Windows Server 2003 Ready for Rapidly Growing Enterprise Storage Requirements

REDMOND, Wash., April 21, 2003 — In today’s unpredictable business environment, IT organizations are faced with a difficult challenge: Their budgets are either shrinking, or, at best, growing at a modest pace, while user demands on their services and infrastructure are skyrocketing.

One of the big-ticket items is storage. According to a recent Merrill Lynch survey of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in the United States and European Union, storage is their No. 1 spending priority. CIO Magazine reports that 22 percent of IT budgets are allocated to storage.

New, Creative Solutions

“In a way, these tight budgets have been a good thing,”
says Zane Adam, Director of Product Management and Marketing for Microsoft’s Enterprise Storage Division.

The software companies, storage vendors and standards bodies have had to be very creative in coming up with new solutions that increase functionality while boosting return on investment (ROI) and lowering total cost of ownership (TCO).

“At Microsoft, we have risen to the challenge by introducing a set of significant new and enhanced storage management features in Windows Server 2003,”
he continues.
“These features make it easier for database, storage and network administrators to maintain and manage disks and volumes, backup and restore data, and connect to Storage Area Networks (SANs). And we’re not just talking about the large enterprises–small to medium sized businesses are facing the same storage problems and can benefit from these solutions as well.”

Adam notes that a vast majority of today’s storage is directly attached to servers and hard drives.

“DAS (Directly Attached Storage) is the traditional approach, and it’s actually the most expensive,”
he says.
“That’s why there is such a growing interest in networked storage technology, such as NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN. Networked storage technology is not only less expensive, but it also allows you to centralize your storage management, get far better storage utilization, increase data availability, and scale with minimal disruption. That’s why we’ve gone out of our way to make sure that Windows Server 2003 is a great storage platform.”

According to a recent Gartner Group survey, SANs are here to stay. Increasing numbers of companies are deciding to dedicate a majority of their disk capacity to this architecture. More than 90 percent of the companies in the Gartner survey plan to install a SAN by the end of 2003.

“IT is attempting to cope with the complexities of these new storage technologies and, at the same time, is being asked to make better use of existing storage,”
Adam says.
“That’s why storage resource management (SRM) has become increasingly important. The new and enhanced storage management features in Window Server 2003 directly address these challenges while helping to reduce TCO and boost ROI.”

The Windows platform allows administrators to manage storage involving multi-vendor hardware, software and applications. It also enhances availability through high-availability (HA) solutions, such as multi-pathing, clustering, and data backup and recovery services.

New Storage Management Features and Improvements

Windows Server 2003 provides an extensive set of integrated features that reduce costs, improve storage management and increase availability–everything from a sophisticated multi-vendor storage management capability to useful tweaks, such as a souped up Check Disk Command (CHKDSK.exe), which checks Windows volumes for errors, and an improved DISKPART.exe utility, which expands disks as more space is needed.

Some of the key storage innovations in Windows Server 2003 include:

Virtual Disk Service (VDS) — “VDS deals directly with issues around managing multi-vendor storage devices and multiple storage technologies, such DAS, NAS and SANs,”
Adam explains.
“In the past, you had to have separate management applications for DAS, NAS and SAN products. Now VDS allows the development of applications to manage the individual pieces as a seamless whole in order to make it storage simpler, more accessible and, at the same time, more secure.”

VDS APIs allow storage hardware vendors to extend Windows storage features in order to fully utilize the advanced capabilities of their products. Overall, this simplifies storage management and reduces network and database administrator training time. The net result is lower TCO and higher ROI.

Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) — “VSS is all about data protection and availability,”
says Adam.

The service provides an infrastructure for creating a point-in-time copy of a single volume or multiple volumes. Unlike other vendors’ current implementations of snapshots, Windows Server 2003 VSS provides extremely high fidelity shadow copies, due to its ability to coordinate with the business application, storage hardware and the operating system.

“In other systems that provide point-in-time copy capability, the application can commit a transaction during the snapshot creation, possibly resulting in inconsistent data. And without VSS, checking the consistency of data can take hours.”
Adam explains.
“But with VSS coordinating the applications, transactions are suspended while the snapshot is created. These highly consistent snapshots allow the backup process to be reduced by hours by eliminating the step of checking the consistency of data.”

In addition, the VSS restore feature allows users of Windows-based client computers to view and recover previous snapshots of their files without IT having to be involved, resulting in higher productivity at lower cost.
“Now users can easily recover documents that were accidentally deleted or lost,”
says Adam. VSS snapshots within a SAN also allow for efficient data mining, testing and application development work.

Storage Area Networks (SANs) — “To make Window Server 2003 the best platform for storage on the market, we knew we had to make it a good SAN platform,”
Adam says.

In addition to its VDS capabilities, Windows 2003 Server makes it easy for administrators to control volume mounts. With flexible volume mounting, the server no longer automatically mounts volumes and assigns drive letters–instead only designated portions of the storage are mounted to the server, thereby protecting volumes from unintentional or unauthorized access.

Windows Server 2003 also provides better handling of Fibre Channel, including improved SAN Host Bus Adapter (HBA) interoperability for easier administration.

Another new feature is multi-pathing through the availability of a Multi-Path I/O (MPIO) Driver Development Kit that allows storage vendors to create interoperable multi-pathing solutions in both Windows 2000 and 2003. When customers receive vendor storage platforms running the Microsoft version of MPIO, they are assured of increased platform dependability, interoperability and data access.

Windows Server 2003 also supports the emerging storage standard, Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI). Recently ratified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), iSCSI is a storage protocol designed to transport block-level storage traffic over IP networks. It enables low-cost solutions that provide enterprises and small-to medium-sized businesses with high levels of performance, reliability and security for their SAN implementations. Microsoft, which will deliver iSCSI support in June for Windows XP and both Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003 environments, is playing a key role in bringing together the storage vendors to make iSCSI-based applications and storage devices a reality for their customers.

Windows Server 2003 will also provide the same functional set of storage features for Network Attached Storage (NAS) solutions that it does for SANs.

Automated System Recovery (ASR) — ASR enables bare metal restore (clean installation) of the server without having to load the entire image, a process that can take hours, or in the case of a large enterprise, a good part of the day. Instead, ASR provides consistent data recovery in minutes, automatically rebuilding the data over the network and bringing the server back to its original state if a serious failure occurs.

The backup application included in Windows can easily be configured to use ASR for system restores. ASR, when combined with Remote Installation Services (RIS), is an effective way to automate complete system restores across the network without user intervention.

More Growth, More Need

“Storage growth continues to explode,”
Adam says.

E-mail, the proliferation of multimedia, data protection and increased government regulatory requirements are just a few of the factors that lead us to predict an annual corporate storage growth rate of about 50 percent over the next five years.

“Storage software and network storage are the fastest growing segments,”
he adds.

SAN implementations are on the rise in the enterprise and NAS solutions are increasingly showing up in corporate branch offices and departments. Customers are helping to fuel this growth by driving the industry towards standards that improve interoperability–for example, the iSCSI protocol which promises to make SANs affordable for small to medium-sized businesses and provide the enterprise with more flexibility in implementing low cost SAN solutions.

“IT spending may have slowed in many areas, but storage spending continues to accelerate,”
Adam concluded.
“That’s why Microsoft is working hard to make Windows Server 2003 the best storage management platform on the market.”

Related Posts