Avalon on XP
Now this seems to me to be a big issue, and something worth fighting about. The alternative is to drop all data onto something like a NetApp Filer, which is a native store for all these data types, and then let it take care of everything in one place. This is certainly a solution that finds a lot of traction in the larger enterprises, but the danger for Microsoft is clear – it runs the serious risk of having no part to play in the storage marketplace of the future. This means it won’t be able to lead in that space, and that would throw up significant questions about its ability to persuade customers to move to WinFS Server edition in the future.
I expressed all of this to the various Microsoft people in Copenhagen, which brought on long faces and furrowed brows. Serious discussions are being had at the moment in Redmond. It might be that they decide to release E12 as an R2 release of Exchange Server 2003, which is the approach I’d favour, with a follow-up of the full SQL Server version coming later. Whatever happens, Microsoft has to demonstrate that Exchange Server and SQL Server do have a future together, and it has to do this right now. In addition, the company absolutely has to get its storage story right, or else it can kiss goodbye to getting things such as WinFS into the big server storage marketplace of the future. The deadline is the promised March opening of the E12 kimono.
Putting on the Frighteners
One of the oldest applications for the 32-bit Windows platform, Diskeeper from Executive Software, has now reached its ninth incarnation. Diskeeper is probably the oldest disk defragmentation program available for Windows NT – indeed, if my memory serves me correctly, it came from the VMS world, which shares the same common father with NT in David Cutler. Diskeeper is the free disk defragmenter that comes in the shrinkwrap of Windows, and has done so almost since the beginning. I understand it doesn’t ship in the German version of Windows, because of some issue with the founders of Executive Software holding religious views that aren’t acceptable in Germany – or some such tale. Nevertheless, disk defragmenting is one of those tasks that we do only occasionally and feel much better for afterwards – a bit like tidying out the cupboard under the stairs. We’re not really sure it’s made any difference, but we feel better for it, so it’s a good thing.
Almost ten years ago, I did some initial benchmarking of drive access times both before and after defragmenting a hard disk, and while the results showed that there was an improvement, it really wasn’t a great deal to get excited about. Under some circumstances and under certain types of load, you could see an improvement. I was interested to see how things have changed after ten years of performance improvements, both in the hard disk drives themselves and in the motherboard/processor combinations, not to mention the vastly increased memory that’s available today.
This time round, the task was made a lot easier by the availability of disk-cloning tools, which could take an accurate and repeatable mirror image of the disk contents, thus allowing me to go back and forth between the original fragmented and defragmented versions. So how well does the new version of Diskeeper work?
Well, it has a new user interface that’s fairly pretty, and it seems to do just the same sort of defragmentation as before. If there have been any changes or optimisations, then they’re very hard to spot. That’s on the plus side. On the minus side, I take strong exception to some of the wording used inside the product’s interface. For example, there’s now a new tab marked Reliability. I ran the Analysis task on a hard disk on my test machine, and it said ‘Reliability analysis results for volume J: Warning! The computer’s reliability is degraded on volume J:’.