And with this, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials finally gets interesting. Microsoft announced today that a beta version of the Office 365 Integration Module (OIM) for Windows SBS 2011 Essentials is finally available, proving integration between its new SMB-focused server offering and its market-leading cloud productivity service.

"The OIM allows small businesses to seamlessly combine the cloud-based productivity tools of Office 365 with the infrastructure provided by SBS 2011 Essentials, a first-server designed and priced especially for small businesses with limited in-house IT resources," Microsoft Senior Product Manager from Windows Server and Cloud Marketing at Microsoft writes. "The joint technologies provide businesses with an affordable hybrid solution that helps protect data, organize and provide access to business information from virtually anywhere, and support the applications that enable the business to run smoothly and efficiently."

The OIM is the third major add-in for Windows SBS 2011 Essentials, following the Windows 7 Professional Pack for Small Business Server 2011 and the Windows Server Solutions Phone Connector Add-in, but it's easily the most eagerly-awaited of the three. (Side-note: Why can't these things be named consistently? One is a "module," one is a "pack," and one is an "add-in." Come on, guys.)

According to Microsoft, The Office 365 Integration Module for Windows SBS 2011 Essentials extends the features of the server Dashboard by providing seamless integration with Office 365 services. When you integrate Office 365 with the server, you can:

Subscribe to Office 365 or configure the server to use an existing subscription.

Perform the following Office 365 account management tasks from the Dashboard: Bulk create Office 365 accounts for network user accounts, assign new or existing Office 365 accounts to network user accounts, and manage the Office 365 account assigned to a user account throughout the lifecycle of the user account. (For example, deactivating a network user account also deactivates the Office 365 account that is assigned to the user account.)

Synchronize passwords for network user accounts and Office 365 accounts. This allows network users to sign in to Office 365 using their Windows password.

Link an Internet domain that you have set up on Window SBS to Office 365.

View information about your Office 365 subscription.

Access your Office 365 management portal from the Office 365 page of the server Dashboard.

You can download the beta version of the OIM from the Microsoft Connect web site.