Microsoft Gives SANs The Boot

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Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a software-enabled SAN boot of Windows Server 2003 using iSCSI technology co-developed with IBM.

Microsoft made a number of other storage-related announcements at this week’s Storage Networking World conference, including the availability of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 through OEMs, plans for its iSCSI target technology acquired from String Bean Software, and new partner solutions in the Simple SAN for Windows Server Program.

Diskless boot saves on server and HBAscosts and complexity, speeds up provisioning and results in better storage utilization, reduced power consumption and greater SAN scalability.

“Microsoft’s support for booting Microsoft Windows Servers from our iSCSI SAN using the Microsoft iSCSI software initiator facilitates more efficient server management and disaster recovery, allowing servers to be deployed and re-deployed dynamically,” stated EqualLogic product marketing director Rob Higby.

“Using the Microsoft iSCSI initiator to boot from SAN reduces complexity with provisioning and disaster recovery initiatives,” said emBoot CEO George Kostiuk. “Many companies with only a few servers to large data centers with hundreds or more servers are saying they want to boot from iSCSI without incurring the cost of host-based adapters.”

Dickinson Wright PLLC, a Michigan-based law firm with six locations and more than 200 attorneys, is already using Microsoft’s iSCSI software-enabled SAN boot on IBM BladeCenter.

“With the iSCSI software-enabled SAN boot, we are able to deploy bootable volumes on remote IBM blade servers in five to 10 minutes,” stated Alan Hunt, manager of operations for Dickinson Wright. “Normally the process would take as much as two hours. The solution helps us efficiently resolve labor-intensive issues and represents long-term cost savings for our firm.”

The software-enabled SAN boot of Windows using iSCSI and standard network interface cards will be published publicly for Microsoft partners to develop iSCSI software-enabled boot solutions.

Partners signing on to the new technology include Alacritech, Broadcom, emBoot, IBM, Intel, Fujitsu Siemens, Neterion, ATTO Technology, Azaleos, Brocade, Cisco Systems, Compellent Technologies, Crossroads Systems, Dell, EqualLogic, FalconStor Software, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, Intransa, LeftHand Networks, QLogic, Network Appliance, Nimbus Data Systems, SANRAD and Sun Microsystems.

Storage Server 2003 R2 Available

Microsoft said its own internal deployments show that Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 can reduce data management costs and disk use by half through single-instance storage and allow users to easily find documents via a text-based file search. Internal testing also found that the product outperforms the file-serving capability of general-purpose file servers by as much as 25 percent. Microsoft said its Distributed File System eases the complexity of replicating files over a wide-area network.

Products that will soon be available with Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 include PowerEdge-based Dell Storage Servers, HP ProLiant Storage Servers, IBM xSeries Storage Servers, the LeftHand Networks SAN Filer 150 and the Tacit Networks Ishared Branch Office in a Box platform. More than 50 software vendors, hardware manufacturers and solution providers have committed to building on or supporting Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 with their products and solutions.

Microsoft also announced details on how the WinTarget technology, acquired from String Bean Software last month, will be delivered to customers. The iSCSI target technology will be offered through OEMs as a feature pack of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, available with Standard Edition or Enterprise Edition of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2. With the integration of this new iSCSI software target with hardware from OEM partners, Microsoft said the cost of deploying block and file storage devices will decrease by as much as 25 percent.

Claude Lorenson, Microsoft’s group product manager for storage technologies, promised a “very attractive price that should make iSCSI more deployable by a wide range of users.”

Lorenson said future iSCSI target announcements will include more high-end features and improved NFS functionality.

“With 50% of data deployed today somehow attached to Windows, we feel an obligation to make storage and servers more manageable,” Lorenson told Enterprise Storage Forum.

EqualLogic, Hitachi Data Systems and IBM also showcased Simple SAN-designated solutions. IBM’s solution integrates with QLogic HBAs, switches and Virtual Disk Service application for storage management and provisioning, and EqualLogic’s array includes Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator and Microsoft Storage Manager for SANs.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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