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Microsoft needs to get its storage act together

Just as we were going to press, I had to rewrite this editorial. After typing a pretty stiff rebuke of Microsoft for its failure to get its storage act together, I read the first good news about Microsoft and storage in awhile. Under pressure from the European Community, Microsoft will license the source code to the Common Internet File System (CIFS), the Microsoft analog to Unix's NFS.

That's the good news. Really good news would be that this signals an end to the simmering tiff between Redmond and makers of non-Microsoft NAS boxes.

And that brings me back to my stiff rebuke.

First, let's leave any simplistic Microsoft bashing at the door. I'm not buying the "Windows is for wimps" story. Windows is a crucial part of enterprise computing. Many big-time applications run on Windows servers or use SQL Server, and certainly Exchange is a fixture on a grand scale in large companies.

All the greater tragedy that Microsoft has a fragmented, dysfunctional approach to one of the most crucial components of 21st century enterprise computing. Storage managers need to know that Windows will fully support all networked storage with a high level of integration, regardless of how key applications such as SQL Server and Exchange work.

Put bluntly, you need Windows to play nice on heterogeneous SANs and you need Microsoft to fully support NAS.

Someone needs to take a long, hard and comprehensive look at storage in Redmond. Microsoft recently appointed a czar

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of storage, longtime heavy-hitter Bob Muglia. He ostensibly has the clout to make changes, but his charter is still unclear. Here's what I'd like to see Muglia work on.

Call off the war with NAS vendors who don't use Windows for their filers. Microsoft's Server Appliance Kit fills some needs, but not all. Microsoft has had to learn to play half-nice with Unix servers in the data system; now it should do the same with NAS.

Whether or not you choose to use Windows, Unix, or anything else is a matter of philosophy - your philosophy. Ditto for the type of storage you choose to deploy Windows applications. Microsoft's job is to provide tools that work within customer environments. Take some simple steps, like having a realistic certification process for NAS.

Tweak Windows 2000 so that it doesn't try to gobble up everything on the SAN. Storage managers are wasting time and money on zoning just to take care of that problem.

Active Directory provides a handy way to automate storage policies and SRM vendors are doing a good job leveraging AD. But those products only do that for Windows storage. Here's a concept: work to enable non-Windows storage management software to leverage Active Directory within the Windows domain. That way, heterogeneous shops won't have to have two storage management platforms just to get the most out of Windows.

I'll let the rest of you come up with a bigger and better list. I'm listening. Now, if we can just get their attention in Redmond ...

This was first published in July 2002

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