Microsoft is looking beyond its dominance of the server space with a series of moves aimed at giving it major mind share in storage.
In its latest move, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant last week made the R2 version of its storage operating system, Windows Storage Server 2003, available to storage OEMs.
WSS 2003 R2, which contains several new enterprise-class features, may become available to the custom-system space after Microsoft tweaks it some more, said Claude Lorenson, group product manager for storage at Microsoft.
Microsoft has a pilot program in place for this summer to bring WSS to system builders, Lorenson said. Microsoft has not yet done so because “there are some groups within Microsoft that are not happy with this,” he said. “We have to smooth some feathers.”
The problem, Lorenson said, is that WSS costs less than the general-purpose Windows Server 2003. WSS is based on Windows Server, but many of the general-purpose features were not locked, making it possible for a system builder to use WSS to build a general-purpose server. The R2 version of WSS, however, has locking mechanisms in place to prevent that, making its availability to the custom system builder community more of a possibility, he said.
“The channel wants it,” he said. “My group wants it. It’s just the server OEM group that doesn’t want it. It’s not a lack of desire. It’s a political question.”
System builders do indeed want it, said Todd Swank, director of marketing at Northern Computer Technologies, Burnsville, Minn. “Storage is a huge market, and a big opportunity for the white-box channel,” Swank said. “Customers are asking for the Microsoft technology. I guarantee we’ll be using it the day it becomes available to us, or at least within a couple months.”
Actually, it is possible for smaller system builders to get WSS already, according to one system builder who buys it from embedded systems distributors. “For some apps, WSS seems more applicable than others like EMC, which is more high-end,” the system builder said. “With WSS, you just need a hardware box. It’s less expensive and very flexible. Just add the software to the hardware.”
The R2 version of WSS 2003, which Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and LeftHand Networks have committed to use in upcoming storage arrays, includes several new features.
Among these is single-instance storage, under which multiple exact copies of a file are replaced with a single copy with pointers toward that copy. Also new are full-text-based indexing search, which allows users to search for files by content or key words, as well as new built-in quota management and storage reporting capabilities, Lorenson said