Microsoft Keeps Investing In Storage Big Time

Disclaimer: These are my musing on the limited info available about Windows Server vNext and based on the Technical Preview bits at the time of writing. So it’s not set in stone & has a time limited value.

Reading the documentation that’s already available on vNext of Windows it’s clear that Microsoft is continuing it’s push towards the software defined data center. They are also pushing high to continuous availability ever more towards the  “continuous” side of things.

It’s early days yet and we just only downloaded the Technical Preview but what do we read in What’s New in Storage Services in Windows Server Technical Preview

Storage Quality of Service

  • They are giving us more Storage Quality of Service tied into the use of SOFS as storage over SMB3. As way to many NAS solutions don’t support SMB3 or only partially (in a restricted way) it’s clear too me that self build SOFS solution on a couple of servers is and remains the best SMB3 implementation on the market and has just gotten storage QoS.

Little Rant here: To the people that claim that this is not capable of high performance, I usually laugh. Have you actually build a SOFS or TFFS with 10Gbps networking on modern enterprise grade servers line the DELL R720 or 730? Did you look at the results form that relative low cost investment? I think not, really. And if you did and found it lacking, I’ll be very impressed of the workload you’re running.  You’ll force your storage to the knees earlier than your Windows file server nowadays.

  • It’s in the SOFS layer, so this does not tie you into to Storage Space if you’re not ready for that yet but would like the benefits of SOFS. As long as you have shared storage behind the SOFS you’re good.
  • It’s policy based and can apply to virtual machines, groups of virtual machines a service or a tenant
  • The virtual disk is the level where the policy is set & enforced.
  • Storage performance will dynamically adjust to meet the policies & when tied the performance will be fairly distributed.
  • You can monitor all this.

It’s right there in the OS.

Storage Replica

This gives us “storage-agnostic, block-level, synchronous replication between servers for disaster recovery, as well as stretching of a failover cluster for high availability. Synchronous replication enables mirroring of data in physical sites with crash-consistent volumes ensuring zero data loss at the file system level. Asynchronous replication allows site extension beyond metropolitan ranges with the possibility of data loss.”

Look for Hyper-V we already had Hyper-V replica (which is also being improved), but for other workloads we still rely on the storage vendors or 3rd party solutions. But now I can have my storage replicas for service protection and continuity out of the box with Windows.  WOW!

and as we read on ..

  • Provide an all-Microsoft disaster recovery solution for planned and unplanned outages of mission-critical workloads.
  • Use SMB3 transport with proven reliability, scalability, and performance.
  • Stretch clusters to metropolitan distances.
    Use Microsoft software end to end for storage and clustering, such as Hyper-V, Storage Replica, Storage Spaces, Cluster, Scale-Out File Server, SMB3, Deduplication, and ReFS/NTFS.
  • Help reduce cost and complexity as follows:

Hardware agnostic, with no requirement to immediately abandon legacy storage such as SANs.

Allows commodity storage and networking technologies.
Features ease of graphical management for individual nodes and clusters through Failover Cluster Manager and Microsoft Azure Site Recovery.

Includes comprehensive, large-scale scripting options through Windows PowerShell.

  • Helps reduce downtime, and increase reliability and productivity intrinsic to Windows.
  • Provide supportability, performance metrics, and diagnostic capabilities.

I have gotten this to work in the lab with some trial and error but this is the Technical Preview, not a finish product. If they continue along this path I’m pretty confident we’ll have functional & operational viable solution by RTM. Just think about the possibilities this brings!

Storage Spaces

Now I have not read much on Storage Space in vNext yet but I think its safe to assume we’ll see major improvements there as well. Which leads me to reaffirm my blog posy here: TechEd 2013 Revelations for Storage Vendors as the Future of Storage lies With Windows 2012 R2

Microsoft is delivering more & great software defined storage inbox. This means cost effective yet very functional storage solutions. On top of that they put pressure on the market to deliver more value if they want to stay competitive. As a customer, whatever solution fits my needs the best, I welcome that. And as a consumer of large amounts of storage in a world where we need to spend the money where it matters most I like what I’m seeing.

Tip for Microsoft: configurability, reliability and EASY diagnostics and remediation are paramount to success. Sure some storage vendor solution aren’t to great on that front either but some are awesome. Make sure your in the awesome category. Make it a great user experience from start to finish in both deployment and operations.

Tip for you: If you’re not ready for prime time with Storage Spaces , SMB Direct etc … do what I’ve done. Use it where it doesn’t kill you if you hit some learning curves. What about storage spaces as a backup target where you can now replicate the backups of to your disaster recovery site?

Data Protection & Disaster Recovery in Windows 8 Server Hyper-V 3.0

The news coming in from the Build Windows conference is awesome. The speculation of the last months is being validated by what is being told and on top of that more goodness is thrown at us Hyper-V techies.

On the data protection and disaster recovery front some great new weapons are at our disposal. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Live Migration & Storage Live Migration.

Among the goodies are the improvements in Live Migration and the introduction of Storage Live Migration.  Hyper-V 3.0 supports multiple concurrent Live Migrations now, which combined with adequate bandwidth will provide for fast evacuation of problematic hosts. Storage Live Migration means you can move a VM (configuration, VHD & snapshots) to different storage while the guest remains on line so the users are not hindered by this. I’m trying to find out if they will support multiple networks / NICs  with this.

Now to make this shine even more MSFT has another ace up it’s sleeve. You can do Live Migration and Storage Live Migration without the requirement of shared storage on the backend. This combination is a big one. This is means “shared nothing” high availability. Even now when prices for entry level shard storage has plummeted we see SMB being weary of SAN technology. It’s foreign to them and the fact they haven’t yet gained any confidence with the technology makes them hesitant. Also the real or perceived complexity might hold ‘m back. For that segment of the market it is now possible to have high availability anyway with the combo Live Migration / Storage Migration.  Add to this that Hyper-V now supports running virtual machines on a file share and you can see the possibilities of NAS appliances in this space of the market for achieving some very nice solutions.

Replication to complete the picture

To top this of you have replication built in, meaning we have the possibility to provide reasonably fast disaster recovery. It might not be real time data center fail over but a lot of clients don’t need that. However, they do need easy recoverability and here it is. To give you even more options, especially  if you only have one location, you can replicate to the cloud.

So now I start dreaming Smile We have shared nothing Live & Storage Live  Migration, we have replication. What could achieve with this? Do synchronous replication locally over a 10Gbps for example and use that to build something like continuous availability. There we go, we already have requirements for “Windows 8 Server R2”!

NIC Teaming in the OS

No more worries about third party NIC teaming woes. It has arrived in the OS (finally!) and it will support load balancing & failover. I welcome this, again it makes this a lot more feasible for the SMB shops.

IP Virtualization / Address Mobility

Another thing that will aid with any kind of of site  disaster recovery / high availability is IP address Mobility. You have an IP for the hosting of the VM and one for internal use by VM. That means you can migrate to other environments (cloud, remote site) with other addresses as the VM can change the hosted IP address, while the internal IP address remains the same.  Just imagine the flexibility this gives us during maintenance, recovery, trouble shooting network infrastructure issues and all this without impacting the users who depend on the VM to get their job done.


Everything we described is out of the box with Windows 8 Server Hyper-V. To a lot of business this can  mean a  huge improvement in their current  availability and disaster recovery situation. More than ever there is now no more reason for any company to go down or even out of business due to catastrophic data loss as all this technology is available on site, in hybrid scenarios and in the cloud with the providers.