Storage Migration Service or MSFT adds WorkingHardInIT like skills in Windows Server 2019

As readers of my blog will know very well is that one of my track records is that I’m fairly successful in keeping technology debt low. One of the workloads I have always moved successfully over the years are file servers. Right now, almost all, almost everywhere, are the goodness of SMB3 and are high available clustered file server roles. You can read about some of those efforts in some of my blogs:

Sometimes this cans quite a challenge but over the years I have gained the experience and expertise to deal with such projects. Not everyone is in that position. This leads to aging file services, technology debt, security risks, missed opportunities (SMB3 people!) and often even unsupported situations in regards to hardware and software. While since the release of Windows Server 2016 this image has shifted a bit, you can clearly see the pretty depressing state of file services. Windows rules the on premises server world but the OS versions are aging fast.

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Image courtesy of SpiceWorks: Server Virtualization and OS Trends

The operating systems are ancient, old or aging and we all know what this means in regards to the SMB version in use.

Now I work hard, effective and efficiently but I cannot be everywhere. Luckily for you Microsoft has a great new capability coming up in Windows Server 2019, the Windows Server Storage Migration Service.

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Figure2: the WorkingHardInIT feature officially known as the Windows Server Storage Migration Service. Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Thanks to Ned Pyle and his team’s efforts you can no aspire to me as successful as me when it comes to migrating file services to newer environments. It’s like having WorkingHardInIT in a Windows feature. Isn’t that cool?! If they sold that separately they would make a pretty penny but they luckily for you include it with their new server OS version.

Storage Migration Servers deals with many of the usual problems and intricacies of a storage / file service migration. It will handle things like share settings, security settings, network addresses and names, local accounts, encrypted data, files that are in use etc. To handle you project you have a GUI and PowerShell automation at your disposal. Windows Server 2019 is still being perfected and you can still provide feedback while testing this feature.

Things to note for now (bar the requirements for testing as described in Ned Pyle’s blog) are:

Supported source operating systems VM or hardware (to migrate from):

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016
  • Windows Server 2019 Preview

Supported destination operating system VM or hardware (to migrate to):

  • Windows Server 2019 Preview*

* Technically your destination for migration can be any Windows Server OS, but we aren’t testing that currently. And when we release the faster and more efficient target proxy system in a few weeks it will only run on Windows Server 2019.

In my humble opinion that almost has to be Storage Replica technology being leveraged. Something that has been proven to be very much more efficient that copying files. Microsoft already promotes Storage Replica to other server or itself as a way of moving data to a new LUN.

Anyway, this is a cool feature that should grab your attention. Thank you Ned Pyle and team! And while you’re busy putting this great capability into Windows Server 2019 (Standard and Datacenter) consider doing the same for full featured Storage Replica in Windows Server 2019 Standard .

Storage Replica Standard

Introduction

You probably have read by now that is  Storage Replica will be available on Windows Server 2019 Standard Edition. Until now with Windows Server 2016 and 2019 Previews it was a Datacenter Edition only feature. If you haven’t go read up on it over at

Announcing Windows Server 2019 Insider Preview Build 17639. This is good news and I’m very curious to see what use cases and solutions people will leverage this capability for.

Storage Replica on Standard Edition has 2 major limitations:

  • SR replicates a single volume (instead of an unlimited number of volumes).
  • Volumes can have one partnership (instead of an unlimited number of partners). Volumes can have a size of up to 2 TB (instead of an unlimited size).

My first use case

This is why I’m a bit disappointed right now as I had hoped it would help me with some data protection use cases. As part of my roles and expertise lies in building creative, cost effective data protection solutions adhering to at least the 3-2-1 rule in both on premises as well as in private, hybrid and public cloud setting or any combination of the above.

On of the challenges is getting backup data off site. One solution is to replicate the backups. This mostly doesn’t require synchronous replication as most of the time the bandwidth isn’t there or there is no need. Many cost effective storage solutions don’t have storage replication or it comes a significant license cost. The backup software often has this but it works a per definition less effective layer than Storage Replication.

Cost effective but effective backup targets don’t always need to be high available, that depends on the needs and you can cluster a backup target file server role with Windows Server standard edition.

So for my use case I would rather have seen asynchronous only in Windows Server 2019 Standard Edition but without the volume size and number limitation and be done with it.

This would give me off site data protection of my backups via storage Replica which is tremendously efficient.  It doesn’t rely on backup software or other solution operating at the file level and as such that are inherently less efficient.  But backups often mean more then one target volume and larger volume sizes than 2TB. The beauty of Storage Replica is that it’s completely storage agnostic solution and we can build the solution on top of whatever is at hand.

Some data protection use cases where the limits might not matter

With the current limits it might fit in with some SOHO/ ROBO scenario’s perhaps. When you have 10 branch offices with Standard Edition you could potentially replicate a volume to a central datacenter edition for safe keeping off site. But in those scenarios we’re also looking at Azure File Sync and offload the data protection to the cloud if/when possible.

Also remember that “pure” MPLS isn’t the only answer anymore to many connectivity challenges anymore but SDWAN/local Internet breakouts are eating part of their cake . MPLS costs versus VPN is also a reality which limits bandwidth (let’s face it, it’s a cost issue), perhaps further reducing desirability Storage Replica for this use case. SD-WAN could be helping address “old school” network cost optimization limitations for this use case by delivering more and better than VPN without the need for MPLS or express route etc. Just thinking out loud here. It’s a cloud first world, where servers still have a role to play, but for that they need to be flexible and allow for many possible permutations. It’s a missed opportunity I’d say. My opinion, but there is hope. Microsoft states the following on Storage Replica Standard

We will continue to listen to your feedback and evaluate these settings through our telemetry during Insider previews of Windows Server 2019. These limitations may change several times during the preview phase and at RTM.

So if my use case make enough sense to them they might change something still but we’ll  see. Anyway, my 5$ cents on the subject.