Shedding any notions among customers of being no more than a novelty within the tightly contested storage market, Microsoft is aggressively leveraging OEM partnerships and pursuing ways to slice data management complexity and cost.
The next step in that methodical process will take place at the Storage Networking World conference April 3-6 in San Diego. There, Microsoft will announce the availability of Windows Storage Server 2003 Release 2 through a variety of OEM deals.
Microsoft also will unveil support for a software-based SAN (storage area network) boot of Windows Server 2003 using iSCSI and new enhancements surrounding Microsofts Simple SAN for Windows Server Program.
At this point in its nascent storage strategy, Microsoft has deftly targeted an audience with which it is quite familiar—SMBs (small and midsize businesses) relying on Windows environments, which have traditionally been overlooked by larger storage vendors building more complex and costly hardware and software products.
In fact, IT research company IDC, of Framingham, Mass., says the SMB market is poised to grow by leaps and bounds. On March 29, IDC released a study that said SMBs will more aggressively pursue more advanced storage offerings over the next 12 months.
The No. 1 priority for SMBs, which currently devote the largest share of disk storage to e-mail and digital content, will be increasing storage capacity, according to the IDC study.
"I always feel like Im looking for information. Its such a big puzzle ... [but] I dont need those high-end capabilities," said Alan Hunt, manager of operations for Detroit-based law firm Dickinson Wright. "I think that Microsoft has been focusing on great things [over] the last few years—from my perspective ... security and storage. Its having the [storage] pieces within the [operating system] thats very critical, and it drives prices down."
Microsofts various efforts in storage all map to what Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Redmond, Wash., companys Windows Server Division, refers to as "universal distributed storage," defined as a long-term commitment by Microsoft to drive down customers storage costs.
The core strategy entails bringing traditionally high-end capabilities directly into the Windows platform and encouraging new products and services from storage and hardware partners.
Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 OEM products set to be available as of the week of April 3 include the Dell PowerEdge 830—soon to be followed by Dells PowerEdge 2900—and the entry-level Hewlett-Packard ProLiant ML310 Storage Server and ProLiant DL100 G2 Storage Server, as well as the midlevel ProLiant DL380 G4 Storage Server and high-end ProLiant DL585 Storage Server.
In addition, other OEM products include LeftHand Networks SAN Filer 150, an undisclosed server from IBM and Tacit Networks Ishared solution with WAFS (wide-area file services), branch office IT services and WAN optimization.