Today, in a bit of a shock announcement, Microsoft told the world that Drive Extender, one of the main components of Windows Home Server V1, has been removed from Windows Home Server Code Name Vail and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.
What Was Drive Extender?
This is how Microsoft described Drive Extender in their published Technical Brief:
Windows® Home Server Drive Extender is a new storage technology that enables you to use internal and external hard drives for additional storage on your home server. In addition, you can enable Folder Duplication for specific shared folders on their home servers. Maintaining two copies of a shared folder on separate hard drives helps protect against the failure of a single hard drive.
The core features of Windows Home Server Drive Extender are:
· Predefined Shared Folders
Your home server is preconfigured with shared folders named Photos, Music, Videos, Public, and Software. From the Windows Home Server Console you can specify user permissions for these folders and create new shared folders. You can easily move files and folders from your home computers into the shared folders on your home server by using a drag-and-drop operation.
· Easy to add more storage
From the Windows Home Server Console, you can add a new hard drive to your home server by following a simple wizard. The amount of storage available to your shared folders and home computer backups increases proportionally. The hard drives you add can be either internal or external (for example, USB 2.0 or FireWire).
· Shared Folder duplication
If you have two or more hard drives on your home server, Windows Home Server helps protect against hard drive failures by ensuring that files stored in shared folders are automatically duplicated to multiple hard drives.
Windows Home Server Drive Extender offers the following benefits for storage solutions. Some of the benefits are:
· Allows the seamless addition of more hard drives
As you add more hard drives to your home server, they are treated as a single large pool of available storage space. You no longer need to deal with drive letters (such as E:, F:, and G: ) because you can add more hard drives.
· Works with internal and external hard drives
You can add internal or external (for example, USB 2.0 or FireWire) hard drives to your home server to increase the available storage.
· Shared Folder Duplication
Windows Home Server Drive Extender supports reliability by duplicating designated shared folders. Important data is stored on separate hard drives, which provides protection against hard-drive failure. Duplication is configurable for every shared folder—so a shared folder can have multiple copies with each copy stored on a separate hard drive.
· Makes hard drives and their content easy to move
It is easy to remove outdated hard drives. You can store the content on other hard drives in the system and remove old or small hard drives.
Windows Home Server Drive Extender is different than and more powerful than a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) in several ways:
- You can use any hard drive, any time. You are not restricted to adding more hard drives of the same type and size. When you want to grow your home server storage, you can buy and add any hard drive you like.
- Internal and external hard drives can be used to grow your storage. No space in your home computer case? No problem—plug in one or more hard drives of your choice.
- Drive removal is easy. After you have had your home server for awhile, you may want to remove older, smaller hard drives and add new, larger hard drives so that you can store more files.
So, as you can see, all of the above will not be included in Windows Home Server Code Name Vail.
Back in April, we posted about all the promised improvements to Drive Extender in Vail. I think you will agree they sounded really interesting, and worth having to protect your important data and make life easier for you. Its a real shame to see this core functionality removed.
If you want similar functionality now you will have to look for a third party product that supports Windows Server 2008 R2.
As yet I have not seen a build of Windows Home Server Code Name Vail without Drive Extender built in so it is very hard to comment on how the overall experience changes. Watch this space!
Also, this will affect Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (what was code name Aurora).
What Have Microsoft Said Today?
Here is what Microsoft have said today about it:
When we first started designing Windows Home Sever code name “Vail” one of our initial focuses was to continue to provide support for multiple internal and external hard drives. Drive Extender provided the ability to take the small hard drives many small businesses and households may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume. During our current testing period for our SBS 2011 Essentials and Windows Home Server code name “Vail” products, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward. Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses.
When weighing up the future direction storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs. Customers also told us that they wanted easier access to data stored on Drive Extender drives so they are able to view these files outside of Drive Extender. Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” (and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials) which are currently in beta.
While this removes the integrated ability for storage pooling of multiple hard drives and automated data duplication, we are continuing to work closely with our OEM partners to implement storage management and protection using industry standard RAID solutions, as well as other software solutions. This will provide customers greater choice as well as a seamless experience that will meet their storage needs. Customers will also have access to the in-built storage solutions Windows Server 2008 R2 provides for data protection, including software RAID support. We are also still delivering core features such as automated Server and PC backup, easy sharing of folders and files, Remote Web Access and simplified management without any expected changes.
Target product availability is still H1 2011, and we expect to deliver a new beta without drive extender for Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” and Small Business Server 2011 Essentials early in the New Year.
So, what do you think about this? Is this something that bothers you? Or don’t you really care about the removal of this functionality?