Storage UPDATE--Microsoft's Storage Strategy--June 14, 2004

Storage UPDATE--Microsoft's Storage Strategy--June 14, 2004

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1. Commentary

- Microsoft's Storage Strategy: The Big Picture

2. News and Views

- EMC Outlines SAMSUNG Alliance, Realigns Company

- SNIA Launches Education Programs

3. New and Improved

- HBAs Support SMI-S

- SAN Solutions for Small and Midsized Businesses

- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary ====

by Elliot King, [email protected]

Microsoft's Storage Strategy: The Big Picture

With the release of Windows Storage Server 2003 Feature Pack, Microsoft took another important step in the storage arena. The feature pack, which facilitates consolidation of Microsoft Exchange Server data stores on Windows Storage Server systems, automates the process of migrating Exchange data and log files from direct-attached storage to a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. After an administrator uses a configuration wizard to move data to NAS, a service redirects Exchange to the new storage location rather than to Exchange's own storage resources.

Numerous Microsoft storage partners, including Dell, EMC, and HP, as well has Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) such as CommVault Systems and VERITAS Software, have embraced the feature pack. Officials at one early-adopter site reported managing 100,000 email messages in 10 minutes without a hitch.

The release of the feature pack follows the announcement last November that 18 hardware vendors had qualified their Internet SCSI (iSCSI) products with Windows under the Microsoft Designed for Windows Logo Program. Approximately 6 months before that, Redmond had announced the Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator, which enables the use of IP SCSI networks for block-based storage over long distances and provides an alternative to Fibre Channel-based Storage Area Networks (SANs).

These announcements demonstrate Microsoft's clear intention to expand its footprint in the storage arena. In fact, Microsoft has stealthily become a major player in the market already: Since it began shipping Windows Storage Server, Microsoft has garnered about 50 percent of the Windows-based NAS market. To better understand the company's long-term storage strategy, I talked to Marcus Schmidt, senior product manager for Windows Storage Server.

According to Schmidt, Windows Storage Server is positioned differently than the other Microsoft server products. First, it's sold only through OEM and ISV partners. The only similar offerings in the Microsoft server family, Schmidt noted, are Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition and other Windows Datacenter Server versions. By working with its partners, Microsoft has developed a variety of server solutions. "Some focus on the entry level," Schmidt observed. "Some focus on the NAS gateway market." Other partners concentrate on serving specific geographic areas.

Moreover, Schmidt noted, Windows Storage Server was the first Windows-based NAS solution. "It was something that our customers were looking for," Schmidt said. "The key motive for us getting into the NAS market was to answer \[customers'\] requests to give them a Windows offering." At the time, NAS solutions were based on either proprietary OSs or on variations of open-source OSs. As a result, NAS was too complicated a solution for many small and midsized businesses because it required a new platform and different tools.

Many such customers can't justify a dedicated storage administrator, so the same staff that manages the Windows servers is also responsible for storage. Windows Storage Server, Schmidt observed, lets those customers embrace NAS and still use the management tools with which they're familiar. "When people start thinking that NAS is running on a standard Intel platform running a standard OS from Microsoft, their comfort level rises," he said. Often, it takes less than 15 minutes to get Windows Storage Server up and running.

The release of the feature pack addresses an emerging environment in which direct-attached storage is simply no longer an option even for many small companies. The sheer quantity of email and new regulations for email retention require a more scalable, flexible approach than direct-attached storage can provide. NAS represents the next level in sophistication for storage.

Although helping customers who face a virtual tsunami of email move to NAS is Microsoft's short-term focus, the company is also addressing longer-term concerns by investing in virtualization technology. Microsoft Virtual Disk Service (VDS) is aimed at enabling Windows to better manage SAN environments and Microsoft Dfs technology, which abstracts the physical location of files so applications don't break after files are moved.

But perhaps the most intriguing long-term initiative is the development of the Common Engineering Criteria, which was announced at Microsoft TechEd last month. The Common Engineering Criteria is aimed at building common features across all of Microsoft's server products, or what the company now calls the Windows Server System. "The idea is to make sure that customers don't have to relearn four or five different ways of dealing with server products from Microsoft," Schmidt said.

In the long run, Microsoft server products could emerge with the same level of interoperability as Microsoft Office products. Indeed, the release of the Windows Storage Server 2003 Feature Pack could be the first move in that direction. If that vision of interoperability is achieved, it could be a significant development as Microsoft girds itself to compete with technology stacks based on Linux and open-source middleware products and seeks to make its storage solutions the logical first choice in many settings.

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==== 2. News and Views ====

by Keith Furman, [email protected]

EMC Outlines SAMSUNG Alliance, Realigns Company

Hoping to take better advantage of the growing Asian storage market, EMC has announced details of an alliance with SAMSUNG. The alliance was announced previously, but only now are details emerging. The EMC/SAMSUNG alliance is similar to the one EMC has with US-based Dell but is aimed at the Asian storage market. The alliance's first step is to have SAMSUNG resell EMC CLARiiON storage systems under SAMSUNG's StorageMax brand name. In the future, the companies will codevelop products that, together with the StorageMax line, will target small and midsized businesses.

In other EMC news, the company announced the formation of a new software group during a meeting with financial analysts in New York. The software group will include EMC's Documentum, LEGATO Software, and open-software organizations. Executive Vice President David DeWalt and Executive Vice President of Open Software Mark Lewis will comanage the 4000-employee group. One of the group's key goals will be to compete with VERITAS Software. "I've already been sticking pins in my \[VERITAS CEO\] Gary Bloom doll," De Walt joked. Missing from the new group is recently acquired VMware, which will continue to operate as a separate wholly owned subsidiary so it can more easily work with EMC competitors.

SNIA Launches Education Programs

The Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) has established new programs to increase end user and IT industry educational opportunities. SNIA is leveraging its existing educational program, SNIA Education Provider members, and the SNIA Technology Center to offer new certifications, education frameworks, a SNIA Technology Center Institute, tutorials, booklets, dictionaries, roadshows, workshops, and conference sessions. The new effort, which is called the SNIA Education Continuum, won't promote specific vendors but will offer professionals information on developing and deploying storage products. The SNIA Education Continuum is the result of feedback that SNIA has received from the IT community, according to the organization. "Accelerating education and certification of storage administrators, while also accelerating the adoption of standards and best practices, were recognized as important steps in meeting today's business needs. The programs of the SNIA Education Continuum offer a valuable foundation to learn about the variety of technologies and solutions available to better manage corporate data resources," said Marty LeFebvre, vice president of technology strategy at Nielsen Media Research and member of the SNIA End User Council Governing Board.

Highlights of the new effort include the Storage Network Education Framework, which guides providers and vendors in developing and delivering courseware based on industry knowledge and experience; the SNIA Network Certification Program (SNCP), which will certify professionals based on their knowledge of concepts, standards, solutions, and products; and the SNIA Technology Center Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which will offer new courses beginning this month.

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==== 3. New and Improved ====

by Renee Munshi, [email protected]

HBAs Support SMI-S

Emulex announced support for the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) across its family of LightPulse host bus adapters (HBAs). SMI-S is an industry initiative led by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) to deliver a common management interface for simplified operation and control of all products within heterogeneous Storage Area Networks (SANs). Emulex's implementation includes the ability to fully configure and manage all the HBAs in a SAN from one console.

SAN Solutions for Small and Midsized Businesses

QLogic announced that EMC has qualified the QLogic SANblade QLA200 value line of host bus adapters (HBAs) as E-Lab Tested for the new EMC CLARiiON AX100 networked storage system. The EMC CLARiiON AX100 targets small and midsized businesses. The QLogic SANblade QLA200 line, which features easy set-up and configuration wizards, was designed specifically for storage providers that are delivering preconfigured, customer-installable entry-level Storage Area Network (SAN) solutions. EMC has also qualified the QLogic SANblade QLA2340 Series high-performance Fibre Channel HBAs as E-Lab Tested with the CLARiiON AX100.

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