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.