On September 10, 2003, Microsoft officially launched Windows Storage Server 2003, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) product based on the Windows Server 2003 architecture. According to IT analysis firm IDC, Microsoft's Windows-based NAS products have a 41 percent market share, which is up from 38 percent only 3 months ago. I've already written a series of articles about Windows Storage Server's features (see the links to those articles at the end of this commentary), so in this column, I focus on other announcements made at the launch.

First, Microsoft asked two early-adopter customers to tell their stories. The first customer, the 108th Division of the US Army, uses Windows Storage Server for file server consolidation and its remote offices. By using Windows Storage Server, the 108th Division has been able to significantly reduce the number of file servers it previously used and has improved its backup and recovery process. The second customer, Draft Worldwide, uses Windows Storage Server and HP's OpenView Storage Mirror, an HP/NSI Software OEM partnership product, for centralized backup for its remote offices. Both customers claimed that the most important factor in their choosing Windows Storage Server over a non-Windows product was that their IT administrators were able to implement Windows Storage Server solutions quickly and without any specialized training. Bill Bailey, network administrator for the 108th Army Division, said, "Storage Server is Windows. There was no learning curve."

At the launch, Microsoft also announced a new storage community at http://www.microsoft.com/storagecommunity . You can log on to the community and find a Windows Storage Server newsgroup, Webcast, white papers, and more resources. Leslie McGuire, Storage Group Manager at Microsoft, said, "Members from Microsoft's storage division's group of developers, sales, support, and product teams are all going to participate in the community on a regular basis." Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Storage Division, hopes the new storage community plays an active role in improving Microsoft's future storage products. Muglia said, "In addition to supporting our customers, communities are a vital part of the feedback loop we look at for deciding future direction for our products."

EMC made an announcement at the launch to introduce NetWin, a Windows Storage Server-based NAS gateway for EMC's Storage Area Network (SAN) products. Chuck Hollis, vice president of EMC's Storage Platform Marketing, said, "Windows Storage Server plays to the sweet spot of the market right now. Storage Server gets the job done, simply, without a lot of fanfare. Customers want tools that integrate with environments they already have. They want Windows, not something that looks like Windows." Hollis also said that NetWin complements EMC's existing high-end NAS gateway, Celerra.

Also at the launch, Iomega introduced the first Windows-based NAS device under $1000. Windows Storage Server 2003 has been positioned to compete very effectively with the current low-end NAS leader, Snap Appliance, a company that currently offers Linux-based NAS devices. Muglia said, "We believe Iomega, Dell, and others can compete quite effectively with Snap Appliance on price and beat them on features with Storage Server 2003."

While at the launch, I had the opportunity to conduct several interviews with leading executives in the storage industry. In my next commentary, I'll summarize those interviews and provide insight about the future direction of Windows storage, Windows storage key market opportunities, enterprise storage customers' top concerns, and some speculation about the future impact of Windows storage on the IT market.

Windows Storage Server, Part 1: http://www.winnetmag.com/windowsserver2003/index.cfm?articleid=39263

Windows Storage Server, Part 2: http://www.winnetmag.com/windowsserver2003/index.cfm?articleid=39359

Windows Storage Server, Part 3: http://www.winnetmag.com/windowsserver2003/index.cfm?articleid=39515

Windows Storage Server, Part 4: http://www.winnetmag.com/windowsserver2003/index.cfm?articleid=39640