Windows 2000: A Storage Perspective

Windows 2000 launched on February 19 of this year, with the release of Win2K Server and Win2K Advanced Server. Win2K Datacenter Server launched last month. When I give presentations, people often ask me to summarize what's new in Win2K from a storage perspective and offer opinions about those features. Win2K is rich in enhancements for managing storage devices, both locally (attached) and remotely.

Let's begin with a basic aspect of storage: the file system. NTFS 5.0 provides improved security, better compression, the Encrypting File System (EFS), and increased control over access and privileges. EFS, for example, let's you encrypt folders so that they can't be read without personal access. EFS protects Win2K Professional laptop users, but—surprisingly—when Windows 2000 Magazine surveyed Win2K Pro laptop users about this feature, the responses were lukewarm. Nevertheless, EFS is worth a look.

To get the most out of NTFS 5.0, you need Win2K Pro clients and Win2K servers. Having both lets you use the Distributed File System (Dfs) to set up mirrored shares in multiple places. Dfs can help network administrators significantly reduce network traffic. Aspects of NTFS 5.0's interaction with legacy OSs (e.g., Windows 9x, Windows 3.1, DOS, and even Windows NT 4.0) are problematic. But for the most part, NTFS 5.0 offers advantages even in standalone Win2K systems.

If you've tried Win2K, you've undoubtedly encountered the Microsoft Management Console's (MMC's) various volume managers. This version of the OS introduces many new concepts in volume management. The primary new concept involves how basic disks and dynamic disks are converted and managed. Win2K's dynamic disks introduce new versions of RAID. Given that Sun charges for software RAID, it's pretty cool to have it in the base Windows server OS.

Veritas did a lot of work on the updated version of Win2K's disk administrator, but the company offers a much more substantial Volume Manager as a separate Win2K product. If you do a lot of storage configuration, you'll find this Veritas product worth considering. One final note about Volume Manager: I heard that some managers at Microsoft would have liked Veritas to deliver more Volume Manager features in the base Win2K OS (which probably means that Veritas Volume Manager is well worth a look).

The Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW) initiative added quota management to Win2K, but it's not a particularly robust feature compared to what one finds in UNIX storage management. Quota management lets you set the amount of storage that users can access before they run out of Win2K disk space. However, you probably won't have the fine-grained control over quotas that most administrators want. Those who need more complete quota management might look at WQuinn's Storage CeNTral.

Microsoft often includes other vendors' technology in its base OS and then lets the vendors sell a fuller version. The strategy works well for both partners. For example, Windows Backup is a basic version of what is now Veritas's Backup Exec (once Seagate Backup Exec)—the number-one backup utility in the Windows marketplace. Similarly, Executive Software's Diskeeper defragmenter is part of the base OS. (The company is slated to have a much improved product coming to market fairly soon.)

Many other Win2K technologies, such as IntelliMirror and remote installation technologies, are peripherally related to storage, but I've run out of space. Migrating to Win2K is challenging, however—from a storage perspective—it offers manifold benefits. Now that I've reminded you of Win2K's storage "big picture," I hope you'll try the technologies and third-party products for yourself.

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