Dissecting Windows Storage
Author attempts to educate the market on Microsoft Windows Storage
February 3, 2004
Microsoft is one of the hottest companies in the storage industry. The company has made extraordinary efforts in the NAS space, and is getting into other areas of the storage market as well. Many customers will not even consider implementing new technologies that are not Microsoft certified. That mentality has a lot of storage vendors courting approval from the software giant. A new book on Microsoft's main storage product should, therefore, be required reading for any storage professional not familiar with the technology.
Dilip Naik has over 20 years in the IT industry, with 14 of those years at Microsoft where he was a developer working on the SMB/CIFS protocol. The protocol defines how a client interacts with a server for the purposes of opening/reading/modifying files stored on a NAS device. He co-authored the only RFC (request for comments) Microsoft ever published related to the CIFS/SMB protocol. He also wrote code and documentation for the first version of the Installable File System (IFS) Kit that Microsoft sells to developers. When Naik felt the market needed a book about Microsoft Windows storage, who better than him to write it?
We recently spoke with Naik about his new book, Inside Windows Storage. Our goal was to get some perspective on the book, the author, and the Windows storage market.
Jobstor: Why did you decide to write this book, and why at this time?
Naik: Storage is the only tech segment that is still growing at a pace better than Moore’s law. Also, almost 50% of the storage deployed is accessed using Windows. However, Microsoft was never perceived to be an important player in the storage space. I also saw some publicly available reports on the storage industry, written by analysts working for financial powerhouses. None of those analysts mentioned Microsoft either. I also saw that as an opportunity. The market needed to be educated about Windows features as they related to enterprise storage.
Jobstor: Who was the book written for, and what will readers gain from it?
Naik: The book is aimed at a fairly broad audience, including computer science students, system administrators, CIOs and IT managers, storage sales people, and individuals involved in storage procurement. Storage system administrators want to understand how the underlying technology works and what happens when they run their utilities and configuration tools. CIOs and IT managers want to be well educated. For them, each chapter has an implication section. Folks involved in storage technical sales also want to be well educated, both the person doing the selling and the person who is the potential buyer. Persons responsible for storage procurement will also benefit greatly from the book as each chapter has a “Practical Implications” section that would show them how Windows storage could be implemented in their companies.
Jobstor: What did you learn from writing the book?
Naik: The book taught me a number of things, but the main thing was the technical details about Windows. With my background at Microsoft, I thought I knew most of it. But, in hindsight, I never fully grasped all of the details.
Jobstor: Summarize the book for us.
Naik: This is a book aimed at people who are somewhat aware of computers and understand some technical details such as what is a driver, but it does not assume any pre-existing knowledge of storage. The first chapter explains some basic Windows concepts. The next eight chapters are devoted to various technologies that constitute enterprise storage. The last chapter is targeted at the person who understands storage to a fair degree (perhaps a seasoned storage professional) and summarizes the various storage-related features as they appeared in various Windows server releases. The releases include Windows NT 3.51, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows.NET Server 2003. The seasoned storage professional will also gain some useful insights from the “Practical Implications” section at the end of each chapter.
Jobstor: What is going on in the Windows storage world and what can we expect going forward?
Naik: The biggest event in the Windows storage world has been the remarkable success of Windows based NAS appliances from a number of OEMs. The most notable addition here is EMC, which is now selling a Windows-based low-end NAS device. HP is another notable OEM that sells Windows based NAS storage.
Another thing that is worth watching is the fact that Microsoft has put a lot of enabling technologies in place. The market will need to keep an eye on what Microsoft and other companies build, based upon these enabling technologies. A few examples include:
• The Volume Shadow Copy service that provides an infrastructure for consistent snapshots to be created. Other means of creating snapshots (e.g. using high-end storage hardware) have been around for a number of years, but these solutions need consistency checking tools that may run for a few hours before deciding whether or not the snapshot was consistent. With the Volume Shadow Copy Service, it takes only a minute to determine whether the snapshot was consistent. Also, the Volume Shadow Copy provides an infrastructure for databases and other enterprise applications to participate in ensuring that the snapshot is consistent.
• The Virtual Disk Service which provides infrastructure for abstracting disk information and truly providing a pool of storage.
• The Multi Path I/O development kit allows for multiple vendor solutions to co-exist (for the first time) when one is using dual-ported high-end storage in a fail safe manner. The availability of this kit may drive the price point of fault tolerant storage solutions lower.
• The iSCSI support in Windows should accelerate the convergence of networking and storage
Jobstor: Any plans for a follow-up book?
Naik: I definitely have plans for a second edition. There are a number of storage related initiatives ongoing at Microsoft that are still Microsoft confidential. Once these are mentioned publicly, I plan to update the book to describe them in detail. I am also negotiating a book related to Windows networking.
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