Drive Extender Alternatives for Windows Home Server 2011

Last year, I covered the shock announcement that Microsoft was dropping the Drive Extender (DE) technology from its second version of Windows Home Server (formerly codenamed “Vail” but now dubbed Windows Home Server 2011). In a nutshell, DE provided some critical functionality including:

  • storage pooling (the ability to combine multiple drives into one large storage pool and add or remove drives from the pool),
  • data duplication (replicating selected shared folders across two separate drives to safeguard against data loss in the event of disk failure).

With the recent availability of the “Release Candidate” version of Windows Home Server 2011 DE has been well and truly stripped out of the operating system. This ultimately creates work for the household administrator of the server to keep track of available space across all of the drives in the server and to move shared folders to larger drives as a disk can no longer accommodate its entire contents.

Understandably, WHS enthusiasts were somewhat sceptical of third party solutions becoming available for WHS 2011 let alone being able to fill the void left by the departure of DE. However, two solutions are currently undergoing development and testing, specifically StableBit DrivePool and Drive Bender.

At the moment, neither are publicly available however you can sign up for the beta program for Drive Bender here which is slated for a first release on 21 February, 2011. Whilst StableBit DrivePool has made no announcement of a release date yet for its beta there are plenty of screenshots available here which show promise.

Both solutions do seem to fit the bill for adding back the missing DE functionality however the proof will be in the pudding when those fearless guinea pigs start to pressure test them with terabytes of data and massive amounts of data transfer. Whilst we can remain cautiously optimistic about the reliability of the beta software we should also bear in mind the problems encountered with the original Windows Home Server. A nasty data corruption bug was found after release which went unfixed until the release of Power Pack 1. Data integrity is a big deal so hopefully all of the problems will be ironed out before the final release.

At this stage, I guess this is a case of “wait and see” but this has certainly raised my interest in Windows Home Server 2011 to say the least.

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  1. […] out how the DriveBender drive pooling add-in worked to make the three drives look like one big drive (since WHS 2011 dropped the Drive Extender […]

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