Testers riled by Microsoft decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

Summary:In a move that has riled a number of Windows Home Server enthusiasts, Microsoft has announced it is removing its Drive Extender storage technology from the upcoming Windows Home Server 'Vail," Small Business Server Essentials "Aurora" and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials “Breckenridge” products.

In a move that has riled a number of Windows Home Server enthusiasts, Microsoft has announced it is removing its Drive Extender storage technology from the upcoming Windows Home Server 'Vail," Small Business Server Essentials "Aurora" and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials “Breckenridge” products.

Vail, Aurora and Breckenridge are all in the later phase of testing, at this point. Microsoft officials said earlier this fall to expect Aurora and Breckenridge to be released in the first half of 2011.

Microsoft announced its decision to axe the advanced storage system -- which provides for storage pooling of multiple hard drives and automated data duplication -- via a November 23 post to the Windows Home Server blog. Microsoft attributed the decision to customer and partner test feedback that indicated Drive Extender was not meeting 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," according to the blog post.

Microsoft officials said the company is looking to OEMs and relying on existing Windows storage to provide data protection for its home and small-business server users. From a Microsoft blog post on the STB Bytes blog:

"While this (axing of Drive Extender) 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. 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."

The "We Got Served" enthusiast site called the decision a "shock move," despite the fact that the Drive Extender version 2 technology that was slated to be part of the various home/small business servers has faced a barage of criticism from testers.

From We Got Served's November 23 blog post about the Drive Extender issue:

"Drive Extender, seen by many as one of Microsoft’s most innovative engineering feats of recent years, was a storage replication system that managed Windows Home Server’s storage pool, allowing the use of any combination of internal and external drive types, removing the need for drive letters and providing duplication of files and folders to protect from hard disk failure."

Terry Walsh, the head of We Got Served, noted that Drive Extender "has not been without its fair share of controversy," as a serious bug discovered in the feature in 2007 caused data corruption among some Windows Home Server users. "It took Microsoft two months to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, and a further seven months to fix the bug," Walsh noted.

Microsoft's decision on Drive Extender -- in spite of company official's claims to be fueled by customer and tester feedback -- doesn't seem to be winning the company any friends. Ouch.

Microsoft officials said target product availability, in spite of today's move, is still the first half of calendar 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."

What do you think Microsoft should have -- and still should/might do -- around storage with these products?

Update: Microsoft officials have added another post on the Drive Extender decision to the Windows Home Server blog. This one is a little more forthright, and notes that the axing -- which many testers see as more dire for Vail than Aurora or Breckenridge -- was applied universally across the product family, despite the potentially different impact on different products in that family. The post concludes:

"Let me completely confirm we are 100% committed to Vail, and continue to work on all the core features outside of Drive Extender. We fully expect to be able to show some of our new and partnered OEM solutions at CES."

Update 2: Some WHS Vail testers have taken up a petition to try to convince Microsoft to bring back Drive Extender.

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Storage

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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