The best Windows storage isn't on Windows

The best Windows storage isn't on Windows

Summary: There's a dark horse coming up on the outsideIsn't Sun - and Solaris - almost dead? No and they're showing quite a bit of life in the storage arena.


There's a dark horse coming up on the outside Isn't Sun - and Solaris - almost dead? No and they're showing quite a bit of life in the storage arena. It is amazing what a $12 billion company can do with a unique strategy and deep engineering smarts.

One big change: after winning the $1.6 billion anti-trust settlement against Microsoft, which included a 10 year cooperation agreement, the 2 companies have embraced each other in ways - like storage - unthinkable 10 years ago.

CIFS support in the Solaris kernal After blowing billions on failed - or not very successful - storage acquisitions, I'd pretty much given up on Sun as a storage vendor. But the new CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, has a new storage strategy: move storage functionality into the operating system.

The latest piece: CIFS. There are two file serving protocols in the world, NFS, an open standard Sun invented, and CIFS, which Microsoft controls. For years I've listened to engineers moan about the pain of implementing CIFS on non-Windows systems.

In a blog post Sun engineer Alan Wright explains why:

There is a common misconception that Windows interoperability is just a case of implementing file transfer using the CIFS protocol. Unfortunately, that doesn't get you very far. Windows interoperability also requires that a server support various Windows services, typically MSRPC services, and it is very sensitive to the way that those services behave: Windows interoperability requires that a CIFS server convince a Windows client or server that it "is Windows". This is really only possible if the operating system supports those services at a fundamental level.

Solving those issues required 180,000 lines of new code in Solaris, Sun's UNIX OS.

It gets better OpenSolaris supports the cool new file system ZFS (see my ZFS: Threat or Menace? on StorageMojo), which is also being integrated into OS X.

ZFS eliminates most of the data integrity issues that plague older file systems like NTFS, UFS, HFS+ and the like. Sun has added important enhancements to ZFS to support CIFS, including

  • Support for DOS attributes (archive, hidden, read-only and system)
  • Case-insensitive file name operations.
  • Support for ubiquitous cross-protocol - NFS and CIFS - file sharing.

Check out the storage community at OpenSolaris to see what else is cooking.

The Storage Bits take OpenSolaris is becoming the finest storage platform out there. Adding CIFS support to the kernal is a Big Deal: OpenSolaris will be industry's first OSS universal storage platform. If your shop isn't 100% Windows this is a win for you. Even if you are 100% Windows, the low-cost Sun Thumper storage server could be a win for you.

Furthermore, the days of costly low-volume, custom hardware arrays are drawing to a close. With the massive growth in data it's not a moment too soon. We can't afford to keep going as we have. With OpenSolaris we won't have to.

Update: Disclosure: I worked in Sun's storage group for 3 years in the '90's. I have no financial or other affiliation with Sun.

Comments welcome, as always. Yes, I know the Samba guys aren't happy.

Topics: Oracle, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Storage, Windows

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  • real-world consumers

    The only question I have is this: Why does the real-world, end-user or home/personal computer user care?

    Certainly, corporations and educational/research institutions and possibly government sector types with perpetual libraries of research papers, legal filings, patents, archived copies of old newspapers, etc., will care. They need to care because they need to keep things around for a long time.

    However, Microsoft's success has come about not only because of its business-centric tools, but also as a byproduct of its domination of the home/personal market. One might not have happened without the other.

    Apple has been making inroads into the home/personal market by use of its iPods. Althought they have increased their market share and revenues, they have failed to take a large chunk of the personal and corporate market from Microsoft.

    So again I ask: Does anyone in the home/personal computer market have a reason to care about Sun's new developments? Finding a way to get them to care is perhaps the best way for Sun to continue to grow.

    For example, Sun could release a home-centric ZFS-based NAS device. Make it really easy to configure (as close to plug-n-play as possible) and really large. Make it easily expandable. Make it really cosmetically pleasing, or color-customizable so children and grand parents will want one for all those photos they keep or their MP3 or iTunes music. If you could easily put it under your Mac Mini or store it on a book shelf, even better.

    Sun can hire me if they want more ideas. I have a price, and it's reasonable.
    • Good idea - and with open source you can

      There are lots of SMBs that could benefit from this technology. Few SMBs invest in
      storage networks due to the cost. With the declining cost of storage and server
      hardware and a free software platform based on enterprise technology that could

      Home users? Not clear to me that the vast majority need anything more than Drobo
      - and most will be happy with a USB drive. Let's see how Windows Home Server

      R Harris
  • bad ideea

    crumming too much file system functionality into the kernel is a bad ideea.
    If you need an example just look at windoze BSOD because of the crap M$ threw in.
    Linux Geek
    • Is that due to NT kernel or the awful registry design?

      Is this really the fault of MS overloading their kernel, or the horrible design of the registry?
  • Will ultimately fail...

    Even if Sun somehow was able to figure out the code behind CIFS, Microsoft will crush it in Windows Server 2008. I had one of my top-Top-TOP MCSEs do a network trace of a simple file copy from a Windows 2008 server to a Vista workstation. The network trace was over 100MB of protocol negotiations. Sun will never be able to figure this out and will ultimately fail. Just to make sure, I blocked all search requests at the ISA firewall level that include the phrases "ZFS" ,"Solaris", "OpenSolaris" and "industry standard".
    Mike Cox
    • 8.5

      The blocking of "industry standard" part killed me.
    • What? Did you give your rep the day off?

      D T Schmitz
    • We have another winner...

      I got my Friday morning chuckle. I'll bet your Rep is so good that he/she doubles as your MCSE
  • RE: The best Windows storage isn't on Windows

    Hasn't Network Appliance been using NTFS and CIFS for years making it a universal storage platform?
    • Yes, in a closed, proprietary OS

      OpenSolaris is an open source OS. You can't download NTAP's software and run it for
      free on the platform of your choice.

      Isn't that a significant advantage?

      R Harris
    • NetApp

      When creating qtrees on a NetApp filer one has to choose the preferred protocol (NFS or CIFS).

      Netapp's implementation is not as clean as Sun's. Netapp even does (inofficially) not
      recommend to use CIFS and NFS together. The reason lies in the mapping of UserID's between
      Unix Users and Windows SIDs, which is a rather difficult task.

      This is a major drawback, which will not exist in Sun's implementation.
  • CIFS? I'll stick with Samba, thank you very much!

    D T Schmitz
    • Samba implements CIFS

  • So?

    Just because Sun is adding more filesystem support doesn't mean that I'll suddenly switch over from Mac OS X/Linux to OpenSolaris. But this is certainly a good step in the right direction...
    John Musbach