Storage UPDATE--Windows Server 2003 Storport--April 5, 2004

Storage UPDATE--Windows 2003 Storport--April 5, 2004


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Windows Scripting Solutions





- Storage I/O Made Better with Windows 2003 Storport


News and Views

- Brocade Targets Small and Midsized Businesses

- VERITAS Software Updates Data Management Solution


New and Improved

- Serial ATA Backup System for Desktops

- Virtual Tape Systems Add Speed and Reliability

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


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==== Commentary ====

by Jerry Cochran, [email protected]


Storage I/O Made Better with Windows 2003 Storport

Windows storage I/O has grown a little long in the tooth since the days of Windows NT 3.1 more than 10 years ago. The Windows storage I/O driver layer (i.e., the SCSI miniport, aka SCSIport) has been in need of a serious overhaul for some time. Microsoft made the necessary investment in Windows Server 2003, which provides a revamped storage I/O layer that will take Windows applications to the next level of storage performance and functionality.

For as long as I can remember, people have complained about the fact that NT understands only SCSI and doesn't understand IDE, RAID, or complex storage connections such as Fibre Channel or Internet SCSI (iSCSI). This limitation is largely attributable to the traditional SCSIport driver. In the early days, Microsoft bet that SCSI would become the disk interface of choice. That bet paid off, but times have since changed and direct-attached SCSI drives are no longer the only game in town for Windows systems. The SCSIport driver doesn't provide the performance, configuration flexibility, and manageability that today's RAID-enabled, Fibre Channel-based Storage Area Network (SAN) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) environments require.

The SCSIport driver has certain architectural limitations, including a maximum of 254 I/O requests per SCSI adapter, sequential (or half-duplex) I/O functions (in other words, either issuing I/O requests or completing them, but not doing both at the same time), excessive load at high IRQ levels, high buffer-processing overhead, and I/O queue management limitations. Storage hardware vendors can and have worked around these problems by developing their own drivers (many have developed their own storage filter drivers), but those drivers are proprietary and difficult to support. These shortcomings aren't easily fixed and have signaled a need for Microsoft to design from scratch a solution that meets the demands of today's storage technologies and applications.

Microsoft designed the Storport driver with modern storage I/O requirements and the shortcomings of SCSIport in mind. Storport specifically addresses each problem I mention above while maintaining a degree of backward compatibility to ease the transition from SCSIport to Storport for vendors and customers. To address SCSIport's half-duplex limitation, Storport supports synchronous I/O functioning (i.e., full duplex). Thus, Storport can issue and complete I/O requests simultaneously.

To alleviate SCSIport's excessive loading at high IRQ levels, Storport adds a new parallel routine that handles much of the IRQ processing overhead (such as building scatter/gather lists for I/O requests) before sending the command to hardware. Storport also reduces buffer processing overhead by providing driver developers with flexible options for buffer management.

To resolve SCSIport's 254 outstanding I/O request limit per adapter, Storport imposes no per-adapter limit. Instead, Storport limits the number of outstanding I/O requests per LUN to 254. This improvement provides flexibility and much more headroom for high-performance storage systems, such as Fibre Channel SANs. Of course, the onus is then on storage vendors to develop controllers and infrastructure to handle this I/O load.

Storport provides better I/O queue management than SCSIport (which really can't control I/O queuing at all) by implementing I/O queue control functions (e.g., pause, resume, busy, ready) on a device, adapter, and LUN basis. By addressing specific SCSIport limitations, Storport provides an architecture that meets the demands of next-generation storage technology.

Storport doesn't stop there, however. Microsoft looked beyond the problems with SCSIport to the future of storage technology. This focus on the future drove additional functionality into Storport. New features include enhanced error handling, Fibre Channel link handling and channel management, better Windows clustering support, and deferred procedure call (DPC) support for extended processing capability.

Microsoft hopes that Storport will make developers' lives easier as well as making Windows storage easier to support and manage. The Windows Driver Development Kit (DDK) includes tools that vendors can use to migrate their SCSIport drivers to Storport. Early Microsoft tests show that Storport is paying off in terms of performance. Microsoft claims that Storport is 30 percent to 50 percent more efficient than SCSIport and can handle more I/Os per second at a lower CPU utilization.

As you look to future storage purchases for your Windows systems, make sure to ask your favorite vendor whether their products support Storport. Leveraging Storport promises benefits for storage vendors, Microsoft, and customers alike.


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==== News and Views ====

by Keith Furman, [email protected]


Brocade Targets Small and Midsized Businesses

Brocade Communications Systems, which provides infrastructure solutions for Storage Area Networks (SANs), has announced a new strategy to target first-time SAN users in small to midsized businesses (SMBs) as well as enterprise departments and remote offices. As part of the strategy, Brocade will release new OEM products that are designed to reduce the cost of SANs. Brocade partners, including HP, IBM, StorageTek, and Sun Microsystems, will include the new products as part of SAN offerings. "Until now, most SMBs, as well as branch offices at large enterprises, couldn't take advantage of SANs to boost utilization, availability, and manageability due to high costs and complexity. Our latest research indicates that in 2003 the majority of low-cost servers were not shipped as SAN-ready. Initiatives from SAN vendors such as Brocade that meet the cost and usability needs of SMBs will boost IT managers' ability to manage all storage assets and play a critical role in the continued growth of the networked storage industry," said Richard Villars, vice president, storage systems research, at IDC.

Brocade will release a new family of 8-port and 16-port Brocade SilkWorm switches for SANs. The switches feature a shared system architecture, compatibility with Brocade's other SAN platforms, and multiple-feature options depending on specific customer configuration needs.


VERITAS Software Updates Data Management Solution

VERITAS Software has released an updated version of its VERITAS Data Lifecycle Manager data-management solution. The updated software joins a large group of industry solutions aimed at helping businesses comply with regulatory requirements for data management. The software integrates with the company's NetBackup and Backup Exec software products. VERITAS Data Lifecycle Manager lets administrators create policies for retention, migration, and deletion of files and messaging data. The software includes high-speed search and indexing capabilities. The integration of VERITAS Data Lifecycle Manager with the company's backup solutions lets customers leverage their investment in previous backups.

VERITAS also announced a new partnership program that will let third parties use a common Data Lifecycle Manager API to work with the new software. "In addition to the capabilities of VERITAS Data Lifecycle Manager and its integration with VERITAS NetBackup, VERITAS Backup Exec, and VERITAS CommandCentral Service software, we've created an alliance program which offers customers ways to centrally manage a broad range of data formats, helping them achieve regulatory compliance while controlling IT costs," said Brenda Zawatski, VERITAS vice president of product marketing. Among the companies that have announced support are Akonix Systems, Autonomy, Exivity, FaceTime Communications, IMlogic, Network Appliance (NetApp), Pegasus Disk Technologies, Plasmon Data, Princeton Softech, Sherpa Software, and StorageTek.


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==== Resource ====


Terminal Services Clients Consume Multiple Terminal Services CALs Because of Storage Issues

Under certain conditions, Windows-based terminals or clients can use multiple Windows 2000 Server Terminal Services Client Access License (CAL) tokens. The problem occurs if you turn off the device before the CAL token is flushed to flash memory. For details about this problem and a link to a hotfix, go to the URL below.


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==== New and Improved ====

by Renee Munshi, [email protected]


Serial ATA Backup System for Desktops

CMS Products (formerly CMS Peripherals) shipped the Velocity Series backup system for Windows XP and Windows 2000 desktop computers. Velocity Series' Serial ATA interface has a transfer rate of as much as 1.5Gbps, meaning that users can back up 20GB of data in fewer than 20 minutes compared with more than 60 minutes for USB 2.0 or FireWire interfaces. Velocity Series includes CMS Products' BounceBack Professional software and offers capacities ranging from 80GB to 200GB. The product is available through major distributors, corporate resellers, mail order, and the company's Web site; pricing starts at $299.


Virtual Tape Systems Add Speed and Reliability

MaXXan Systems announced new virtual tape systems that use disks to emulate industry-standard tape libraries. MaXXan's new SVT100 and SVT200 virtual tape systems use Fibre Channel protocols to back up data to and restore data from a disk-based virtual tape at high speeds. This approach maximizes reliability by eliminating robotic mechanical failures and physical tape media errors. The SVT100 and SVT200 export and import data between the systems' disk-based virtual tapes and physical tape media as a secondary task, allowing disk-to-tape migration to take place at any time of day without affecting application performance. Suggested retail prices start at $39,000 for the SVT100 and $34,000 for the SVT200.


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