Microsoft Readies Upgrade for .Net Servers Storage

Company preparing enhancements for SAK, including better scaling.

Microsoft Corp. is adding features to its .Net Server 2003 and Server Appliance Kit 3.0 with an eye toward the high-end storage space.

When it comes out early next year, Windows .Net Server 2003 will be bootable from a SAN (storage area network)—enabling users to reboot it remotely if it goes down—and will have new host bus adapter certifications, said Zane Adam, director of product management at the Redmond, Wash., companys 6-month-old Enterprise Storage Division.

Soon after its release, .Net Server 2003 will be upgraded for iSCSI support, Adam said.

Microsoft said it 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 late last month at the Storage Networking World show in Orlando, Fla., are in addition to snapshotting and disk management drivers—called Volume Shadow Copy Service and Virtual Disk Service, respectively, and announced early last month—plus the Multipath I/O option, launched in September for the current Windows 2000 Server, Adam said.

Microsoft is also upping the ante with its SAK (Server Appliance Kit), which transforms Windows servers into NAS (network-attached storage) devices. SAK 2.0.1 will be upgraded to SAK 3.0 within 90 days of the .Net Server 2003 launch and is 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 will be 50 percent faster.

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

Missing from SAK 3.0 will be features such as advanced resource management and virtualization of multiple systems into pools, but vendors such as 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 NAS vendors that distinguishes more expensive products from EMC Corp. and Network Appliance Inc., users and OEM partners said.

As Microsoft pushes into the high-end storage space, one advantage the company has is its extensive 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 SAK user Chris Carroll, director of infrastructure at The Bombay Co. Inc., in Fort Worth, Texas. Carrolls NAS is from Dell Computer Corp.; other sellers of Microsofts SAK include Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.