Users test storage functions in Windows Server 2003

Beta users of Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 R2 operating system, which was released last week, gave mostly upbeat reviews of the technology's storage functionality.

Craig Fletcher, IT operations manager at Arcadis G&M, an environmental consulting firm, said the storage resource management tools used to discover and monitor equipment on his storage-area network (SAN) have been helpful during the test period.

However, Fletcher said he also found that Windows Server R2 lacks the robust reporting capabilities necessary for data replication.

"We'd like to be able to look at the status of replication from a branch office to the hub site in real time, as well as receive automated e-mail summaries of the previous days' [business] so we know that replication [and] backups are working well," Fletcher said.

Today, he said, "we have to manually run a report if we want to know what is going on."

Fletcher said he expects Microsoft to include those automation features in future releases.

Some Problems Solved

Fletcher also said that prior to installing the software, Arcadis' 75 branch offices had problems backing up 240 Wintel servers. They experienced backup failures that caused data losses, and in some cases, they had to ask untrained personnel to handle tapes.

The disk-to-disk replication and continuous data-protection features in the new release have eliminated many of those problems, Fletcher said.

The improved backup capabilities have already reduced administrative overhead and data losses, said Fletcher, though he couldn't provide details on cost savings.

"The only thing I think really needs to be addressed by Microsoft is biometrics," said Jeff Cohen, CIO at DestiNY USA.

Cohen said he's been beta-testing Windows Server R2 for six months alongside a 22TB SAN powered by a high-end EMC DMX1000 array. He said the software has been able to discover and monitor all of the components on his SAN.

Cohen uses the system's storage resource management functionality and file snapshot and replication features to back up large multigigabyte files for shared use by engineers using 50 servers spread throughout upstate New York.

John Webster, a storage analyst at Data Mobility Group, said that while the final release of Microsoft's Windows Server R2 is mostly "incremental," the vendor is sending a powerful storage message: that it is trying to make those features ubiquitous for Windows users.

"The only other source for this kind of thing is potentially the open-source community, and we haven't seen the open-source community have much of an impact on storage," said Webster.

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