Windows 2000 improves storage management

By Zachary Shess

While the merits and flaws of the Windows NT operating system will continue to be debated, few can dispute its impact on the storage industry. The amount of data stored on Windows NT systems is forecasted to exceed 260 petabytes worldwide by 2002, according to Strategic Research Corp. The arrival this month of its successor, Windows 2000, is the first significant storage milestone this decade.

Formerly named Windows NT 5.0, Windows 2000 arrives three years late to a world bursting with data growth, with many business-critical operations having migrated to distributed environments. With new storage subsystem management tools and enhancements, Microsoft officials say Windows 2000 will help manage the exponential data growth caused in large part by the proliferation of Web-based applications.

Implementing backup strategies without impacting normal business operations is arguably one of an administrator's biggest headaches. Within Windows 2000, Microsoft, with code collaboration from ISVs such as HighGround Systems and Veritas Software, added three crucial services to help relieve the pain: Remote Storage Service (RSS), Removable Storage Man-agement (RSM), and Windows 2000 Server Backup.

Remote Storage Service is a two-tiered hierarchical storage management (HSM) service that automatically monitors the amount of disk space that users have available on their local hard drives. Once criteria are established, data can be automatically moved from local files out to remote optical or tape libraries.

To end users, the main benefit of RSS is lower overall cost of ownership. Higher-priced hard-disk space does not have to be purchased as often because data is migrated to less expensive tape or optical devices. The remotely stored data resides in a location transparent to users. If file access is required, it's still viewed in local folders and can be accessed whether out on a tape drive or a server.

Microsoft officials acknowledge the two-tiered RSS is best suited for workgroup and departmental environments. "This is an entry-level HSM system," says Mark Hassall, Windows 2000 product manager at Microsoft. "I wouldn't classify it as an enterprise storage management tool."

Through a set of APIs, the RSM component manages and provides access to removable storage media in libraries and jukeboxes. Unlike with NT 4.0, RSM allows multiple applications to share a storage device. This eliminates the need for ISVs such as RSM collaborator HighGround Systems to have to support numerous media devices on a per-device basis.

RSM's inclusion in Windows 2000 means that administrators will for the first time be able to share libraries and not have devices captive to a single application, according to Tom Rose, HighGround's vice president of advanced marketing. With a single console capable of viewing all the removable media cataloged by the RSM API, administrators can expect easier storage management.

Rose says RSM will also enable tape and optical library manufacturers to deploy storage devices faster. "All they have to do is write one driver that hooks into Windows 2000 and it gets automatically supported by any other application that's using RSM," he explains.

Integrated in the operating system core services is the Server Backup utility. Licensed from Conner Software, the utility enables backup data to be sent to libraries using RSM or any other backup device.

"With NT, you could only backup to tape, but with this tool in Windows 2000, an administrator can back up to a wide variety of storage media," says Microsoft's Hassall.

The backup tool also supports Windows 2000 features such as Active Directory, sparse files, and encrypted files. To ensure security, encrypted files are stored on the backup media in the encrypted format. The operating system also enables encryption keys to be backed up separately.

Windows 2000: Better late than never?

INFOSTOR this month begins a series of articles breaking down the storage management features and improvements in Windows 2000, and how they will help administrators, resellers, and OEMs improve the reliability, manageability, and performance of the storage configurations they monitor. Next month: Windows 2000 file-system enhancements.

This article was originally published on February 02, 2000