Microsoft's R2 upgrade for Server 2003 includes many new storage resource and Storage Area Network (SAN) management features. It will be available for web download from Microsoft's website later this month. The new features include:

  • File Server Resource Manager (FSRM) for storage reporting and provisioning, which includes a quota system. It will work with disk arrays from different vendors.
  • A basic GUI Storage Manager for SANs, both Fibre Channel and iSCSI. It's not as capable as EMC ControlCenter, for example, but users have been managing simple SANS with Excel spreadsheets and this is way better than that.
  • Integration of NFS support into Microsft's Services for Unix. There will be no need for Windows users to use Samba to get Windows (CIFS) to talk to Unix (NFS) from now on.
  • Centralised file replication for branch offices through re-written Distributed File Service (DFS) and better compression facilities/

There was a VDS 1.1 interoperability session at Microsoft's headquarters with more than 20 storage vendors including Brocade, CA, Emulex, HP, McData, NetApp and QLogic. Complying products will be allowed to sport a 'Designed for Windows' logo.

VDS 1.1 allows sysadmins to manage storage logical units (LUNs) at a hardware level as well as the ability to provision SAN storage using multiple vendors' arrays.

Storage applications can use a standard set of interfaces (APIs) in Windows Server 2003 R2 to address storage software or hardware devices and start, stop and monitor activities. Suppliers of hardware or software addressed by these APIs write specific interfaces between them and their product. It means applications will no longer have to have a specific interface to write to each individual suppliers' products. Instead they just use the APIs provided by Microsoft.

It also means that general Windows administrators should be able to do more to manage networked storage before they have to call on storage experts. This will encourage the takeup of, for example, iSCSI SANs, by departments and smaller enterprises.

Microsoft is using its traditional device and service abstraction approach to simplfy the activities of users, developers and suppliers. Windows Storage Sever 2003, based on Windows Server 2003, will be able to use these new features. Windows Server R2 will require users to have a new license.