Dell, Microsoft launch ‘unified storage’ array

By Kevin Komiega

Dell and Microsoft have joined forces to debut the first integrated hardware and software system based on Microsoft’s Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003, the latest addition to Microsoft’s family of storage-specific operating systems.

The resulting product is the Dell PowerVault NX1950, which is a hybrid, or unified storage, system that supports both file- and block-level I/O. Prices start at less than $20,000.

Gabriel Broner, general manager of storage at Microsoft, says Windows Unified Data Storage Server is the next step in the evolution of the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system.

“This is a new member of the Storage Server family that offers both file- and block-level capabilities over iSCSI. We’re bringing enterprise-class software features to users of standard hardware and software,” says Broner.

The PowerVault NX1950 with Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003 does pack a lot of storage management software and capacity into a small price point. The system can be used to store files and blocks of application data, operates in CIFS and NFS environments, and features a redundant architecture, multi-node cluster configurations, file- and block-level snapshots, and local and remote replication.

Users can also take advantage of some of the management options found in Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, including single-instance storage, full-indexed text search, distributed file services, and management of user quotas, file screening, and storage reports.

Windows Unified Data Storage Server has advantages over the existing Windows Storage Server platform, not the least of which is the management of both block and file data under a single management umbrella, according to Brad Nisbet, program manager for storage systems at International Data Corp.

“I think the biggest advancement is the improved and unified management for both file and block data sets,” says Nisbet. “It’s much easier now for an administrator to manage both block and file data with Windows Unified Data Storage Server. Microsoft has also improved iSCSI and, more sorely needed, NFS performance.”

The PowerVault NX1950 is available in single- or dual-node cluster configurations with a redundant back-end storage array that scales up to 45 drives. The disk array is based on Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drives.

The entry-level model is priced from about $17,000, while configurations with 4.5TB of capacity start at less than $24,000. Integrated solutions with clustering and drive expansion, along with SAN gateway capabilities, will be available in the first half of this year.

Launching a new storage operating system is old hat for Microsoft, but debuting Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003 with just one hardware partner is unusual for Microsoft. However, other partners will follow.

“We worked very closely with Dell on defining the hardware specifications for this platform. But Windows Unified Data Storage Server will definitely be available to other Microsoft partners going forward,” says Broner.

Dell is not just targeting small businesses with the NX1950. Praveen Asthana, Dell’s director of enterprise storage, says application and availability requirements will define potential customers.

“The NX1950 with Windows Unified Data Storage Server is designed for customers with both block and file storage needs who are looking for a solution with more high-availability features than those offered by typical entry-level products,” says Asthana.


Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003

  • Integrated iSCSI target software with built-in VDS and MPIO
  • Automatic cluster set-up wizard
  • Unified share and volume management tool (all creation and management of either shares-NFS and CIFS-or iSCSI volumes can be done from the same “pane of glass”)
  • Integrated provisioning capabilities from the same management console
  • Same actions to create SMB or NFS shares
  • Ability to add attributes (quota, host permissions, RAID levels, etc.) to the shares/volumes at the creation level
  • Remote management through an RDP client from a remote Windows or non-Windows system (using a Java applet)

    This article was originally published on January 01, 2007