Microsoft Ships New Storage OS


The availability of Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 was unveiled Tuesday at the Storage Networking World conference, held this week in San Diego.

That operating system is currently not available to custom system builders. However, Claude Lorenson, group product manager for storage at Microsoft, told CRN that that could change with the new version of WSS.

Microsoft has a pilot program in place for the next fiscal year, which starts in July, to bring WSS to system builders, said Lorenson. Despite indications when WSS was released a couple of years ago that it would be available to the white box community, Microsoft has not yet made it available because "there are some groups within Microsoft that are not happy with this," he said. "We have to smooth some feathers."

The problem, Lorenson said, is that WSS is a lower-priced product than Windows Server 2003. WSS is based on the general purpose Windows Server operating system, but many of the general purpose features were not locked, meaning that it is possible for a system builder to use WSS to build a general purpose server. The R2 version of WSS, however, has locking mechanisms in place to prevent it from being used for general purpose servers, making its availability to the custom system builder community more of a possibility, he said.

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"The channel wants it," he said. "My group wants it. It's just the server OEM group that doesn't want it. It's not a lack of desire. It's a political question."

The R2 version of WSS 2003, which Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Lefthand Networks have committed to use in upcoming storage arrays, includes several new features not available with the previous version.

Among these is single-instance storage, under which multiple instances of the same file are replaced with a single copy with pointers toward that copy. Single-instance storage is currently being offered by several storage vendors, including EMC, which until nine months ago partnered with Microsoft for low-end NAS boxes.

Lorenson said that when the R2 version with single-instance storage was deployed by Microsoft IT, it resulted in a 40-percent decrease in storage utilization, or up to 14.5 Tbytes, on that organization's 65 file servers.

Also new with R2 is full-text-based indexing search, which allows users to search for files by content or key words, said Lorenson. "You can search for 'marketing budget in March,' and it will find all files with 'marketing budget in March' in them," he said.

WSS 2003 R2 also has been optimized for file sharing out of the box, a task Microsoft previously left to its OEM partners, Lorenson said. Such a capability is not available to the company's general purpose Windows Server operating system, as it could be detrimental to performance for such servers if not deployed correctly, he said.

Also new are built-in quota management and storage reporting capabilities, features Microsoft previously licensed from a third-party vendor, said Lorenson.

Looking forward, Microsoft in June or July plans to release a feature pack for WSS 2003 R2 that includes iSCSI target software the company acquired last month from String Bean Software. That software enables NAS appliances based on WSS 2003 to also serve as iSCSI storage arrays.