One of the most valuable new features in Release 2 (R2) of Windows Storage Server 2003 is Storage Manager for SANs, which provides basic storage area network (SAN) management features for Windows Server SANs, including discovery and simple quota management.
The emphasis is truly on the word basic. Storage Manager for SANS is a deliberately limited product. Although the product is designed to manage both fibre channel and iSCSI SANs, it concentrates on ease of use and simplicity in basic management jobs at the expense of the ability to manage dozens of servers with thousands of users. For example, it does not have features to support tiered storage or Information Lifecycle Management (ILM), and there is no indication that Microsoft plans to add these features.
For the vast majority of SAN administrators who deal with small to medium-sized SANs, this focus on ease of use and simplicity is probably a good choice on Microsoft's part. However, one 'advanced' feature of Storage Manager for SANs is that it integrates Windows Services for Unix, which supports the Unix NFS file system. This means that storage administrators do not need a version of Samba to handle Unix and Windows file systems simultaneously.
Another useful feature is support for remote backup via faster data replication and compression features. This makes it more practical to back up remote sites over a network. A differential compression feature only transmits changes to files over the remote link, considerably reducing the amount of time and bandwidth needed to back up remote systems.
R2 was released to full production in December, 2005, but it will probably not be widely available until February, 2006. Prices range from $999 for the standard edition to $3,999 for the Enterprise Edition.
Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in issues related to storage and storage management.
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