Corporate and third party developers that want to improve application performance and storage management in cloud and virtualized environments like the updates Microsoft has made to its Server Message Block file sharing protocol.
But many of the improvements take advantage of Windows Server 2012, which isn’t due until late this year, so most developers won’t spend a lot of time and money creating exploitive applications until next year.
“Looking back at the amount of changes going into this release: the lines of code written, the array of features introduced… a minor revision doesn’t do justice the work that has gone in,” said Jeffrey Snover, distinguished engineer and the lead architect for the Windows Server Division, wrote in a blog post earlier this week.
SMB 3.0 Features
- A new transport protocol designed for Windows Server 2012 that enables memory-to-memory data transfers between servers using standard network adapters
- Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for SMB file shares which enables application-consistent shadow copies of data stored on SMB file shares
- Faster access to documents over high latency networks.
Many of the new features focus on server applications that store data on file shares or virtualization software such as SQL Server and Hyper-V, according to Snover, including active file sharing with SMB scale out, which allows users to scale shared bandwidth by adding cluster nodes eliminating the need to create multiple clustered file servers. (See sidebar for other new features).
SMB 3.0 protocol ahead of its time
One Microsoft customer said the tools in SMB 3.0 will be useful – eventually.
“They have included some practical features here that could better support storage and storage management, which has been a major expense for me,” said Eugene Lee, a senior systems administrator with a large national bank in Charlotte, N.C.“But it will be well into 2013 before I do any hard core evaluations of Windows Server (2012) and what applications I want to bring over.”
Another reason some IT professionals may not be so quick to start development projects for the enhanced protocol is they either haven’t started or are not far enough along in their private or public cloud deployments to focus on application performance.
“We have a private cloud working but only have a handful of services so far,” said Jack Henderson, an IT administrator with a mid-size financial services company in Chicago. “We’ll be more interested in something like this (SMB protocol) as we roll out services that involve a much larger number of users in the next year or two.”
Heightened interest in the SMB protocol over the past year or two is tied to the growing industry trend of moving from block to file storage. The technical limitations of the Common Internet File System (CIFS) protocol has led to the wider adoption of block-based storage for both applications and virtualization. The performance of back-end storage has long been a major choke point for scaling virtualization and cloud infrastructures.
Microsoft officials said they have drawn SMB 3.0 support of several server vendors, as well as open source partners, including EMC, NetApp Inc. and Hewlett-Packard. All three have pledged delivery of compatible products when Windows Server 2012 ships.