Microsoft's Windows 8 Will Feature Robust Storage Spaces

Microsoft's Windows 8 will include Storage Spaces, a feature that "pools" multiple physical disks and leverages virtualization, in the name of efficient data storage.

Microsoft's Windows 8 will offer a new feature, Storage Spaces, designed to both protect data and organize physical drives for maximum use.

In a Jan. 5 posting on the "Building Windows 8" blog, Rajeev Nagar, a group program manager on the Windows Storage and File System team, broke down the two overarching themes behind Storage Spaces: one, the ability to organize multiple physical disks into storage pools, and two, the use of virtual disks (which he refers to as "spaces").

A Windows 8 user will need only one physical disk to create a storage pool, although that will prevent the creation of mirrored or parity spaces capable of data redundancy in the event of some catastrophic failure. According to Nagar, there is "no requirement for an even or odd number of physical disks."

Those physical disks can be connected through USB, SATA (Serial ATA) or SAS (Serial Attached SCSI), he added. "Storage Spaces delivers on diverse requirements that can span deployments ranging from a single PC in the home, up to a very large-scale enterprise datacenter," he wrote. "Once physical disks have been added to a pool, they are no longer directly usable by the rest of Windows-they have been virtualized, that is, dedicated to the pool in their entirety."

Thanks to something called thin provisioning, raw storage capacity translates into a much larger mirrored space-in the blog's example, some 4TB of raw physical space transforms into 10TB of capacity once it's been added to the pool. "Thin provisioning ensures that actual capacity is reserved for the space only when you decide to use it," he wrote. "Previously allocated physical capacity can be reclaimed safely whenever files are deleted, or whenever an application decides that such capacity is no longer needed."

Should a pool disk fail, Storage Space can reallocate data. "There's another resiliency attribute, called parity," he added, "which directs Storage Spaces to store some redundancy information alongside user data contained within the space, thereby enabling automatic data reconstruction in the event of physical disk failure."

Microsoft is unveiling a flurry of Windows 8 features in the ramp-up to the operating system's release sometime in the latter half of 2012. In a separate posting on the blog this week, for example, the Windows team also detailed Windows 8's streamlined ability to reset or refresh a PC experiencing issues. Resetting a Windows 8 PC will, obviously, wipe out all the user's personal data while reinstalling the operating system; refreshing it, on the other hand, will preserve all that personal data, along with key settings and any "Metro"-style apps.

Microsoft will almost certainly offer additional Windows 8 glimpses during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which is slated to kick off with a Jan. 9 keynote speech by CEO Steve Ballmer.

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