The code for Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 is in RTM now, and I expect to see a number of different vendors shipping NAS products with this new operating system in early 2006.
This time around, Microsoft is adding some technologies that will only be available for Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, and will not be available with the standard Window Server 2003 R2 OS.
I think its important for Microsoft to create more differentiation between its standard operating system and its NAS platform.
Without this differentiation, there really isnt much reason to implement a Microsoft NAS when you could just set up a standard Microsoft file server or go with other established NAS offerings from vendors like Network Appliance or Snap Appliance.
With the Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 release, Microsoft is introducing Single Instance Storage. When enabled, SIS will scan a volume for duplicate files and consolidate them.
This function, if it works well, will greatly enhance the efficiency of NAS products running Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, and I hope that NAS vendors decide to add similar functionality to their products.
Storage Server 2003 R2 will also feature improved full text search capabilities, which will be able to index content in a wide variety of file formats, including PDF and XML.
After all, whats the use of storing tons of files if your workers cant find the information they need to do their jobs in a timely manner?
File screening capabilities are built into Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, but it only blocks files based on extension (it does not actually check file contents).
This means savvy users will be able to fool a NAS unit.
Im expecting to start testing a NAS unit with Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, in the next few weeks.
Its still too early to tell how successful Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 will be in 2006, but its safe to say pressure will be placed on other NAS vendors to keep pace.
eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at email@example.com.