Microsofts Taxing Plans for Storage

Two powerful companies locked in a seemingly tiny skirmish may knock the bottom out of the NAS industry, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Two powerful companies locked in a seemingly tiny skirmish may knock the bottom out of the NAS industry, and theres nothing we can do about it.

It all started with Microsofts SMB (Server Message Block), a file system that Microsoft spearheaded to enable the propagation of Windows into Unix shops. It worked spectacularly, and Windows clients were able to universally talk to Unix systems with a minimum of fuss.

SMB eventually gave way to CIFS—Common Internet File System—and CIFS/SMB has also been reverse- engineered in the form of Samba to allow tighter and faster integration, mainly between Linux clients and Windows.

The problem is that Microsoft is pulling the plug on CIFS compatibility in Exchange. The reason, Microsoft says, is that storing Exchange data over a network creates a bottleneck, slowing the entire system.

The move seriously hampers legitimate NAS (network-attached storage) companies, such as Network Appliance, that depend on CIFS for the Windows-to-high-speed-NAS connection.

Slow performance may be one reason that Microsoft yanked CIFS support. But its probably not a valid one. There are unsubstantiated benchmarks proving that NAS is as fast as direct-attached storage. Soon, well see Transaction Processing Council benchmarks showing that its close, and Network Appliance will be a part of that test.

Another reason that Microsoft may have "unsupported" CIFS is that the company will be altering Exchanges file system and merging it with SQL Servers database file system. That store, in turn, will be used for much more than just e-mail—its the entire file system. But Microsoft also doesnt support NAS for SQL Server. "The use of database devices accessed over the network is not a supported configuration," says the Microsoft KnowledgeBase.

Why? Oracle runs on Network Appliances devices just fine. The reason, it seems, is that Microsoft wants to control where companies store data. If Microsoft controls the data, it can tap in and extract a tariff in the form of a license fee on every single server that needs to access a Windows system.