Yet another Microsoft storage disaster

Jon Honeyball
24 Nov 2010

So Microsoft has decided to kill off the Drive Extender technology in the next release of Windows Home Server, codenamed Vail (and the other concotions of the same basic recipe: Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, codenamed Aurora).

This was the one bit of cleverness in Windows Home Server that really appealed to the home user. Buy a four-bay server like the cute little HP Home Server, and add more discs when you needed more space.

The underlying drive manager tools just added the space into the pool for you, rather like a Drobo does. And you could mark important files and directories so they were put onto more than one spindle, just in case of drive failure. It was simple, it worked, and the users loved it.

For the 2011 version, Microsoft decided to rejig the technology and came up with the refreshed version called Drive Extender. Now, after a very embarrassing 24 hours -- in which they claimed we really didn't need it, indeed that we were calling on Microsoft to pull it out and junk it -- they have had to admit that it didn't work properly so it's been junked.

The howls of protest are reverberating around the world.

I'll dig into this more in my next column, but here's a thought for the meantime. Microsoft, or rather the brilliant team led by David Cutler, came up with NTFS in 1991. Since then, just about every storage technology that Microsoft has tried to bring to market has failed.

Cairo's Object File System never happened. Structured storage deconstruction to NTFS streams in NT 3.51 never made it to release. Drive M: in Exchange Server was canned because it was way too easy to break. The WinFS object file system promised for Vista. And now Drive Extender. Thats one attempt every five years, give or take.

I was chatting with one corporate IT director recently who lovingly stroked the floor to ceiling rackspace of his huge Storage Area Network. We were musing about Microsoft and file systems. He said "NTFS is very solid, but Microsoft doesn't do storage. Not even slightly. And can't innovate in the space either".

Hard to disagree with his view, to be honest.

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