One of the biggest challenges with network-attached storage (NAS) is file management. Consolidating NAS on fewer files makes it easier to manage, and Windows Storage Server 2003 contains a number of features that do just that.
Windows Storage Server 2003 has a Web-based user interface, and its storage management features include file filtering and reporting tools that monitor the level of utilization and performance.
Utilization, unfortunately, is another sore point with conventional NAS filers. All unconsolidated storage typically has a lot of unused space scattered among storage platforms, but because of the way it is used (relatively small amounts of storage in independent, file-oriented devices), NAS is particularly inefficient about it. Consolidating NAS filers using Windows Storage Server 2003 lets storage administrators make better use of their NAS space.
There are, however, two points to consider before you consolidate NAS storage, especially with Windows Storage Server 2003.
The first point is network topology and the effect of the consolidated server on network performance. NAS tends to be added departmentally to serve local needs in the department. If you functionally divide the enterprise network into subnetworks, it tends to keep the NAS-to-client traffic confined to the subnetwork and off the rest of the LAN. Be careful because consolidating NAS in this situation may increase the load on the overall network and could cause performance issues.
The second consideration is cost. Unlike most Microsoft OS products, Windows Storage Server 2003 is not standalone. It comes with NAS filers from manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell. That means consolidating storage with Storage Server 2003 requires a major hardware upgrade.
Microsoft has a number of resources for storage administrators contemplating using Storage Server 2003 for NAS consolidation on its Storage Server 2003: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/wss2003/default.mspx
For an introduction and basic deployment guide, go to: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/wss2003/techinfo/plandeploy/wss2k3archdeploy.mspx
Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 KB floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years, Cook has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.