Microsoft to move beyond NAS

By Lisa Coleman

Currently focused on Windows-powered network-attached storage (NAS) software, Microsoft's new Enterprise Storage Division plans to introduce more storage products. In addition to expanding its NAS-related software family, Microsoft is investigating technologies such as disk-to-disk backup and storage area networks (SANs), according to Zane Adam, group product manager in the Enterprise Storage Division.

Launched at the beginning of this year, the Enterprise Storage Division plans to improve its applications and operating systems for third-party storage applications as well as work more closely with its storage partners.

Part of Microsoft's vision for its storage division is to address end users' "pain points," which the company has defined as:

  • The high cost of storage products and storage management;
  • Customized platforms that increase storage costs;
  • Limited interoperability;
  • Lack of tools to seamlessly manage storage;
  • Proliferation of storage "islands;" and
  • The need for applications that "self-tune" for specific storage devices.

Adam says that Microsoft will work with its partners to address these pain points and develop more "intelligent and self-tuning" applications. Microsoft's latest storage investments include the Virtual Disk Service (VDS) and Virtual Shadow Copy Service (VSS), which are part of the forthcoming Windows.NET server.

VDS provides a standard set of APIs that third parties can use to build automated disk and storage management services into their software applications and subsystems (i.e., users will be able to do LUN masking and management directly from the operating system).

VSS, which provides snapshot capability, offers a standard way for Windows applications to interact with point-in-time copy capabilities from third-party vendors.

These capabilities will become part of Microsoft's Windows-powered NAS software after .NET server is released. Windows.NET server is a part of Microsoft.NET that enables software integration through the use of XML Web services. Windows.NET will have several SAN-specific features such as the ability to boot from a SAN.

While Microsoft's Server Appliance Kit (SAK) remains in the company's Embedded Appliance Division, its NAS capability has been moved into the Enterprise Storage Division.

Adam also says the storage division is investigating disk-to-disk backup. "We see disk-to-disk backup as a future where there will be distributed backup and there will still be tape backup."

On the SAN front, Microsoft is currently limited to working with its partners that are developing Windows-based NAS heads that attach to back-end SAN arrays, such as Compaq's E7000, IBM's 300G gateway, and Dell's recently announced PowerVault 750N and 755N NAS servers that can attach to Dell/EMC SAN arrays.

Microsoft is also eyeing iSCSI and has developed iSCSI drivers based on a pre-standard specification, but won't provide device certification until the standard is approved, according to Adam.

Mountain View Data offers SAK alternative

By Lisa Coleman

Mountain View Data (MVD) recently released the latest edition of its software kit that allows OEMs to turn Intel-based servers into network-attached storage (NAS) devices that offer high-end features at lower costs than traditional NAS, according to MVD officials. The software

is being touted as an alternative to Microsoft's Server Appliance Kit (SAK), which also enables OEMs to turn servers into NAS devices.

MVD-Powered NAS 1.5 supports Windows, Unix, Linux, and Macintosh clients. The software includes a journaling file system, a Web-based GUI, online re-sizing, and snapshot capabilities.

MVD is trying to make inroads into the NAS market where Windows-based NAS devices gained traction last year by claiming a 25% piece of the total market (in terms of units shipped).

"Our strengths lie in our interoperability with NFS and Unix, and we provide higher-end features than Microsoft's SAK," claims Cliff Miller, MVD president. "Features like built-in fail-over and synchronization should give us a leg up over the low-end solutions," he adds.

Windows-based NAS does provide synchronization through NSI Software, a Microsoft partner. Microsoft is also providing snapshot technology, load balancing, and clustering for Windows-based NAS devices.

MVD has a marketing agreement with IBM, which certified MVD's software on the xSeries servers earlier this year. MVD is also negotiating with other OEMs. Later this year, MVD will introduce the 2.0 version of its NAS software, as well as a synchronization module for real-time replication in LAN, MAN, or WAN environments.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2002