Soldiering On

I see that Paul Thurrott, in an article published on his Supersite for Windows, has done a U-turn and is now betting on Windows Home Server 2011. Back in October 2010, when he was first told by the current WHS team that they would be removing the Drive Extender technology from WHS 2011, his first reaction was that:

“Removing Drive Extender was the equivalent of driving a dagger right through the heart of the product”.

Indeed, that was my first reaction on hearing the news when it became public a month later, and the reaction of many, if not most, of us who had bought the original version of Windows Home Server.

Despite the outcry (for example, there are currently 5,581 votes in favour of retaining the DE technology in WHS 2011 versus 73 against over at the Microsoft Connect site – tagline: your feedback improving Microsoft products), the technology will not be put back into the final WHS 2011 product. (Addendum: on the 12 March 2011, Microsoft removed all the suggestions that had been posted by WHS 2011 beta testers in the connect forum, including this one. An act that reminded me of the Soviet’s airbrushing ex-politicos out of photographs. One way of removing embarrassing facts, I suppose)

So now, Paul Thurrott has put his sense of disappointment behind him, and written that:

So yes, I’m disappointed about Drive Extender, I really am. And yes, I’ve sweated this decision for months. But when the final version of Windows Home Server 2011 appears in the months ahead, I’m switching. And I’ll let you know how it goes, of course. But I can tell you now that Microsoft’s home server solution is still the best game in town, even with the removal of Drive Extender. And if you could stop crying into your beer, I think you’ll admit the same.

Well, perhaps. But what I find most telling about this whole debacle has been the way that it has been (mis)handled by Microsoft. It seems clear, from Thurrott’s own account, that the current WHS team did not have a clue, at least in the beginning, that the decision to remove DE would have such a negative reaction.

In effect, the team had just torn up the guiding principles for the product developed by Charlie Kindel and the original WHS V1 team – but they don’t seem to have appreciated that fact, or the likely reaction from customers who had bought V1 on the strength of those principles.

The team then soldiered on with the decision – and I have to give them credit for their brass necks – and very probably have weathered the storm. But I really could have done without the disingenous posts on their blog telling us that they were only following feedback from their customers:

“When weighing up the future direction of storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs”.

There are some good things remaining in WHS 2011, but the heart of WHS V1 – its provision of consumer-friendly storage – has been surgically removed.

The die has been cast – we’ll see what happens.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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6 Responses to Soldiering On

  1. Robert Dammers says:

    I’m a bit irritated by Thurrott’s dismissive attitude towards the “silly” third party replacements for DE (which, after all, was the sort of thing Microsoft appeared to be looking for). I agree that one should wait for maturity in that sort of product before adopting, but I still need that functionality: my data pool consists of 3 internal 1TB drives, 3 external 1TB and 1 external 2TB drives. I don’t intend to replace that lot in a hurry.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Yes, it was a rather strange comment, at odds with his love of DE, wasn’t it?

      I agree that we should be looking for a solid solution, but if it comes from a third party, then so be it; it’s what we have to live with. After all, others are looking at stuff such as Greyhole and UnRaid as DE replacements, and those are also “add-on” products.

      On a side-note – good to hear from you, Robert. Hope all is well with you and yours.

  2. Robert Dammers says:

    >>After all, others are looking at stuff such as Greyhole and UnRaid as DE replacements, and those are also “add-on” products.<<

    Exactly. There's a piece by Sean Daniel, "Senior Program Manager for the Home and Small Business Server Team" which has been posted on the Windows Home Server Facebook page which outlines features and benefits, all very fair and good, but concludes that people who have a lot of data just need to get their damned house in order. Now I get that MS have a strong interest in simplifying the low-end server range, and that it is attractive to take DE out of the base product. So why don't they just either provide it as an optional add-in, or partner with one of the 3rd party developers working on equivalent functionality to provide a certified, thoroughly tested alternative.

    Still, I think eventually there will be a satisfactory outcome. Which is just as well, because I'm very fond of my Windows Home Server 🙂

    Best wishes to you and Martin!

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Yes, I saw the Sean Daniel piece – it was also on a Home Server blog page, where I commented on it (using much of the material from my blog post).

      I see that he does the usual trick of claiming that you can access your home PCs remotely via WHS, without pointing out that you need the Professional or Business versions of Windows to be able to do this. This stretching of the truth to hide the small print always annoys me intensely…

  3. Pingback: A Damp Squib Splutters Into Life | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  4. Pingback: RIP, Windows Home Server… | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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