Microsoft Upgrades Storage Capabilities of Windows And NAS OS

Company officials said that both Windows Server 2003 Release 2 and Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 were released to manufacturing on Tuesday. Windows Server 2003 R2 is expected to be available to the channel by the end of January, while NAS appliances feature WSS '03 R2 are expected to ship by March, said Radhesh Balakrishnan, group product manager for the Windows Server division.

The R2 versions of both the server and the NAS operating systems have a number of common new features, said Balakrishnan.

The first is Microsoft's new File Server Resource Manager, which Balakrishnan said lets administrators set storage quotas in a more granular fashion than previously possible with Windows. "Quotas can be set to the level of individual users, or to groups of users through Active Directory," he said. "Administrators can also set up file filters so that Windows won't allow the saving of particular file formats as JPEG or MP3."

Also new is Storage Manager for SANs, which expands on Microsoft's Simple SAN program introduced about a year ago. With Simple SAN, the vendor is encouraging storage vendors to bundle and certify compatibility on SANs built for small businesses. Storage Manager for SANs includes all the blueprints needed to ease the implementation of Simple SANs, said Balakrishnan.

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The two operating systems also now include Distributed File Systems, which is a new data replication engine. Balakrishnan said it incorporates Microsoft's Remote Differential Compression that ensures that only changes to a document are replicated over a network, and not entire documents, thus freeing bandwidth for other tasks. "So DFS becomes WAFS (wide-area file services), something so many vendors are now talking about," he said.

In addition, WSS 2003 R2 has a number of specific new capabilities.

Among these are single-instance storage, under which a single version of a document such as an attachment to an e-mail sent to multiple users is kept along with all relevant security information, said Balakrishnan. The contents of a saved document is analyzed to see if it is identical to a previously stored document. Microsoft itself found it cut storage requirements for its Product Release division by about 40 percent when single-instance storage was implemented, Balakrishnan said. "It's great for the SMB segment where customer don't have the money for extra storage capacity," he said.

Also new is full text indexing, under which any document that is stored is scanned for text and fully indexed. Balakrishnan said this allows users to search for a specific file on a NAS device using a text search.

Finally, the NAS operating system is also getting Windows SharePoint Services, under which a single copy of a document on which multiple users are collaborating is saved. "This lets multiple users make changes off a single copy of the document," he said.

For customers that purchase a Windows Storage Server 2003-based NAS appliance starting Tuesday, Microsoft is offering a Tech Guarantee that allows those devices to be upgraded free-of-charge to WSS 2003 R2 when it is released in March, said Balakrishnan.