Microsoft has improved its NAS, Fibre Channel and iSCSI support.

Exchange Server 2003 files and data will soon be able to be consolidated onto Windows-powered storage devices, such as NAS boxes. A feature pack has been released to manufacturing and will be available from NAS vendors in the coming months.

"Customers tell us they are looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their IT infrastructure through networked storage on the Windows platform," said Zane Adam, director of product management and marketing for storage at Microsoft. Microsoft aims,"to reduce storage costs with consolidated, simplified management of Exchange Server data on Windows Storage Server," and claims it is helping to make SANs "more manageable and cost-effective".

When used as a host to a Fibre Channel SAN, Windows Server 2003's new Fibre Channel Information Tool will be able to dynamically gather component SAN information, providing configuration data needed to troubleshoot multi-vendor environments. This tool will be available for download free of charge at Microsoft's downloads page in May.

Also storage tracing support within Windows Server 2003 will consolidate the various tracing and logging mechanisms used by storage drivers on SANs. It will be available as part of Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003. Adaptec, Emulex, Intel, LSI Logic and QLogic have committed to support this capability in their drivers.

Also for iSCSI: Microsoft's iSCSI architecture will now be supported with Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition. A list of qualified iSCSi devices can be found online here.

Plus, native iSCSI support is provided for Microsoft Multipath I/O. Support has been improved for multi-path failover and load balancing between the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator and iSCSI targets. Native Microsoft MPIO support will be included in Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator version 2.0, available at the end of 2004. Customers and partners can sign up for the beta here using the guest ID: iSCSI (case sensitive).

The aim is that Windows servers will better interoperate with Windows-powered NAS and Microsoft iSCSI targets than Unix servers will be able to.