Storage Spaces and Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Storage Spaces and Windows Server 2012 Essentials

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Hi this is Yang Cao again, program manager on the Windows Server 2012 Essentials team. Today’s topic is about one of my favorite features in Windows Server 2012, Storage Spaces. If you Bing “Storage Spaces + Windows Server 2012” you’ll get over 400 million results (you’ll get even more results if you Bing “Storage Spaces + Windows 8” because this feature is available in both server and client). So in today’s post, I’ll try not to duplicate the other 400 million pages. I won’t repeat the definition of Storage Spaces, storage pools, thin provisioning, or resiliency. I won’t even insert the many screen shots of how to create a storage space. You can find all this information in this fabulous blog post in the Building Windows 8 blog: Virtualizing storage for scale, resiliency, and efficiency.

Instead, I will talk about why small business users would love Storage Spaces, and how Windows Server 2012 Essentials makes Storage Spaces creation and management simpler.

Why would small business users love Storage Spaces?

When you are starting or running a small business, one question you might ask yourself is, how do I store data in a flexible, reliable, and affordable way? Maybe you just went through the pain of replacing a smaller disk with a larger one (not flexible enough). Maybe you are a little concerned with the critical data stored on an old disk (not reliable enough). Maybe you are looking at different solutions that might offer similar benefits, but would eat up your next year’s IT budget (not affordable enough)…

Why small business users would love Storage Spaces:

  1. It is flexible. You can add disks of any kind or size into a storage pool, and then create one large virtual disk. Later on when your business and data grows, you can add more disks to seamlessly expand the storage capacity.

  2. It is reliable. You can select the desired level of resiliency when creating your virtual disk, such as mirroring. For example, with at least two copies of the data being available on at least two different physical disks, you gain business continuity even if one of the physical disks fails.

  3. It is affordable. No need to pay for another storage solution, no need to purchase special hardware controllers, enclosures, or drives, and no need to retire and abandon old drives.

Working with Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Storage Spaces meets small business users’ requirements for storage, so then the next question is, how can small business users make Storage Spaces “just work”? The Windows Server 2012 Essentials Dashboard is a portal designed for small business administrators to perform daily management tasks. We integrated some common Storage Spaces tasks into the Dashboard so that administrators can continue using the same portal to configure, use, and manage Storage Spaces.

Configure

To make Storage Spaces easier to configure, Windows Server 2012 Essentials integrates the Storage Spaces control panel UI into the system, and provides an entry point from within the Dashboard (Storage -> Hard Drives -> Advanced: Manage Storage Spaces). Compared to Server Manager, the control panel UI simplifies the settings while still providing the most important configuration options, such as Name, Resiliency Type, and Size.

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Use

After a storage space is created, working with it in the Dashboard is very similar to other hard drives. You can create a server folder on a storage space, move a server folder to a storage space, or view the properties of a storage space. When you select a storage space, you can see more information about the resiliency type and the underlying storage pool in the Details Pane.

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Manage

You can use a storage space as if it were a normal hard drive, and any warnings or errors will be displayed in the Alert Viewer in the Dashboard. Most commonly, you’ll see a low storage pool capacity alert. This alert appears when the underlying physical disk’s free capacity is running low. To solve this, you could either delete files to free up more space on the disk, or you could add a new disk to expand the storage pool. The UI from the Alert Viewer guides you through the task of adding a disk to the storage pool.

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That’s it!

This is a short introduction because this feature is easy to configure, use, and manage. I hope you like this feature and the integration work we did in Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Your feedback is important to us. Please report any issues or suggestions on the forum.
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Comments
  • Storage spaces is a very powerful advantage of Windows Server 2012 - love it!

  • I have been unable to get any SAS JBOD drives to go to sleep, any advice?

  • Is it supported to have the client backup database in a storage space? There doesn't appear to be any answer in all of your 400 million hits.

  • @CWH - yes, thats possible.

  • I just set up an eval WS2010 Essentials as a possible replacement for WHS 2011 with DriveBender (which in turn is a replacement for WHS v1 DE).

    I'm actually a bit shocked that the Windows storage team could make such design blunders. Without the flexibility of balancing, removing drives, and efficiently handling drives of different size, there is little or no point with Storage Spaces. Dynamic disc volume spanning is actually pretty close in functionality.

    The whole point with storage pool is to mix disks in a cost-effective way. If I didn't have a budget constraint I could just build a high end hardware RAID array.

    In direct response to your article - no it isn't flexible. It's basically at the same level as spanned volumes. Affordable implies efficient use of resources. Without being able to use 100% of the storage capacity of each disk, that's a stretch.

    You guys need to:

    • Accept that there is a design problem;

    • Publicly admit that the current design has shortcomings, to set expectations among the community;

    • Go back to the drawing board and redesign;

    • Make a new release of Storage Spaces ASAP, that eliminates the shortcomings of the current one.

    For a feature spec, just look at Drive Bender. Storage Spaces could have been such a beautiful piece of engineering - I hope you guys realize that it's not too late to do it right.

  • Lars V.

    You must not be talking about the same product if you setup WS2010 Essentials because the product is Windows Server 2012 Essentials not 2010.

    In addition you obviously don't understand how Storage Spaces works.  The physical disks are allocated so that you can use all of the storage on all drives.

    If you are doing mirroring, for example, as long as there is space available on two drives, the mirror will continue to work.  Until you get to the point where all drives are filled except one in the storage pool, then you will stop mirroring.