Microsoft Makes Progress on Universal Distributed Storage Vision

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 1, 2006 — Responding to the needs of customers grappling with the exponential growth of data, Microsoft is continuing to make progress toward its goal of delivering solutions that reduce the total cost of storage and make the technology more accessible to more customers.

Recent developments include new partner qualifications for the Microsoft Simple SAN (Storage Area Network) program, such as storage arrays from EMC and a complete out-of-the box SAN for small- and medium-size customers from HP. Also, IBM announced a new Windows-based archiving solution to help customers simplify compliance.

The announcements are among the latest developments in Microsoft’s Universal Distributed Storage strategy — a commitment to mainstreaming high-end storage technologies for customers. Microsoft is announcing these developments at the 2006 Storage Networking World conference, a gathering of IT managers, storage architects and infrastructure professionals taking place in Orlando between Oct. 31 – Nov. 3.

For an update on Microsoft’s latest efforts to take the pain out of storage management for customers, and to learn more about Microsoft’s activities at the conference, PressPass spoke with Gabriel Broner, general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Storage Division.

PressPass: What are your responsibilities at Microsoft, and how would you describe Microsoft’s role in the storage industry?

Broner: I lead the group responsible for the development of storage software including file systems, clustering and general storage solutions. I oversee technology strategy and product direction. Working across the company with other product teams and driving partnerships with other vendors are both essential parts of my job, as well.

The Universal Distributed Storage mantra represents Microsoft’s multifaceted efforts in the storage industry. On the one hand, we are a storage product company. Windows Storage Server had over 53 percent unit share of the 2005 worldwide Network Attached Storage (NAS) and unified storage market, excluding consumer one-drive NAS.* More than 100 devices based on Windows Storage Server are available from more than 50 OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners. System Center Data Protection Manager provides enterprises of all sizes with continuous data protection for Microsoft application and file servers.

In addition, because Windows is the number one operating system attached to both internal and external storage, we’re building storage technologies and interfaces into Windows and working across the industry to make high-end storage functionality more accessible and affordable. Essentially, we want to make enterprise storage capabilities available to companies of all sizes on industry standard hardware from our partner ecosystem. That’s the core of Universal Distributed Storage.

Organizations of all sizes continue to struggle with managing and protecting overwhelming amounts of data, and it’s only getting harder. Total cost of ownership of storage networking technologies is still too high and they require too much storage expertise to deploy and manage correctly. For example, just one third of medium businesses and 45 percent of large organizations currently use advanced storage technologies, according to research firm IDC.**

PressPass: What’s new in the world of Microsoft storage and what’s happening at Storage Networking World?

Broner: We continue to work across multiple fronts under the umbrella of our Universal Distributed Storage vision. There have been a number of recent new developments, including the following:

  • Microsoft recently announced the public beta of System Center Data Protection Manager version 2, which combines the best aspects of continuous data protection and traditional tape backup to protect Exchange Server, SQL Server, SharePoint and Windows file servers.

  • HP’s new StorageWorks All-in-One storage systems — the first Windows-based unified storage solution combining Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 and our iSCSI Software Target Application Pack — provide a point-and-click networked storage solution for small and medium businesses with little or no storage experience.

  • Dell recently launched its new line of PowerEdge 2950, 2900 and 840 Storage Servers with Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, which provide customers with highly reliable NAS solutions.

  • HP, Emulex and Brocade this week are announcing the HP StorageWorks EVA4000 SAN Starter Kit — a complete out-of-the box SAN solution for small- and medium-size customers, qualified for the Microsoft Simple SAN program.

  • Designed for small and medium businesses, the EMC CLARiiON AX150 (Fibre Channel) networked storage array has also qualified for the Microsoft Simple SAN program, making their products easier to deploy in Windows environments.

  • IBM announced a new data archiving solution built on Windows Server and IBM hardware, software and partner services to help customers simplify compliance.

  • At Storage Networking World, Microsoft, HP, Sun and Symantec will demonstrate the integration of the WS-Management protocol with the Storage Management Interface Specification (SMI-S) standard, providing a preview of how Windows can better manage and be managed for storage.

PressPass: What is the Microsoft Simple SAN program?

Broner: Simple SAN is a Microsoft partner program that helps ensure that SAN solutions for the Windows platform are easy to deploy, robust, serviceable and, in particular, meet small and medium customer needs for ease of deployment and use. As I said before, SANs have traditionally required an advanced level of storage expertise, making them expensive to run. By helping drive partnerships among SAN vendors and providing a “Simple SAN for Windows” qualification that guides the development of simpler SAN solutions, we’re helping our joint customers more easily benefit from SAN technology. Simple SAN requires partner interoperability with storage capabilities on the Windows platform, simplifies hardware set up for customers, and makes it easier for customers to make informed buying decisions.

To date, over 25 partners have achieved Simple SAN designation, including dozens of component solutions, and partner interest continues to grow. HP’s StorageWorks EVA4000 SAN Starter Kit is the fifth product so far to be qualified by Microsoft as a complete Simple SAN solution. It delivers a cost-effective, easy-to-use SAN for small- and medium-size businesses with all of the rich feature set of an advanced storage product. Using Emulex and Brocade Simple SAN components, it provides end-to-end SAN management, a flexible environment for future growth, and a centralized interface for provisioning on Windows Server 2003 hosts. In addition, EMC’s CLARiiON AX150 (Fibre Channel) storage arrays for small and medium businesses have achieved Simple SAN qualification, making their products easier to deploy in Windows environments.

PressPass: You mentioned a new data archiving solution. How are you working with IBM to deliver that?

Broner: Microsoft and IBM have both heard loud and clear customer demand for a Windows-based archiving solution for unstructured data to help simplify compliance, corporate governance and legal discovery. Windows customers are looking for an archiving solution that doesn’t require an additional operating system and offers the same use and management experience as their other systems. As a result, we worked with IBM to help them create a version of their archiving solution built on Windows Server 2003 R2 and IBM hardware and software.

This new solution will be available early next year and will help customers more easily manage growing data stores, optimize storage resource usage, and reduce backup and restore time. It will be delivered as a complete pre-loaded system.

PressPass: What does the work you’re doing with WS-Management and the SMI-S standard mean for customers?

Broner: WS-Management is a Web Services protocol and a Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) standard co-authored by Microsoft, AMD, Dell, Intel, Sun and others. It provides a common way for systems to access and exchange management information and is already built into Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Vista, making them more manageable. SMI-S is a widely adopted storage standard developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), aimed at enabling management of heterogeneous storage systems.

At Storage Networking World, Microsoft, HP, Sun and Symantec are demonstrating how WS-Management will enable Windows storage management applications to access and manage the many storage systems where SMI-S solutions have been deployed, without requiring vendors to develop unique management providers for Windows. In other words, WS-Management will empower Windows to participate in standards-based unified server and storage management, which certainly supports the vision of Universal Distributed Storage of more simplicity for customers.

Microsoft intends to get even more involved with SNIA moving forward. Members of my team serve on the SNIA Board of Directors and chair the SNIA Education Committee. We have long been involved with organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), and we were active in the Internet Engineering Task Force group that standardized iSCSI.  More recently, we’ve gotten involved in the work that SNIA is doing to develop the eXtensible Access Method (XAM) standard for archival storage of immutable, or “fixed content” data. 

PressPass: What’s next for Microsoft in the storage world?

Broner: We are going to continue building on the UDS vision and meet customer demand for high-end storage capabilities delivered on more cost-effective industry standard hardware. Our work with the partner ecosystem through programs like Simple SAN is essential for this.

We’ll continue to innovate on the Windows Storage Server platform and our iSCSI technology for NAS and unified storage, as well as new continuous data protection functionality in Data Protection Manager. Customers can expect new storage capabilities in Windows Server “Longhorn,” too, such as improvements with the SMB 2.0 file sharing protocol and better support for branch offices. And Windows Vista will bring a range of storage features to the desktop, such as improved snapshot features and better backup and recovery.

Overall, we want to ensure that Windows manages distributed data storage more cost-effectively than any other platform, whether the data is on a server or remote worker’s desktop, centralized or spread across branch offices, on SANs or NAS. You can expect to hear more storage news from Microsoft and our partners in the coming months and beyond.

*Gartner. “Market Share: NAS/Unified Storage, Worldwide, 2000-2005.”

**IDC, U.S. SMB Storage 2006: The Move to More Advanced Storage Features, Doc #34894, Mar 2006