The Future of Windows Storage Server, Part 2

This week, I continue my interview with Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Storage division, who talked with me at the Windows Storage Server 2003 launch event on September 10. In this part of our discussion, we talked about future technologies that let you centrally administer storage devices, Windows Storage Server 2003's contribution to the Storage Area Network (SAN) market, and whether Microsoft will create a standard UI for configuring a SAN.

Smith: What role does Microsoft play in SANs?

Muglia: We believe those $15,000 SANs will include a Storage Server-based \[Network Attached Storage\] NAS gateway. So, \[Windows\] Storage Server has a play with the SAN market. In addition, Windows Server 2003 includes Virtual Disk Service. VDS will continue to develop in partnership with SAN vendors to make more SAN management functionality available to the Windows administrator through \[Windows\] Storage Server.

Smith: Will Microsoft create a standard UI for configuring a SAN in the same way that \[Windows\] Storage Server provides a standard, Web-based UI for configuring a \[Windows\] Storage Server-based NAS device? According to your early adopter customers, their most important reason for going with \[Windows\] Storage Server was that their existing staff had almost no learning curve with \[Windows\] Storage Server because it's Windows. Wouldn't a standard SAN UI provide that same learning curve advantage?

Muglia: We rely on our SAN partners to provide their own management UI, which is unique, because each vendor wants to highlight their unique features. However, now that you mention it, I think Microsoft could ship a standard Web-based UI for configuring a SAN. The key to this would be getting SAN vendors to help us fully develop our VDS technology to access key SAN management features from Windows. Then, we would be able to provide a basic set of SAN management and configuration features that would work with any SAN vendor that has supplied us with a VDS provider.

Smith: At the launch event, you mentioned that Microsoft's goal was to centrally administer all storage devices, which could include Pocket PC devices with a terabyte of storage. What key technologies are required to make that happen?

Muglia: The key technology we need for central management is replication. Microsoft already has many replication products. Products like ActiveSync to synchronize data between a PDA and your PC. Or Dfs, which allows synchronization between server directories. Also, inside of Outlook 2003, we've implemented Outlook cache, which allows for automatic synchronization of data between online and offline users. So, if you don't have a live connection to Exchange Server, you can still work offline. As soon as you connect, your offline and online Outlook data are synchronized. A fourth example of replication technology is \[Volume Shadow Copy Service\] VSS, which takes snapshots of data and aids in quick recovery of data.

Smith: Does Microsoft plan to develop its own replication technologies internally, partner with someone, or buy replication technology from a third party?

Muglia: In the future, you will see Microsoft implement a very robust backup and recovery scheme. For example, an enterprise would first replicate its data in real time to an offsite location. Then, a snapshot of that replicated data set would be taken. Recovery applications would access the snapshot of the data, which would allow recovery from any moment in time directly from the remote disk snapshot of the data. Our VSS snapshot technology is the first delivery on this future backup and recovery strategy. We have third-party partners today that can handle real-time replication of data to a remote location. Microsoft is actively researching ways of enhancing replication to enable point-in-time recovery of data.

Smith: What storage technologies will Microsoft include in the next version of Windows?

Muglia: In the Longhorn timeframe (2005), we will include Windows Future Storage, which combines streaming data, relational data, and XML. Windows Future Storage will be implemented on top of the NTFS file system, so it will have complete backward compatibility. We will implement technologies inside future versions of \[Windows\] Storage Server, SQL Server, and Windows Server to take full advantage of the Windows Future Storage capabilities. We'll be disclosing a lot more information about Windows Future Storage at the next Microsoft \[Professional Developers Conference\] PDC on October 26 in Los Angeles.

To find out more about the PDC, click http://msdn.microsoft.com/events/pdc/default.aspx . To find out more about Windows Storage Server 2003, click http://www.microsoft.com/storage .