Analyze that: Microsoft

As part of our "Analyze that" series, founder and consulting analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group dissects Microsoft. Arun describes what he thinks about Microsoft's newly named Windows Storage Server 2003 and why other storage vendors should pay careful attention to what the folks in Redmond have up their sleeves.

Be sure to join Arun at Storage Decisions 2003 in Chicago, September 10-12, where he'll be sharing important information on content-addressed storage. At the conference you can participate in the "Rate the vendor" sessions and added presentations about how to create RFPs. This is a free conference if you qualify -- sign up here today.

Can you give a brief overview of Microsoft's product line as it relates to storage?
Microsoft standard OS products have included relatively simple disk and volume management tools from the beginning. But those that wanted sophisticated volume management or backup tools, for instance, always went to the likes of Veritas, Legato, CA and others. Microsoft's first real foray into the storage business began with their introduction of [the] Windows SAK (Server Appliance Kit) product a couple of years ago. With this software product, one could take a standard Intel server and convert it very quickly into a low-end NAS product. That started the mass production of CIFS-based NAS products from the likes of Dell, Iomega, IBM, HP and others. Microsoft has since enhanced this product and the new revision is called Windows Storage Server 2003, released within the last couple of months. Along with that they have added additional functionality for snapshots and backup via products known as VSS (virtual Storage Service) and VDS (virtual Disk Service). Microsoft also has added an iSCSI initiator driver for Windows Server 2003. All this activity is suggestive of serious intent on the part of Microsoft that they intend to aggressively participate in this growth arena. Which products should the company think about discontinuing?
Previous releases of the Server Appliance Kit (SAK) have poor Network File System (NFS) performance and need to be put to pasture. What has Microsoft done this year to make itself a stronger company?
They have made serious performance improvements in both the Common Internet File System (CIFS) and the Network File System (NFS), added utilities for managing storage (VSS and VDS) as well as an iSCSI driver. Who or what do you see as Microsoft's biggest threat?
I think the low-end NAS [market] is theirs for the taking and then they can start impinging [on] the mid range. Also they will enable iSCSI market movement. I think the threat is to other iSCSI and NAS players, not to Microsoft. I don't see many obstacles to them in the near term as the storage growth regains momentum. Which of Microsoft's products do you think will still be around in 3 years?
Windows Storage Server 2003 and its future releases as well as iSCSI initiator divers. In which direction is Microsoft headed? Do you think it's the right roadmap for the company's future success?
Based on their roadmap I have seen, I see serious upside for them. How should storage managers approach buying from Microsoft or Microsoft-affiliated partners? Are they offering deep discounts? Is now a good time to buy?
Most storage products will be purchased by end users and VARs not directly from Microsoft but from OEMs, such as Dell and HP. Or they would buy iSCSI-based solutions from vendors such as Elipsan, Intransa, EqualLogic and other relatively new players. Right now the bargains are easily had in the NAS arena since there are enough players supplying relatively undifferentiated products and the economy is still chugging along.

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