I don’t usually “do” NDAs. It’s just too hard to figure out what I’m allowed to say and what I should keep quiet. I prefer to get free and open information, but will settle for embargoed briefings if it means I can get some time to think before reporting. So my Microsoft connection is a major anomaly, and I’ve been sitting on my hands trying not to spill the beans…
One of the great things about being a Microsoft MVP is the access I get to Microsoft software and staff. As I mentioned in my post about the 10 cool storage features from the 2009 Microsoft MVP Summit, I was able to preview a lot of what Microsoft is doing with their Server software and storage features. And the best part is that the Microsoft product teams are keenly interested in our feedback and suggestions. I’m told, for example, that the awesome iSCSI Quick Connect feature in the new Windows iSCSI initiator software was developed based on my feedback!
As I note on my Windows Storage Server 2008 preview on Gestalt IT, Microsoft has always kept WSS close to the vest. It’s only available to OEMs, not retail customers, and has never even been shared with TechNet or MSDN subscribers in the past. So I was really pleased when Microsoft gave the File System Storage MVPs access to a beta version of WSS 2008 so we could get a feel for all of the new features. I’ve also had some great conversations this week with the Microsoft product managers responsible for it.
What’s exciting about Windows Storage Server 2008?
- It includes all of the storage enhancements in Windows Server 2008, including SMB 2.0 for much much faster file servicing over higher-latency links, SMfS, FSRM, enhanced VDS, and failover clustering.
- WSS is the only way to get access to Microsoft’s iSCSI target software. It’s been improved in many ways from the prior releases, but its support for what Microsoft calls dual-active clustering is probably its most notable feature: You can’t share the same active LUN between cluster members, but each can have its own active LUNs and the can all fail over in the event that one member goes down.
- The included single-instance storage (SIS) file-based deduplication has been much improved, scaling to 128 volumes per server and millions of files. It’s still not as effective capacity-wise as block-level deduplication (which I’d love to see, hint hint), but the performance is solid enough to use it for primary storage with production applications.
- Probably the coolest feature exclusive to Windows Storage Server 2008 is its new browser-based remote administration capability. Just point your browser to the Storage Server machine (for example, “http://wss/desktop”) and you’ll get a full ActiveX version of RDP. Don’t use Internet Exploder? Firefox and Linux users will get a Java-based RDP instead! I will cover this feature more in the future, but let’s just say that every operating system should offer this!
Want to try Windows Storage Server for yourself? Breaking from the past, Microsoft will soon (like next week!) allow TechNet subscribers to download the full install. OEMs have a sekrit back-door site to try it out, too.
One more thing… This will be the last release of Windows Storage Server. There won’t even be a special Storage Server version of Server 2008 Service Pack 2! Starting now, Storage Server is just an optional feature of Windows Server. Purchasing and production use will still be limited to storage OEMs, but Microsoft has finally reconciled Storage Server with the rest of the Windows Server world. I imagine that most OEMs will release Service Pack 2 updates for their Storage Server customers shortly, and that future versions of the product will come closer to the base Server versions than WSS 2008. Although I can’t share what I know, I will say that Microsoft is continuing active development on their iSCSI target, single-instance storage, and other Storage Server features. I imagine that Windows Server 2008 R2 will support storage systems in the very near future!
On a personal note, reading A Brief History of Windows Storage Server Releases from the Microsoft Storage Server blog reminded me of the original unveiling of Windows Storage Server at Storage Decisions Chicago in June, 2003. The company loaded us all on one of those lake cruise boats with some celebrity impersonators, chocolate “Oscar”-style statues, an open bar, and a band. Good times ensued!
For more details, check out my Gestalt IT piece, Windows Storage Server-Based Systems Step Into 2008