Microsoft Home Server v2

I wrote a while back about v2 and some of the changes it was bringing to the table. One of the most important was the rearranging of the storage pool technology called Drive Extender. Folders on the pooled storage can be selectively replicated, meaning that Drive Extender will ensure that copies of the files were found on multiple physical disks.

The previous version of DE would pool ordinary NTFS-formatted disks together – DE basically gave a global share-view of the whole lot, and would duplicate files between disks to implement a recovery in case of drive failure ( this wasn’t a very robust system based on the amount of corruption bugs users ran into ). The new DE has changed to using a layer underneath the filesystem which means that disks are no longer viewable on other systems in isolation of other disks in the original pool. This, of course, is less flexible than the old solution and some users were not happy about the change. Personally, as one who deals with all kinds of storage from personal storage devices to enterprise systems, I prefer this new robust system to something less … integrity is everything.

Until now that is: Microsoft recently announced that they were pulling this technology from the final release of v2. And many people aren’t happy. Microsoft’s reasoning goes as follows: after soliciting feedback from both consumers and small businesses, it no longer saw a need for the feature. Large hard drives are now readily available, and Microsoft is saying that these represent an adequate alternative to the Drive Extender technology. Hmmm … the real reason appears that the new system was not quite as robust as it should have been and some more bugs have cropped up, specifically relating to its use in the upcoming SBS 2011. Instead of fixing these though, the product has just been axed.

So after all that, one has to wonder what the point of Home Server is. Certainly Drive Extender was the only unique feature that one would not get from a myriad of other home storage devices. That feature is now gone, and so is the reason for Home Server.

Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (codename “Aurora”) and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials were to be based on this new technology as well, so one has to wonder what’s happening to these products too although there was no prior equivalent in these so no big loss. The problem though is that every other OS ( barring MacOS X ) has advanced and flexible filesystem options ( ZFS in Solaris, GFS/LVM in AIX,  BTRS/LVM and others in Linux, etc. ) while Windows Server essentially has mirroring and spanning. I think Microsoft need to bring back Drive Extender, fix it and bring a viable use for Windows Server to the storage market.

Robby Pedrica

Robby Pedrica is a storage and security specialist providing IT and ITSM consulting services in Southern Africa to SME and Enterprise clients. With 20 years of experience, and numerous certifications, Robby excels in niche areas such as systems monitoring, load balancing, advanced storage functions like virtualisation, backup and replication, virtual security appliances, and FOSS software infrastructure such as web, email and application servers. He also runs 'Robby Pedrica's Tech Blog' expounding the mantra of security, security, security.

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