File Server improvements from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 R2. 8 items for 8 years…

File Server improvements from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 R2. 8 items for 8 years…

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Introduction

The File Server team often talks to customers about file server migration and file server consolidation projects. Many times, these are customers running Windows Server 2003 that can point to a number of issues they wanted fixed. In most cases, those issues have been identified and corrected in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Here are 8 of these issues (just to name a few) from recent conversations with customers:

1. CHKDSK Time

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • CHKDSK took hours or even days for a large volume with millions of files

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • The time it takes to CHKDSK a volume is not proportional to the size of the volume, but to the number of files on the volume
  • While it’s true that Windows Server 2003 was known for long CHKDSK times, this has changed dramatically in Windows Server 2008 and even further in Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 do more checking with the volume online, making an offline CHKDSK a rare occurrence
  • In the rare case when offline checking does occur, CHKDSK in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 happens much faster

A recent white paper published by the Storage and File System team at Microsoft (which owns NTFS) mentioned a couple of interesting data points:

  • A volume with 10 million files runs CHKDSK in around 7 minutes (this was done with a 15TB volume, but the size is really not important)
  • A volume with 100 million files runs CHKDSK in about 2 hours

Related Links:

2. File Server Scalability

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • A single Windows Server file server did not scale. Windows Server could not scale beyond a few thousand users

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • A single Windows Server 2008 R2 server can scale to tens of thousands of users with the right configuration
  • We demonstrated a single file server configuration with 192 disks and 10GbE network interfaces hosting over 23,000 users using the File Server Capacity Tool (FSCT) HomeFolders workload

Related Links:

3. Failover Cluster Setup

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • Failover Clustering for File Services on Windows Server was too hard to configure

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • Failover Clustering was redesigned in Windows Server 2008 to provide a much simpler configuration experience
  • Failover Clustering now includes a validation tool to check your servers before you create the cluster, pinpointing any issues for easy troubleshooting
  • Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 introduced a wizard to further simplify the configuration of a two-node file server, which can be done by connecting to just one of the cluster nodes

Related Links:

4. Shares Per File Server

Windows Server 2003 problem:

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • With the introduction of SMB2 in Windows Server 2008, a single file server can host over 4 billion shares
  • With Windows Server 2008, the cluster model was changed to use one resource per file server instead of one resource per share. That limit of 1,674 shares no longer applies

Related Links:

5. Encrypted Files

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • Encryption using the NTFS Encrypted File System (EFS) did not travel with the files when they were copied

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • Windows Server 2008 introduced Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS), which provides encryption that stays with the files as they are transferred
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 File Classification Infrastructure (FCI) facilitates the classification of files and makes it easy to apply RMS to sensitive documents based on classification rules

Related Links:

6. Large File Transfers on High Latency Networks

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • Copying a large file took a long time, especially on a network with high latency

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • Windows Server 2008 introduced SMB2, which can handle asynchronous communications and compounding of requests to improve performance
  • For instance, a file copy that used to take one minute in a network with 200ms round trip time (RTT) can be completed in less than 10 seconds in the same network
  • Other experiments show that a transfer of  around 10GB of data over a WAN (76ms RTT, 1 gigabit) went from around 6 hours down to around 8 minutes. Yep, that’s around 45 times faster
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced SMB 2.1 with support for large MTUs, which further improves file copy performance

Related Links:

7. Transferring Lots of Small Files

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • Copying lots of small files took a long time. ROBOCOPY was a nice file copy tool, but it was a downloadable tool, not part of Windows

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • File copy tools usually perform copies one file at a time, synchronously. These single-threaded copy tools will be slow, even with SMB2, especially when copying lots of small files
  • ROBOCOPY is a robust, multi-threaded, command-line copy tool that is included with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 ROBOCOPY with the multi-thread option can be up to 22 times faster when copying a large number of small files over a high-latency WAN connection

Related Links:

8. Caching in the Branch

Windows Server 2003 problem:

  • SMB was inefficient for branch access to shares in the main office and many decided to deploy a WAN acceleration device for the branch office
  • When using a WAN acceleration device in the branch, you had to give up on SMB signing

Windows Server 2008 R2 facts:

  • For starters, SMB2 is much more efficient in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2
  • On top of that, the new BranchCache feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 allows for caching in the branch, even without a dedicated WAN acceleration device
  • With BranchCache, you can have both SMB2 signing and acceleration in the branch office, if necessary

Related Links:

Conclusion

If you have a Windows Server 2003 File Server still around, I cannot stress enough how much you’re missing. The Windows Server team has worked hard in the last 8 years to fix these and many other issues (including the work in the recently released Service Pack 1). I hope the 8 items listed here can entice you to consider an upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Storage Server 2008 R2.

If you compare Windows Server to NAS appliances running other operating systems, make sure you use Windows Server 2008 R2 (or Windows Storage Server 2008 R2) in a similar configuration (similar number of disk spindles, similar types of disks, similar RAID configuration, similar networking speeds, etc.). You want to make sure you have the latest Windows on both sides, so they can negotiate up to SMB 2.1 and you can get the full benefits mentioned. You’ll find that Windows Server 2008 R2 with SMB 2.1 can deliver industry-leading file server capabilities and performance.

Get started right now by downloading an evaluation version of Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dd459137.aspx

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  • A new blog post covers a set of Windows Server 2003 File Server problems that were fixed in Windows Server

  • Hi folks, Ned here again. Despite the reputation for cutting edge technology, a lot of IT departments

  • This is a great article. I will show this to all my customers who are still on 2003. I did some testing with SMB 2.1 and love the performance improvements.

  • Hi folks, Ned here again. Despite the reputation for cutting edge technology, a lot of IT departments