers hosted by faceless people that have no idea who we are or what we need.  Today, we move back to the mainframe. 

Welcome to the future.

JamesNT

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