Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 Arrives

The software maker rolls out two versions of its latest NAS storage operating system with supporting products from leading storage hardware makers, including HP, Dell and Veritas.
Posted September 10, 2003

Clint Boulton

Microsoft Wednesday rolled out its highly-anticipated storage server to a raft of products from vendors seeking to offer their customers network-attached storage devices with software from the leading operating system maker.

Windows Storage Server 2003 is now generally available from Dell, EMC, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, INLINE, Iomega, MaXXan Systems and NEC Corp. The Redmond, Wash. software giant made the roll-out an event at the Storage Decisions 2003 conference in Chicago.

The product, formerly known as Windows Powered Network Attached Storage (NAS), is available in two editions. The Enterprise Edition is a file storage server geared for enterprise data centers. The Standard Edition is a dedicated file and print server targeted for enterprise departments, branch offices and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The attraction of this product, vendors say, is that it integrates fairly seamlessly with their existing hardware, provides high data availability and is priced at a low cost per gigabyte, all of which lowers total cost of ownership (TCO) in a cost-cutting-intensive industry.

Because hardware vendors need to factor in software costs when they fix a price point for their machines, the low cost per gigabyte presents an attractive value proposition for them. This is a major reason why Microsoft leads the Windows-based NAS storage market with a 41 percent market share, according to IDC.

Vendors such as Network Appliance and EMC rule the high-end NAS roost, but Microsoft is seeking to chip away at those fortresses, said Charles Stevens, corporate vice president of the Enterprise Storage Division.

Stevens said the server, which ranges from 160 GB to more than 40 TB of storage capacity, also boasts key features. The product employs Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS), which provides "shadow," or point-in-time, copies of a single volume or multiple volumes, and Distributed File System (DFS), eight-node server clustering and multipath input/output (MPIO) technology. Windows Storage Server 2003 will also support iSCSI .

While Microsoft is basking in the glow of its newly public product, Stevens told the division will be considering how to branch out to address data lifecycle management, as well as back-up and disaster recovery solutions in the future.

To accompany the release, a few vendors have unveiled new solutions using the storage OS. Long-time Microsoft partner HP is one of those. Palo Alto, Calif.'s, HP unveiled the unveiled HP StorageWorks NAS 2000s, which is designed for customers with storage and server consolidation needs at the departmental or remote office level.

The 2U machine is rack mountable and modular, and is built with HP ProLiant software and StorageWorks technologies that enable it to scale to 24 terabytes of storage in a stand-alone configuration.

Charles Vallhonrat, product marketing manager of NAS for HP Network Storage Solutions, said Microsoft was the logical choice for HP to turn to for such NAS software.

"[Windows Storage Server 2003] has some of the basic core things that should be in an OS," Vallhonrat told in a recent interview. "By including virtual Shadow copy and snap-shotting and building it into the OS, it can be used in back-end storage devices. This greatly improves the flexibility of what we can offer down the road. It makes sense because it's standard and integrates into ProLiant."

Dell, too, has leapt into the new storage OS frenzy. The Round Rock, Texas company will offer Windows Storage Server 2003 on its PowerVault 770N and 775N systems for SMBs and departments or workgroups within larger organizations. These products also support 2.4 and 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors with 533MHz front side bus technology.

Meanwhile, Veritas will look to ramp up its utility computing efforts with the Veritas Storage Replicator for Windows Storage Server 2003, which lets customers replicate Windows-based data from remote sites to a central location without the need for remote hardware. It also allows data to be continuously available online without disrupting normal server operations.

Mountain View, Calif.'s, Veritas has a product roadmap to support Windows Storage Server 2003 for future products as well, in part because more than 100 customers have signed up to test Veritas products bundled with Windows Server 2003.

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