Microsoft outlines future storage plans

By Kevin Komiega

September 29, 2005—Microsoft officially made its System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) software available to the general public this week in an anti-climactic product launch announced at the Storage Decisions Conference in New York. However, well aware that the details of DPM have been widely known for some time, Microsoft used its presence at the conference to hint at its storage product plans through 2007, including a new beta release of the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system and a line of appliances aimed at remote offices.

The release of DPM is just the first step toward the realization of Microsoft's Universal Distributed Storage strategy, a new campaign aimed at delivering distributed storage software and hardware appliances based on industry standard components.

To that end, Microsoft announced the beta release of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, the next incarnation of the company's storage operating system. Storage Server 2003 R2 features integrated collaboration tools based on Microsoft SharePoint, an index search, and performance tuning capabilities. The software is scheduled for general availability by year-end.

The R2 release will also include new features in name-space virtualization and replication for remote office deployments.

Microsoft is generally on a two-year release cycle with its storage products. Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 is considered a minor release, with the next major release to follow in 2007 as part of the Longhorn operating system launch.

Microsoft promises to add features such as client-side caching in Windows Vista, self-healing, and a transaction file system in Longhorn Server.

From NAS to SANs
Bolstered by its success in the NAS market with Windows Storage Server 2003, Microsoft's plans for the future now include a big push into mid-market SANs.

"Mid-market administrators tend not to be as storage savvy as their enterprise [counterparts]. They are typically more trained in Windows," explains Radhesh Balakrishnan, group product manager for Microsoft's Windows Server Division. "That's why we want to make it an absolutely brain-dead task to set up a SAN."

Balakrishnan says Microsoft will soon be making announcements related to its Simple SAN for Windows Server Program, which was launched last summer. Simple SAN is a partner program that outlines a framework for SAN configurations based on the Windows platform. Look for Microsoft to make noise around the Simple SAN initiative next month at the Storage Networking World conference (October 24 to 27 in Orlando, FL).

Branch office support
Microsoft also intends to deliver some type of branch office storage appliance and software—the details are still unclear—with partners Brocade, Network Engines, and Tacit Networks. This effort is said to include simplified remote server management and a rewritten application engine for DFS to make use of a Microsoft replication technology.

Beyond DPM
Microsoft's DPM announcement came with its usual laundry list of partners in tow, some of which announced support for DPM while others announced integrated products. Microsoft's storage partners include vendors such as CommVault Systems, Computer Associates, Dell, EqualLogic, Fujitsu Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Quantum, and Yosemite Technologies.

Fujitsu Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, and Quantum each launched hardware appliances based on DPM and designed to protect Windows file servers. CommVault, Computer Associates, and Yosemite are examples of partners that are developing applications that allow DPM servers and appliances to back up to tape for archival purposes.

This article was originally published on September 28, 2005