I thought I’d share some of history behind the current release of Access Essentials, 2.0.

After Access Essentials 1.5 had shipped, we went on to think about what the next release of Access Essentials should be. For quite a long time during the development of Access Essentials 2.0, it was actually two products – Project Trent, the successor to Access Essentials and Voyager (product name not decided), targeted at slightly larger customers with support for multiple servers, a DMZ server, email alerting functionality. Both products were based on the same code – both would have the Quick Start tool. Quick Start adapted itself automatically to whichever type of server it was running on – Trent or Voyager to show the appropriate UI.

Then things changed.

Quite a bit as it happens.

In VSG we came to realize that our product line up was causing some confusion. The Presentation Server 4.5 release was going to act as the basis for new product releases: Access Suite 4.5, Presentation Server 4.5 Enterprise Edition, Presentation Server 4.5 Advanced Edition, Presentation Server 4.5 Standard Edition, Project Voyager and Project Trent. Some re-adjustment was required. I’m sure our marketing teams won’t be happy with my characterization, but the Access Suite became Presentation Server Platinum Edition, Presentation Server Standard Edition went the way of the Dodo and Projects Trent and Voyager were combined into Access Essentials 2.0.

The challenge for us in the Access Essentials engineering team was how to combine the two conceived products into one. For customers that only wanted a single server, we wanted to keep all of that simplicity – but for customers wanting a multi-server solution, we needed to add the functionality to support them – no single point of failure, automatic failure recovery, and centralised profile storage.

We invented the concepts of Basic and Advanced modes in Access Essentials – Trent became Basic mode and the natural successor to Access Essentials 1.5, limited to a single server and available on workgroup servers. Voyager became Advanced mode and supports multiple servers, but has a dependency on Active Directory. Compared to Trent, Basic mode gained DMZ server option and e-mail alerting, because they didn’t depend on Active Directory.

The end result is actually a product that I think is better than Trent and Voyager would have been individually. If you’re starting out with Access Essentials, you can still start with the simpler option. As you grow your business, or just expand your use of Access Essentials, you can rest assured that without buying any more Access Essentials licenses, you’re a server and a wizard away from a more resilient, higher capacity solution.  To keep things super-safe, with one wizard you can even return from Advanced mode back to Basic mode if you decide it’s not for you.

[Updated to fix grammar: 4 March 2008]