Microsoft has ditched the SCSI Enclosure Services requirement for Windows Server Storage Spaces Direct (S2D), a set of software-defined storage technologies that ship with the operating system.
Server Storage Spaces Direct is a capacity-pooling technology that extends NAS- and SAN-like enterprise-grade storage management capabilities to direct-attached drives. The SCSI Enclosure Services protocol, meanwhile, is used to communicate a storage device's non-data maintenance and health information, like the state of its power supply and cooling subsystems.
By removing this requirement in the newly released Windows Server preview build 17074 for members of the Windows Insider early-access program, Microsoft is opening up the floodgates to the types of storage hardware that can be used with Storage Spaces Direct, according to Dona Sarkar, a software engineer with Microsoft's Windows and Devices division.
In another move aimed at democratizing the use of storage hardware with Windows Server, Sarkar noted that the feature now allows for direct SATA device connections to AHCI (Advance Host Controller Interface) controllers. The change "will expand the hardware ecosystem compatible with S2D as well as unlock a new class of low-cost hardware," she wrote in a blog post.
Storage Spaces Direct also now supports persistent memory
or so-called storage-class memory devices like NVDIMM modules and NVMe drives. The low-latency storage can vastly improve application performance when used in data caching scenarios.
Persistent memory generally aims to bridge the performance gap between DRAM and NAND flash, while maintaining the latter's non-volatile data persistence characteristics. In Micron Technology's case, it can surpass the performance levels of conventional DRAM on data analytics and OLTP (online transaction processing) workloads. Compared to server setups with conventional DRAM, its 32GB NVDIMM-N memory module outperforms conventional DRAM with data movement performance ratings that are up to 400 percent higher than DRAM, the company claims.
For users running virtual machines, the operating system's Cluster Shared Volumes Cache has been enabled by default in build 17074. The feature can "dramatically boost VM [virtual machine] performance" by delivering in-memory write-through cache capabilities, added Sarkar. Finally, Microsoft has added data deduplication support to both Storage Spaces Direct and ReFS (Resilient File System).
Also new is the availability of Windows Server Core in ISO or VHDX (Hyper-V virtual hard disk) formats.
As its name suggest, Windows Server Core is an installation option that contains only the most essential software components for a server operating system that utilizes fewer system resources. As a bonus, its smaller attack surface helps boost security. Users who download the images will find that they are pre-keyed, meaning they won't have to enter a product key during the setup process.
As with any pre-release software, users may run into bugs. This time, Sarkar warned of potential timeouts while loading test libraries. Reinforcing the notion that Microsoft is providing preview builds for evaluation and feedback purposes—not for production workloads—build 17074 will quit working on July 2, Sarkar said. A clean installation is recommended for best results.