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

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.

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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 has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

    This is just plain stupid on Microsoft's part. Fortunately, Microsoft is getting hammered on their blog posting; I haven't seen a single positive comment there yet.
    roteague
    • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

      @roteague

      After all these years you should know that M$ promises high and delivers low, if it bothers to deliver at all. This is yet another contemptible decision by M$ that demonstrates that its supposed commitment to customers is barely even words.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        Microsoft announced that three more Android device makers, in addition to HTC, are already paying royalties on Google?s Android to Microsoft,
        raimu koyo asu
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        And Microsoft?s point is that Android violates Microsoft patents and companies that are betting on Android are making a risky bet.
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        Microsoft has convinced a number of Android and Linux-based device makers that it?s better and
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        heaper to pay than fight. Among those companies with Android- and Linux-based devices that
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        have capitulated, besides General Dynamics, Velocity and Onkyo, are HTC, Amazon, TomTom,
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        Buffalo and others.
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        Barnes & Noble, so far, is not backing down, and is taking its fight public with Microsoft over its
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        Android-based Nook.
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        According to B&N?s response to Microsoft?s legal complaint, Microsoft told B&N officials that the Nook
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        infringed six patents that Microsoft claimed to own. However, B&N said that Microsoft officials said
        Linux Love
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        they?d share details only if B&N officials signed a non-disclosure agreement. B&N refused to sign an
        Linux Love
    • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

      @roteague according to the street. About the only thing MS could get into the agreement was a superficial win that stated that they were paid, and TomTom was not paid. They ONLY thing that MS got out of it was that they can continue rattling their sabers.
      Arabalar
  • RIP Home Server

    As far as I'm concerned WHS is dead. I don't think anyone buys the BS that this decision was based on market research. I understand if there are technical reasons not to do it, but don't come out and say users have said that we won't need it.<br><br>Go read any of the reviews for home server. drive extender is the selling point.

    Vote for this feature to come back:
    https://connect.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer/feedback/details/624029/add-drive-extender-back-to-vail
    kay.one
    • WHS Fail

      @kay.one I think they should drop the name Vail altogether and call it Windows Home Server Fail, SBS Essentials Fail and Server 2008 R2 Fail. They can kiss that entire product line good-bye.
      msawyer91
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        @msawyer91

        While an awesome feature on WHS, I'm not entirely sure I like it in SBS or R2. How will it handle an Exchange database using the idea of pooled storage? SQL? Numerous other applications. Those products are application servers usually more-so than file server. In those two products you'd be insane to use data duplication over RAID.

        I do agree it's stupid to remove the feature from WHS. It was an awesome feature. And really it's a perfect environment for it to grow into a file system that could one day completely replace NTFS as we know it. Stupid move MS on that front.

        And if they're killing it off on all product lines for some customer feedback, why not just make it optional? I would use the drive extender for file sharing on a server and a RAID for application data. Give WHS the same option. Problem solved.
        LiquidLearner
      • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

        @LiquidLearner

        I expressed your exact sentiment on the Windows Home Server Team Blog (windowsteamblog.com).

        Basically what MS is doing in terms of developing the three products (WHS, SBS and Storage Server) is trying to reuse as much code and functionality between them. That just makes financial sense.

        At some point, however, they need to remember that WHS is a home user product, while the other two are business ones. So while it makes sense to couple the products together for ease of development and code reuse, at some point they need to be uncoupled and "polished" for their respective markets.

        Microsoft has reached that point with WHS. It's time to uncouple this product from the two business products and let it shine on its own.

        Matt
        msawyer91
  • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

    I don't use duplication, but I love the storage pooling. Won't this break an installation if an upgrade is attempted?
    MikeR666
    • RE: Testers none too happy with Microsoft's decision to pull Drive Extender storage from 'Vail,' 'Aurora' servers

      @Mike (not Cox) There is no upgrade path.
      spivonious