Storage in Windows 8

The team at Microsoft responsible for building Windows 8 (the next version of Windows) have been documenting the detail of its design in a series of blog posts over at, naturally enough, Building Windows 8.

I’ve been following this blog with great interest, because it gives a very detailed insight into the design, and why particular design choices have been made. It has certainly kindled my interest into wanting to take a closer look at Windows 8 (starting with the beta, to be released next month).

Yesterday, for example, Rajeev Nagar published a detailed post on the design of storage for Windows 8. Windows 8 will introduce a capability called Storage Spaces. Interestingly, Nagar begins his post by setting the context, and referring to the now-defunct Drive Extender technology that was part of Windows Home Server v1, but which was removed in Windows Home Server 2011:

…some of us have used (or are still using), the Windows Home Server Drive Extender technology which was deprecated. Storage Spaces is not intended to be a feature-by-feature replacement for that specialized solution, but it does deliver on many of its core requirements. It is also a fundamental enhancement to the Windows storage platform, which starts with NTFS. Storage Spaces delivers on diverse requirements that can span deployments ranging from a single PC in the home, up to a very large-scale enterprise datacenter.

Well, already, I’m interested. I thought that Drive Extender was a unique selling point for WHS v1, and bemoaned its removal in WHS 2011. I never wanted to take on the task of managing a RAID configuration in my home server. I have always agreed with Charlie Kindel that RAID is not a consumer technology.

So now, with Windows 8, it appears as though we might get the second generation of Drive Extender, substantially improved. I should no longer have to even consider RAID as a means to implement a storage pool; in fact, in the blog post, Microsoft explicitly advise not to use RAID in conjunction with Storage Spaces:

We don’t recommend it. Storage Spaces were designed to work with off-the-shelf commodity disks. This feature delivers easy-to-use resiliency to disk failures, and optimizes concurrent usage of all available disks within the pool. Using a RAID enclosure with Storage Spaces adds complexity and a performance penalty that does not provide any improvement in reliability.

That’s good news, as far as I’m concerned.

Looking down the road, then, what are the implications for Windows Home Server 2011? Well, it seems to me that Windows 8 will introduce a storage capability that exceeds what WHS v1 had, and that WHS 2011 will never have. So then the question is, what happens about the other shoe? That is, WHS (both versions) have an excellent backup facility for client PCs. The backups are efficient and allow rolling back a PC to previous points in time with ease.

If Microsoft introduce this capability, even as an Add-on in the Windows 8 Store, then I have to ask: what is the point of WHS 2011? It would seem to me to be eclipsed by the potential capabilities of Windows 8.

I seriously doubt that we will see a separate successor product to WHS 2011. Its capabilities (and more) can be fulfilled by Windows 8, with the possible addition of Store Add-ons for extensions to the base capabilities of Windows 8.

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 Storage in Windows 8

  1. dszigeti says:

    Geoff, Nice find … I concur on likely no follow-up to WHS 2011.

    Comments … The drive extender allows you to “span” drives – it does not specifically allow backup images. Are you suggesting that we could use Windows 8 Backups to achieve the backup iamge capability … with the drive extender added to make disk sizing easier?

    What happens when the Windows 8 system crashes? Where will the client backup come from? Boot from DVD maybe and find the images?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      What I’m trying to say is that the Storage Spaces and the Client Backup capability are two separate things.

      I don’t know what the Backup capabilities of Windows 8 will be as yet. I can guess that they will be at least equivalent to those in Windows 7 for the Home editions. That means: limited to one device (the PC on which the backup app runs) and unable to backup over the network. Now, the functionality of the Client PC backup in WHS far exceeds this. So the question is, will Microsoft extend the base capabilities, or offer an Add-on via the Windows 8 Store to increase them?

  2. al feersum says:

    TBH Geoff, I was glad to see the back of DE. Sure, I wasn’t using it in a ‘typical’ WHS implementation (running as a Hyper-V guest on virtual dynamic disks), and it hated ClamAV (the ClamAV add-in wasn’t bad though). But the W8 ‘Storage Spaces’ might explain the half-baked ‘Vail’ that was delivered to us, with so far, no fixes to some of the many problems that we have experienced with WHS 2011, despite shouting at MS to get it sorted: and had this ‘broken’ functionality been in the beta releases, it could have been identified and addressed. Now WHS 2011 is a full product and subject to the ‘Consumer’ release cycle, which is considerably different to the ‘Enterprise’ release cycle. Anyway, enough moaning about WHS, and back to the subject at hand, ‘Storage Spaces’.

    Back in the day when ‘Longhorn’ was still a code-word, and just before they decided to bring forward ‘Blackcomb’ (XP) – it hadn’t even gone to CTP, I got a sneak peak at the ‘doze roadmap. Bundled in with what they were calling the Longhorn Technology Demonstrator was the very lovely ‘Avalon’ and the powerful ‘Indigo’, was also a nice little toy they were working on called WinFS: the premise being that NTFS was going to be replaced by a SQL database, and everything was going to be stored as BLOBs with lots and lots of metadata… it never got passed beta. But I’m wondering if ‘Storage Spaces’ is a re-working of WinFS… now [i]that[/i] would be something. I got really excited about WinFS, I thought that this would be a killer filesystem, but I suspect that it was too hard to implement (or at least, too hard to build without providing an enterprise class database server for free – which is a [i]significant[/i] source of revenue for MS).

    Still… I’m looking forward to trying W8 – after all, I’m getting used to Metro, and when I first saw it I thought ‘Nah, it looks sh*te. Gimme a proper UI’ – sure, it’s never going to replace the UI for the things that I do every day, but as a simplified easy to navigate UI for doing stuff like reading mail or playing music or videos it’s ideal. It’s not a ‘Power User’ interface though – but I look forward to getting the SDK (and something to run it on: my tired old PC won’t run the Mango SDK, but I’m waiting until there’s something reasonably priced that’ll run W8) and knocking together some of my own tools…

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      I think I have simpler requirements – DE worked well for me. That said, I agree that it was version 1.

      I don’t think Storage Spaces is a reworking of WinFS – I think that’s still a hard nut to crack. Perhaps with Windows 10? I too am looking forward to trying W8. Metro on my Phone is brilliant, but I do wonder how it will translate to a traditional Mouse/Keyboard PC…

      It’s funny, now that I’ve got my Lumia, I no longer have a passionate desire to get a Windows Tablet (e.g. the Samsung Slate). The Phone is filling in for many of the tasks that I would have used a Slate for…

  3. Aussie_Z says:

    Geoff, Al,

    All good comments. I liked and used DE … mainly because when I started with WHS V1 large disks were expensive … so I could strap together my 1TBs and 500GBs without worrying about running out of disk space. But with larger drives available today, I can reasonably easily map data onto drives … So I am not missing DE … but maybe I wouldn’t mind having it anyway.

    And I concur (Geoff) that Windows (7 & 8) will probably allow backup of themselves but not other clients on the network … so I don’t think that DE and W8 will really “replace” WHS. But maybe it will give us an “in-place” backup utility for large systems. Or maybe it will give us the capability to have one large data drive … so no more D:\, E:\ drives … which is OK for the casual user … but we all know that when things aren’t working right … people like us will still be back in the Drive Manager checking physical drives.

    Mind you, to add to what you guys are already saying, it doesn’t look like M$ is interested in the WHS community at this time. Updates/fixes are way too slow in coming. Blogs don’t seem to announce much. And there aren’t a lot of box builders out there (maybe four – two well known) – so the non-IT bubba doesn’t have a lot of choices for an easy setup. Features are missing/malfunctioning. Additionally, I don’t see a lot of add-ins coming online – luckily some good ones are out there. It just looks to me like WHS has been sidelined. And of course, when that happens, sales drop … and M$ drops the line.

    We’ll see. Time will tell.

  4. Pingback: Well, I Told You So… | Geoff Coupe's Blog

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