In a hark back to the flop of the Windows Vista “wow is now” campaign Microsoft has seemingly shot itself square in the foot by announcing that the second version of Drive Extender (or DE) technology from Windows Home Server was being dropped. For those of you wanting to know about the original Windows Home Server OS, click here.
For the unaware, the DE technology in Windows Home Server is responsible for the storage pool management particularly folder duplication (for the redundant storage of user defined critical data to withstand the failure of a given drive) and the ability to combine many drives of varying sizes into one large volume. In a crude sense, DE is like a selective RAID1 setup on top of a JBOD array.
Anyway, Microsoft has announced that with large hard drives heading towards 3TB and storage being more affordable than ever at the 1TB range the need for DE is reduced. This could not be any further from the truth especially from the perspective of automated folder duplication where now the onus is placed upon users and OEMs to size and build fixed RAID1 arrays to protect their data. The situation is worse for those with 10 or 20TB of data as Windows Home Server now presents a very expensive and time consuming proposition including RAID controllers and ongoing drive and array management. Furthermore, pushing storage pool management solutions to OEMs will drive up costs and fragment the current unified approach to current storage management in WHS.
For me, this is truly a disappointment as DE was one of the primary reasons of using Windows Home Server (along with automated backups). This change effectively turns WHS into a plain vanilla Windows Server 2008 R2 box with a pretty management console. The whole point of WHS was to setup and forget about it and, when the time came, whack in another drive to keep things humming along.
Users who still want DE are now stuck with WHS v1 which still lacks support for “advanced format” drives with 4k sectors now entering the market. With time, it’ll be difficult to buy older drives without 4k sectors effectively stranding WHS v1 expansion which means a forced upgrade to WHS v2 with a gaping hole in its functionality.
I thought Microsoft was on a roll with Office 2007, Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 with a blip on the radar for the killed (and recently resurrected) KIN devices. This smacks of an internal cross product/platform power struggle in Microsoft with users (and their data) being the ultimate losers in this tussle. Microsoft should go back to the drawing board on this one and persevere with DE – the outcry from users is deafening.