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Microsoft Widens Storage Window

Microsoft has released Windows Server 2003 R2, a version of its server operating system that includes lots of new functionality, including branch-office management, identity and access management, Web services capabilities, and virtualization.

But its the new Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 (WSS 2003 R2) module that will likely interest storage professionals most. This add-on should help customers understand storage utilization, monitor disk space usage, and restrict certain file types. The package is also supposed to help with configuration and provisioning iSCSI and Fibre Channel SANs; and it boasts single-instance storage, full-text search, and built-in document collaboration with Windows SharePoint Services.

"Microsoft is taking responsibility for building these [storage management] features into the operating system," says Jeff Cohen, CIO for Destiny USA, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based real estate developer. Even though storage vendors integrate functions like backup into their hardware and software, he says, it's sometimes "dicey" to get everything working together. "With Microsoft reaching out to the SAN and NAS, we get the seamless integration we've been looking for forever."

Overall, this is a big announcement for Microsoft, and one that's geared to solidifying the vendor's position in the data center. In this vein, virtualization is also included: Customers that license a version of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition can also license Virtual Server 2005 R2 Enterprise Edition for $99, at least until June 2006, Microsoft says. Microsoft claims this add-on will allow customers to run up to four virtual instances on one physical server at no additional cost.

Tuesday marked WSS 2003 R2’s release to manufacturing, which effectively puts it in the hands of OEM customers, which are expected to roll it out in the first half of 2006. Microsoft has also lined up a bevy of storage vendors that will deliver NAS products with WSS 2003 R2 by June 2006, including Dell, HP, Iomega, LeftHand Networks, and Tacit Networks.

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