One of the surprising bits of news that came out of Microsoft senior vice president Paul Flessner's TechEd keynote address this week in Dallas was an announcement concerning Windows Storage Server 2003, a product few people in the audience had heard of. But Storage Server has actually been around a while: Originally called the Server Appliance Kit (SAK), Microsoft renamed the product to Windows Powered Network Attached Storage (NAS) after the company started an internal storage division. The new name reflects a modified branding strategy, the company told me this week.

"Our customers are facing intensive cutbacks in spending during our current economic climate and, at the same time, are dealing with substantial increases in data storage needs," says Charles Stevens, the corporate vice president of the Enterprise Storage Division at Microsoft. "In tandem with our valued partners, Windows Storage Server 2003 will directly address customer concerns by offering a dependable and scalable storage solution that lowers their total cost of ownership."

Windows Storage Server 2003 is a dedicated file, print, and storage server solution that runs on NAS devices with at least 160 GB of storage space. Based on Windows Server 2003, the product provides support for Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for point-in-time data recovery, Distributed File System (DFS), server clustering and Multipath Input/Output (I/O) technology. It will also support the upcoming iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) technology for IP-based Storage Area Networks (SANs).

Windows Storage Server 2003 will be finalized later this month and appear in products from a variety of manufacturers this fall. Companies such as Dell, EMC, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM, Iomega, NEC, and others have pledged to release Windows Storage Server 2003-based devices.