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Windows Soaks Up Storage

Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 offers a raft of new storage features, with iSCSI on the way

As Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) launched its Windows Server 2003 in San Francisco today, storage vendors were virtually tripping over each other to voice their support of the new platform (see Microsoft Ships Windows Server 2003, Vendors Back Windows 2003, Veritas Down With Win 2003, and CommVault Supports Windows 2003).

Most of the buzz around the new Windows platform has had to do with added security features, but Microsoft has added a number of new storage features to it as well. The key storage features in Windows Server 2003 are:

  • Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), which provides the ability to make point-in-time copies of single or multiple volumes. You can, for instance, set this feature so it takes a snapshot of all changed data every hour -- or every 15 minutes. "This helps you make certain that your data is always available... even when you make a mistake," says Zane Adam, director of product management and marketing in Microsofts Enterprise Storage Group.

  • The Virtual Disk Service (VDS) enables multivendor storage devices to interoperate in Windows, providing APIs to storage hardware and to management programs that manage the storage hardware.
  • iSCSI support: The company will be offering a free Web download of this feature in June, according to Adam. He says that more than 60 hardware and software vendors are beta-testing the feature (see Microsoft to Unleash iSCSI).
  • Additional native support for SANs, including improved host bus adapter (HBA) interoperability and flexible volume mounting.
  • Data protection features such as an encrypted file system and Automated System Recovery (ASR).
  • Multipath I/O (MPIO), which allows storage vendors to create interoperable multipathing solutions in both Windows 2000 and 2003.

While more traditional storage software vendors were busy emphasizing how well their products support the new platform today, some industry observers say they must be quietly trembling at how close the Microsoft monster is getting to their turf.

"If I was in their shoes, I would definitely keep an eye on it," says Ron Lovell, an analyst with Greenwich Technology Partners. "The greatest threat is to folks that do file system management and volume management, like Veritas Software Corp."

While Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc., agrees that Microsoft’s emphasis on storage management could indicate that it is contemplating products that would compete with the likes of Veritas down the road, he says that for the time being, the storage giant has little to fear. “This is just an OS,” he says.

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