Posted by: Charles Maitland | Tuesday 23 November, 2010

Windows Home Server may just have shot itself, terminally

It was just announced on the Windows Home Server Blog that the next version of this software will not include the technology called “Drive Extender”. This was the key and unique feature of Windows Home Server that allowed users to add hard discs to their server, either internally or via USB.

The beauty of this solution was that users can add any drive and Windows would add it to the array of drives and use it to ensure that data was spread across as may physical drives as practicable.

This meant that you could have a 500Gb internal drive and, as I have, 2 external drives of 250Gb and the data storage and replication would just work.

So this new announcement means that all that technology is being ditched and Microsoft are going back to RAID technology.

Now the key thing about RAID in this type of environment is that it is NOT a consumer friendly environment. In fact the Windows Home Server Team went out of their way to say so here http://blogs.technet.com/b/homeserver/archive/2008/08/11/why-raid-is-not-a-consumer-technology.aspx

So let me dissect what I think this announcement says. NB Emphasis and comments are mine and mine alone:

When we first started designing Windows Home Sever code name “Vail” one of our initial focuses was to continue 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 and households may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume.

In other words any old drive from any old supplier would work to extend the capability of the server.

During our current testing period for our Windows Home Server code name “Vail” product, 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.

Again from any old supplier with no margin to the WHS supplier.

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. 

And this is relevant how?

Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutons from OEM’s will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality.

Ah – So now we start to get to the hub of the matter. OEM’s can supply the drives.

When weighing up the future direction storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs.

Strange- every comment and review I have ever read says it is exactly meeting users needs.

Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” (and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials) 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 solutions, as well as other software solutions.

And here we have the final confession. This is designed to meet the needs of the OEM’s. Now they can ship their WHS boxes as well as their after market “approved” solutions. Now can you guess where the margin is?

This will provide customers greater choice

So greater choice is now the OEM way as opposed to the old way where I could choose what  disc. Sorry what is your definition of choice?

as well as a seamless experience that will meet their storage needs.

As in the seamless way that Disc Extender offered?

Customers will also have access to the in-built storage solutions Windows Server 2008 R2 provides for data protection.

As we always had, but now we have to use the “approved approach”

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.

Target product availability is still H1 2011, and we expect to deliver a new beta without drive extender for Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” early in the New Year.

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