Digging Into Windows Server 2012 New Storage Features


If there’s anything true about IT today, it’s the fact that there’s an insatiable demand for storage. Microsoft estimates that most organizations double their storage requirements every four years and, if anything, that growth is growing faster than ever. Some experts estimate that storage growth will soon be doubling every two years for some organizations. This rapid growth is fueled by increased storage capacities, emerging technologies like big data, and today’s lower cost of data acquisition. Windows Server 2012 has several new storage features that help address today’s storage challenges and bring some of the capabilities that were traditionally only offered by SANs within the reach of smaller businesses, while at the same time offering improved integration with SAN storage. Some of the important new Windows Server 2012 storage features include:


  • Data Deduplication - Windows Server 2012 data deduplication works at the volume level and essentially allows users to store more data in less physical space. Data deduplication uses sub-file, variable-size chunking, and compression to segment files into small (32KB–128KB) variable-sized chunks. Windows Server 2012 can identify duplicate chunks of data and maintain just a single copy of data in each chunk. Redundant copies of the data are replaced by a reference to the single copy. Microsoft claims it provides storage saving ratios of 2 to 1 for general file servers and up to 20 to 1 for virtualization data.


  • SMB Multi-Channel, SMB Direct and SMB Transparent Redirection – Microsoft made a number of very significant enhancements to their SMB file sharing protocol in Windows Server 2012. SMB Multichannel allows multiple TCP connections to be established over multiple NICs for a single SMB session, enabling bandwidth aggregation of the multiple NICs and multiple CPUs involved. SMB Direct speeds up remote SMB connections to speeds comparable to direct accessed storage. This enables applications such as Hyper-V and SQL Server to be implemented on SMB files shares. SMB Transparent Redirection works to enable highly available file shares by allowing the client to failover without waiting for a network failure.


  • Storage Pools – Storage Spaces can be thought of as virtualized storage. Storage Spaces are available in both Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 and they allow the physical disks providing the underlying storage to be abstracted and aggregated together and then used by the OS as a single storage pool.


  • Thin Provisioning - Thin provisioning optimizes storage utilization by maximizing utilization of existing storage and reclaiming any unused space (aka, trimming). Windows Server 2012 allows storage to be allocated on a just-in-time basis. In addition, it can identify thin-provisioned LUNs, as well as provide notifications for exceeding threshold and physical resource constraints.


  • Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX)—Windows Server 2012’s new ODX technology provides improved SAN integration. ODX can provide significant performance improvements for copy-and-move operations performed on a SAN by enabling the work of copying or moving the data to be offloaded to the SAN. This bypasses the need for the Windows Server 2012 OS to handle the data movement.

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