.Net Server, NAS to Get Storage Upgrade

Microsoft is taking aim at high-end storage space with features in .Net Server 2003 and Server Appliance Kit 3.0.

Microsoft Corp. is taking aim at the high-end storage space with features being implemented in .Net Server 2003 and Server Appliance Kit 3.0.

When it comes out early next year, Windows .Net Server 2003 will be bootable from a SAN (storage-area network) and will have new host-bus adapter certifications, said Zane Adam, director of product management, at the Redmond, Wash., companys six-month-old Enterprise Storage Division. Soon after its release, it will be upgraded for iSCSI support, he said.

Microsoft hopes the upgrades will enable it to meet data center managers strict demands on servers managing Fibre Channel and SCSI storage. However, Windows will not get actual SAN management software.

"We have to rely on a partner ecosystem because Microsoft is not going to solve all the problems of the world," Adam said.

The new features, announced this week at the Storage Networking World show in Orlando, Fla., are in addition to already announced snapshotting and disk management drivers, called Volume Shadow Copy Service and Virtual Disk Service, plus the Multipath I/O option, recently launched for the current Windows 2000 Server, he said.

Microsoft also is upping the ante of its SAK (Server Appliance Kit), which transforms Windows servers into NAS (network-attached storage) devices. The current SAK 2.0.1 will be upgraded to SAK 3.0 within 90 days of the .Net Server 2003 launch, and is currently in early beta testing, Adam said. It will have better scaling in the Distributed File System protocol, through the use of multiple roots, which makes DFS 150 percent faster. The alternative Network File System (NFS) will be 50 percent faster.

In addition, SAK 3.0 will have less downtime because it will failover to the closest replica instead of to a random one, and its price will likely stay the same, he said.

Missing from SAK 3.0 will be features like advanced resource management and virtualization of multiple systems into pools, but vendors like Precise Software Solutions Inc. and 1Vision Software Inc. sell those components separately. For those features and for working with SANs, its the integration directly with the NAS vendors that distinguishes more expensive products from EMC Corp. and Network Appliance Corp., users and OEM partners said.

As Microsoft tries into the high-end storage space, one advantage the company has is its extensive existing Windows user base.

"We had an initiative on the table to find a way to consolidate some of our servers. It came down to a comfort level to where we were technically and which platform that we knew," said current SAK user Chris Carroll, director of infrastructure at The Bombay Company Inc., in Fort Worth, Texas.