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|WSS 2003 OEM offerings|
Emphasizing Microsoft's renewed thrust into the storage market are the recent announcements from OEMs supporting WSS. Hardware and software vendors, such as EMC Corp., Legato (a division of EMC) and Veritas Software Corp., have lined up behind the operating system with a broad range of products that exploit new WSS features. Perhaps the most significant addition to WSS is Microsoft's Feature Pack, which supports Exchange e-mail databases. Other key WSS features include:
- Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS)
- Multipath I/O (MPIO) support
- Improved integration with SANs
- iSCSI support
- Web-based management interface (in addition to the Microsoft Management Console snap-in)
- Exchange support (with the Feature Pack)
First shipped late last year, WSS evolved from the Windows 2000 Server Appliance Kit (SAK). WSS takes advantage of its Windows Server 2003 foundation. For example, VSS allows point-in-time copies of data for backup and restoration, providing more advanced data protection and backup capabilities. MPIO provides redundant I/O paths and iSCSI overcomes the limitations of Serial SCSI by providing block-based storage over IP networks. According to Microsoft, WSS also provides better file-server performance than the SAK; it claims a 50% improvement. One compelling argument for WSS is its Web-based user interface that makes configuration and management much easier.
In fact, simplicity is one of the product's strengths. The Web-based user interface provides wizards for setup, configuration and ongoing management. Rick Bauer, CIO of The Hill School in Pottstown, NJ, says it's easy and intuitive. "We like the fact that the WSS fits our needs without a lot of drama or overhead."
Compared to previous versions of Microsoft's storage operating systems, WSS offers more full-featured quota management and improved storage utilization reporting. These features are built into the operating system--you aren't required to purchase additional management applications from OEMs. As might be expected, WSS supports Microsoft's Active Directory, which allows it to use established policies for security enforcement. According to Microsoft, WSS supports all major network operating system protocols, including NFS, NetWare, AppleTalk and HTTP. Most OEMs ship their WSS devices with a mirrored operating system partition and a RAID 5 data partition. To add the device to the network, just set the IP address, the computer name and then join the domain.
This was first published in August 2004