Microsoft Storage OS Could Go To System Builders With Longhorn

This week, Microsoft also is slated to release an addition to the Windows Storage Server (WSS) OS that will enable OEMs to build storage appliances with both NAS and iSCSI SAN capabilities. Microsoft, too, has released Windows Server 2003 SP2 to private beta.

Windows Storage Server turns an industry-standard server into a NAS appliance. Claude Lorenson, group product manager for storage at Microsoft, said the Redmond, Wash., software giant plans to expand availability of the platform from OEMs to the system builder community, but he wouldn't specify a date for when such a move--which Microsoft has discussed for a couple years--would occur.

"It's easier to do a broader availability with the release of Longhorn. We can do changes to the kernel that we can't do now. The release of an operating system for OEMs is quite different than releasing to the channel because of security concerns, including piracy issues: How to deploy? What kind of key do we make available?" Lorenson said. "Many end users would like to have it with general distribution or volume licensing. We are also looking at that," he added.

In the meantime, Microsoft plans to release the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target Application Pack for Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 version on Friday. The Service Pack is based on iSCSI target technology acquired from String Bean Software in March. Building a SAN based on iSCSI requires the host server to have an iSCSI initiator for sending data and the storage device to have an iSCSI target for receiving the data. With the iSCSI target, Microsoft plans to make it possible for OEMs--and maybe custom system builders--to use WSS 2003 to build hybrid storage appliances for file (NAS) or block (iSCSI) applications.

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That version of the WSS platform will be used in the new Hewlett-Packard array for small and midsize businesses that HP unveiled Monday, Lorenson said.

The iSCSI target supports virtual hard-disk formats and supports 64-bit and x86 applications, Lorenson said. It allows snapshots of the appliance's data to be taken using Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Service. Multipath I/O support provides load balancing and multitasking from server to target, he said.

Lorenson added that in the fourth quarter, he expects Microsoft to release a new SKU of WSS that includes the iSCSI target software. And in December, the company also may release the first of a number of enhancements to the iSCSI target software, which could include functions such as error recovery levels 1 and 2, multiple connections and LUN cloning.

"This is not a static product where we release it and it's done," Lorenson said. "We will be updating the product."

Besides enhancing its storage OS, Microsoft released Beta 1 Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2003 for x86, x64 and Itanium processors, as well as for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

Service Pack 2 includes all of the current security updates for Windows Server 2003 plus previously released hot fixes and some functional changes to improve deployment, management and security, the company said. The pack is expected to be available late this year.