Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials - Update

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials - Update

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When we first started designing Windows SBS 2011 Essentials (formally SBS Code Name “Aurora”), one of our initial focuses was to provide effortless support for multiple internal and external hard drives. Drive Extender provided the ability to take the small hard drives many small businesses may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume. During our current testing period for our SBS products, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward. Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses.

When weighing up the future direction of storage in the SMB segment, data access support and application compatibility, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs. Customers also told us that they wanted easier access to data stored on Drive Extender drives so they are able to view these files outside of Drive Extender. Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials and Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” all of which are currently in beta.

While this removes the integrated ability for storage pooling of multiple hard drives and automated data duplication, we are continuing to work closely with our OEM partners to implement storage management and protection using industry standard RAID solutions. This will provide customers greater choice as well as a seamless experience that will meet their storage needs. Customers will also have access to the in-built storage solutions Windows Server 2008 R2 provides for data protection, including software RAID support. We are also still delivering core features such as automated Server and PC backup, easy sharing of folders and files, Remote Web Access and simplified management without any expected changes.

As SBS 2011 Essentials also shares the Drive Extender feature with both Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials, we are working with OEM partners to also provide similar data protection solutions for all members of this product family. Target product availability is still H1 2011, and we expect to deliver a new beta without drive extender for both Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” early in the New Year.

Comments
  • This is a HUGE, HUGE step backwards.  One of the only compelling reasons for home users to purchase Windows Home Server was the Drive Extender & Folder duplication technology.  Removing these features makes the "new" version of the product completely useless going forward.  I can't for the life of me imagine why Microsoft is gutting one of it's most compelling & well thought out offerings in the last 10 years.  I know I won't be upgrading without these features.

  • This is a really sad announcement for the WHS community. I can understand RAID use for businesses, but you've just removed a simple, automatic drive duplication and pooling feature in WHS and replaced it with potentially multiple, non-standard, more-technical solutions from third parties. This removes a ton the simplicity for WHS users who have multiple drives. I really hope this option is reconsidered, at least for the WHS product. Personally, I thought drive extender was a fantastic feature and hoped it would be included in future Windows desktop environments as well.

  • Yeah who wants automated data duplication and easy storage management?  Not me -- I want to micromanage all my device volumes, buy drives in pairs, and wade through vendor specific proprietary solutions for my data replication.  

    Seriously, you do realize that we don't have to wait for Aurora to get RAID?  If I want home RAID there are a ton of solutions shipping today to choose from including Linux, DROBO, etc.  Why are you killing your most distinguishing value added feature then promising a shipping date of 2011 to ship something I can get today for free?

    I sense another Vista moment coming up.  First there will be a spike on WHS v1 sales while WHS v2 will sit on the shelves.  Then there will be weird "WHS v2 isn't really that bad" commercials starring Seinfeld and a churo.  Then eventually the WHS v2 team gets sacked and WHS v3 becomes everything we originally asked for.

  • What this seems to suggest is that, going forward, Microsoft has encountered technological barriers with the Drive Extender technology that might be impossible to overcome based on current hardware platforms.  Remember the information concerning the "limitation" on the number of hard drives that Vail and Aurora would support?  It was always somewhat "fuzzy" as to the exact limitation, if any, that the newer 64 bit Drive Extender software would accomodate.

    Although Microsoft has not revealed any facts concerning problems with Drive Extender 64 bit, a logical inference would seem that such is the case.  Obviously Microsoft should be pressed on this issue, since many of us (myself included) have purchased significant numbers of cheap 2TB hard drives (WD2000EADS and WD2000EARS) for use in Drive Extender pools, since such drives do not require the more technologically advanced drives with Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER) functionality in order to exist without problems in RAID arrays.  TLER drives also cost almost twice the present selling price of the present 2TB "green" drives.

    However, those cheap 2TB drives do not play well in RAID environments, and a number of us will be stuck with those drives if the "newer" Vail and/or Aurora iterations must utilize true RAID arrays.  As was mentioned by other posters, this is clearly a step BACKWARD for WHS users!

  • I agree, this is really sad news for the WHS community.  I'll be sticking to my current WHS setup as long as I can.  The ability to just upgrade one hard drive at a time easily and painlessly is a feature that makes WHS stand out from all of the other NAS servers out there.  RAID5 doesn't cut it.  Especially when 80% of my content is content that can easily be replaced.  

  • Surely keep it in WHS and take it out of SBS?

  • Very sad and disappointing. I always wonder how MS find a way to fail and now this is how. WHS with the drive extender will die. The reason why ED is removed because applications do not work? No one really cares because people use WHS for storage not an application server.

  • You guys need to read all the absolute outrage from customers and partners.

    You have lost a lot of goodwill on this.

  • Meh - drive extender was always a hack.  A rather elegant one in WHS v1 for lightweight duties, but a hack none the less.  Despite the flack they will get for this, I congratulate MS for making the correct, if not extremely tough and obviously unpopular call.

    To get an idea of the enormity of the issues MS was struggling with, one only has to look at the tortured evolution of Drive Extender in Vail - the struggles with checksums and other decisions dedicated to ensure reliable storage.  It was obvious that for every "solution" to previous issues with Drive Extender, more problems (like not being able to mount Home Server drives in another computer and pull files off, or increases in data protection overhead) cropped up.  At what point do you continue to try to hack around current issues in RAID or NTFS, and finally decide it's far better to attack the core problems with those respective technologies?  Obviously someone at MS finally decided to make the tough call - and I think ultimately it will be proven to be the right one.

    RAID arrays with parity does suck - but mainly because the current implementations of parity RAID suck.  Who knows, maybe a large OEM like HP has licensed Drobo's Beyond RAID?  Other than being a little poky at rebuilds, I love my original 4 slot Drobo (Generation 2 with Firewire 800).  Personally, I was (and still am) looking forward to Vail and Aurora (especially Aurora/SBS Essentials) support of iSCSI targets for members to the storage pool.  I was already planning to use a 1U SuperMicro Atom server with mirrored OS drives (hardware level outside of the OS) connected to a Drobo Pro over iSCSI (No need for elite!) for redundant storage for my data.  Yup, it won't be an under $400 setup, but it will scale far more reliably, with a greater amount of useable storage per protected/redundant bit.  A half full Drobo Pro will smoke an HP Media Smart with double the amount of hard drives to provide the same amount of useable storage.  When you start getting into the tens of terabytes, even a Drobo Pro (about $1K with no drives) becomes pretty cost effective pretty quick.  This does leave a gap in the 1-5TB space that the current WHS fills rather nicely - it will be interesting to see what MS has up it's sleeve - WHS's with mirrored 3TB drives?  Two sets of mirrored 3 TB drives (six useable and protected terabytes)?  Heck, for 90% of the people out there, that's more than adequate and I think that's what finally drove MS to realize that the pace of hard drive growth was negating many of the original reasons for drive extender.

    If other manufacturers would clean up their RAID with partiy implementations to allow for non-destructive resizing of the array and remove restrictions on having hard drives of similar sizes, things would get interesting indeed - but with large, single drives, mirroring is pretty cost effective these days for all but the largest data hoarders...

    Who knows, maybe MS signed a cross licensing deal with Oracle for ZFS :)  Stranger things have happen (although ZFS can't non-destructivly resize storage pools either :p )

  • This is a really good announcement if youdo a little research you will be aproductive platform

  • This is a really good announcement if youdo a little research you will be aproductive platform

  • very disappointed

    This was a key feature/seller for me. RAID solutions are so much more costly from a WHS standpoint.. Why not offer the option of enabling such a feature during installation or on only certain drives? Why is this an all or nothing proposition? Seems like a cop-out to me.