At the Windows Storage Server 2003 launch event on September 10, I interviewed Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Storage division. During our discussion, Muglia talked about new opportunities, competition, and Microsoft's future direction in the storage market. I learned a lot and want to share the interview to bring you up-to-date about what Microsoft has been up to.

Smith: Currently, only Direct Attached Storage (DAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) solutions support Microsoft Exchange Server. When will Network Attached Storage (NAS) solutions directly support Exchange Server?

Muglia: You'll see Exchange Server supported on future versions of Windows Storage Server some time in 2004. Key to this support is the infrastructure we've built into Exchange Server 2003, Windows Storage Server 2003, and Windows Server 2003. We need technologies such as Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and other technologies to provide seamless constant data integrity.

Smith: Who are your main competitors?

Muglia: Our competitors are Network Appliance (NetApp) on the high end and Snap Appliance on the low end. Given Windows Storage Server's attractive price point for the provided functionality, we believe Dell and Iomega will effectively compete against Snap Appliance. As for competing against NetApp, we believe Windows Storage Server's new performance enhancements, as well as some of our partners' innovations, give us a very competitive package. One enhancement is the significantly improved performance of our NFS engine. In addition, we partnered with NSI Software to provide a rich set of remote replication features. Also, EMC is currently shipping NetWin, a Windows Storage Server-based NAS head, with its SAN products. The EMC/Microsoft relationship is key to enterprise customers and provides a very competitive alternative to NetApp NAS heads.

Smith: How do you compete against Linux-based storage?

Muglia: NetApp and Snap Appliance are our main Linux-based storage competitors. Before we launched Windows Storage Server, we had some customers migrate their file and print servers off of Windows NT servers to Linux-based NAS products. The introduction of Windows Storage Server products then stopped such migrations and started us down the path of gaining market share against Linux-based NAS products. Our Windows Storage Server hardware partners are convinced that Windows is a better platform. The partners have witnessed increased capabilities with reduced Research and Development (R&D) costs compared to developing on the Linux platform.

Smith: According to market research firm IDC, Windows Storage Server products have gained 41 percent unit market share. What does Microsoft need to do to grow the market beyond 41 percent for Windows Storage Server 2003?

Muglia: Education. We need to clearly and specifically define Windows Server Systems' role and the role of Windows Storage Server. We want our customers to think of Windows Storage Server first when they're looking to deploy file and print servers.

Smith: What do you believe is the next evolution of networked storage?

Muglia: Commoditization of SANs is the next evolution of networked storage. In the near future, we believe that delivering a $15,000 SAN is very possible. At this price point, we believe networked storage will gain a new level of traction. We have guys in our storage lab that are currently working on technical problems surrounding a $15,000 SAN.

In my next commentary, I'll provide part two of my interview with Muglia, in which we discussed future technologies that let you centrally administer storage devices, Windows Storage Server 2003's contribution to the SAN market, and whether Microsoft will create a standard GUI for configuring a SAN. To find our more about Windows Storage Server 2003, click the following link:

http://www.microsoft.com/storage