Microsoft Unveils Final Windows Storage Server

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Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has rolled out what could be its final standalone version of Windows Storage Server (see Microsoft Set to Unveil Windows Storage Server 2008).

Stephen Foskett, a Microsoft File System Storage MVP and director of consulting at Nirvanix, said future versions of Windows Storage Server, including the iSCSI software target and the single-instance storage (SIS) file-based deduplication feature, will be bundled with Windows Server.

“Since it’s so close to Windows Server anyway, the iSCSI target and SIS features, along with the bundling/branding options, will be a limited-access feature in future versions of Windows Server,” Foskett told Enterprise Storage Forum. “In other words, we will still see Windows-powered storage devices and future development by Microsoft, but it won’t be an entire operating system of its own.”

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that “this will be the last separate engineering release of Windows Storage Server … Instead of shipping a separate storage-branded product variant of Windows Server, a storage workload edition for use in appliances will ship along with Windows Server during the normal release cycles.”

The spokesperson added that “this is not a change in functionality or focus,” but “simply a streamlining of delivery vehicles and timing.”

Microsoft released Windows Storage Server 2008 to OEM partners this week, and partners like Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) and HP (NYSE: HPQ) will likely follow with new Windows Storage Server-based data storage appliances in coming weeks.

The software giant held a Web event today to discuss the performance and reliability improvements of its storage operating system.

Foskett, who blogged about the release earlier this week, said his favorite feature of the new version is the Web-based, multi-platform remote desktop server, which he described as “awesome. Every Windows Server should have this. In fact, every operating system should have it.”

He said he also likes the “amazing speed increases” in the Server Message Block (SMB) 2.0 protocol. While not exclusive to Windows Storage Server (WSS), Foskett said that WSS-based NAS devices used by Vista or Server clients over higher-latency links “will fly with SMB 2.0. It’s really noticeable even to the naked eye over a slow link like a cable modem.”

Foskett said he also likes expanded command-line support, WMI APIs, “and especially PowerShell. Although much of WSS is still not directly PowerShell-capable, this is a huge update for people like me who do scripting.”

iSCSI Software Target 3.2 now supports failover clustering, IPv6 and as much as 16TB of virtual hard disks.

Foskett said the iSCSI client and multipath I/O (MPIO) now work with any iSCSI target, not just Microsoft’s. And he said that with the easier set-up for iSCSI clustering and SIS and the QuickConnect feature of the Windows iSCSI initiator, “you’ve saved literally hours of setup time.”

Microsoft officials on today’s event described Microsoft IT’s own experience with the SIS data deduplication feature. In a two-year deployment, the feature saved the company 14TB, or a 60 percent capacity savings. The SIS feature now supports up to 128 volumes.

And in something of a surprise, Foskett said “the cool remote administration feature explicitly supports Linux and Firefox, with a special Java version, which I’m sure was not easy to get approved alongside the ActiveX version for IE/Windows Plus.” And Microsoft is also offering an open-source NFSv4 client.

Asked if Windows Storage Server 2008 could be easily adapted for use in virtual server environments like VMware (NYSE: VMW), Foskett said it “could easily be used as a storage target for VMware with either NFS or iSCSI. I’m not aware of any OEM actually getting the system certified for ESX, however. On the other hand, Hyper-V and WSS are entirely compatible and work great. I’m using WSS08 with Hyper-V in my test environment, in fact.”

The Windows Storage Server team publishes a blog at

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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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