By Dave Simpson
Microsoft recently released to its OEMs a feature pack for Windows Storage Server 2003 that will enable companies to use Windows-based network-attached storage (NAS) filers in Exchange Server environments. OEMs are expected to ship NAS devices with the feature pack within the next month.
Previously, Microsoft had recommended direct-attached storage (DAS) or storage area networks (SANs) for Exchange environments.
Marcus Schmidt, a senior product manager in Microsoft's storage division, says that the general rule of thumb now is, "If you have 1,500 or fewer Exchange mailboxes, then NAS is ok, but above 1,500 mailboxes we recommend a SAN."
The feature pack allows users to store Exchange database and log file data on NAS appliances running Windows Storage Server 2003.
On the SAN front, Microsoft released a number of tools for Windows Server 2003 designed to simplify management of Fibre Channel storage networks. For example, the Fibre Channel Information Tool is a SAN discovery and reporting tool that dynamically gathers SAN component information, providing administrators with configuration data to troubleshoot problems and "reduce or eliminate finger-pointing between users and vendors and between vendors," says Claude Lorenson, technical product manager in Microsoft's storage division. The tool gathers information about components such as drivers, firmware revisions, port names, and statistics.
Fibre Channel Information Tool is available for free download at www.microsoft.com/downloads/. At last month's Storage Networking World (SNW) conference, vendors such as Emulex, LSI Logic, and QLogic demonstrated the tool with their SAN components.
Microsoft also added event-tracing support to Windows Server 2003, which enables administrators to consolidate various tracing and logging mechanisms used by storage drivers on Fibre Channel SANs. The Storage Event Tracing Tool will be available as part of Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003. Vendors such as Adaptec, Emulex, Intel, LSI Logic, and QLogic recently announced support for the event-tracing feature in their drivers.
Also at SNW, Microsoft announced a number of features for iSCSI-based SANs. For example, the company's iSCSI architecture is now supported in Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition. In addition, Microsoft announced native iSCSI support in Multi-path I/O (MPIO), a fail-over and load-balancing feature in Windows Server 2003. Native MPIO support will be included in Microsoft's iSCSI Software Initiator version 2.0, which is expected to ship by year-end.