Thursday, January 05, 2012

Windows 8 Storage Spaces... The end to our data drive upgrade nightmares? (Or "This is not your father's Drive Extender...")

Building Windows 8 - Virtualizing storage for scale, resiliency, and efficiency

In this post, we are going to dive into a feature in the Windows 8 Developer Preview. Storage Spaces are going to dramatically improve how you manage large volumes of storage at home (and work). We’ve all tried the gamut of storage solutions—from JBOD arrays, to RAID boxes, or NAS boxes. Many of us have been using Windows Home Server Drive Extender and have been hoping for an approach architected more closely as part of NTFS and integrated with Windows more directly. In building the Windows 8 storage improvements, we set out to do just that and developed Storage Spaces. Of course, the existing solutions you already use will continue to work fine in Windows 8, but we think you will appreciate this new feature and the flexible architecture. As we talk all about consumer electronics next week, thinking about all the media we all have in photos (especially huge digital negatives) and videos, this feature is sure to come in handy. In this post, Rajeev Nagar, a group program manager on our Storage and File System team, details this new feature.

In previous posts we’ve seen folks jump to try to identify edge cases or debug the designs. We’re trying an FAQ approach at the end of this post to see if we can focus the dialog a bit :-) The FAQ also talks about the numerous opportunities to use PowerShell as a management tool for Storage Spaces.


By my own admission, I am a digital packrat. My data collection continues to expand and includes some of my most precious memories, including irreplaceable photos and home videos of my children since their birth. For quite some time now, I have sought a dependable, expandable, and easy to use solution that maximizes utilization of my ever-growing collection of USB drives. Further, I want guarantees that my data will always be protected despite the occasional hardware failure.

Windows 8 provides a new capability called Storage Spaces enabling just that. In a nutshell, Storage Spaces allow:

  • Organization of physical disks into storage pools, which can be easily expanded by simply adding disks. These disks can be connected either through USB, SATA (Serial ATA), or SAS (Serial Attached SCSI). A storage pool can be composed of heterogeneous physical disks – different sized physical disks accessible via different storage interconnects.
  • Usage of virtual disks (also known as spaces), which behave just like physical disks for all purposes. However, spaces also have powerful new capabilities associated with them such as thin provisioning (more about that later), as well as resiliency to failures of underlying physical media.

Before we start exploring Storage Spaces in more detail, I will digress briefly to give you a little more context: some of us have used (or are still using), the Windows Home Server Drive Extender technology which was deprecated. Storage Spaces is not intended to be a feature-by-feature replacement for that specialized solution, but it does deliver on many of its core requirements. It is also a fundamental enhancement to the Windows storage platform, which starts with NTFS. Storage Spaces delivers on diverse requirements that can span deployments ranging from a single PC in the home, up to a very large-scale enterprise datacenter.



Sounds promising. Maybe this is the "drive extender" we've been looking for... :P And it comes in every Win8 box! (I hope). I also like that it's meant to be used in the lone home PC all the way to Enterprise storage... While I'm not really sure this would be of much use on a notebook, for a desktop or home server this would be awesome. Just add a SATA drive, add it to a pool and done, more drive space auto-magically (with optional mirroring/parity features too)

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