WSS 2003 gets smart

Intelligent storage. It's golden if you've got it when you need it. But it's a pain if you're simply setting it up for that proverbial rainy day -- or on it. Like my rainy Friday, during which a static charge due to all this dry Northeastern weather took out not only my beloved ThinkPad T42p's power supply but also its USB ports and its fingerprint scanner. Yeah, the same scanner I'd been using in lieu of the ultrastrong Windows password that IBM's fingerprint utility made me add. The same password that apparently isn't the same ... at least not how I remember it.

With my last backup 3 weeks old, I'm now Knoppixed into the IBM and slowly transferring files to an online storage service. And, yeah, I'm alternately using e-mail, too, which makes me just want to cry. I mean, why did it take out the USB ports? I must have sinned in a previous life.

Folks on a properly managed network, however, should never be in this spot. Nightly backups should be a rule no matter how many bits and bytes the user community might generate. This is one reason that IT folks follow the development of Windows Storage Server 2003 -- even though we generally can't get the software on its own, instead having to buy it in a hardware bundle from one of Microsoft's storage partners.

The key to WSS 2003 is convenience combined with enterprise muscle. WSS drops into a Windows network like a cheese head into Green Bay. And once there, it's supposed to offer enterprise-level storage smarts with almost appliancelike ease-of-use. Continuing this trend is R2 of WSS 2003, which Microsoft is releasing very soon -- and with a couple of key goodies users should look for.

The foremost is SIS (single-instance storage), which was originally developed as a remote installation tool. The technology scans all targeted volumes and makes sure that only one copy of a particular file is saved. Thus, users can distribute JanuaryFinancials.xls to every accountant on the fourth floor, but there will only be one actual copy of it saved on the network. Everyone else's copies merely become pointers aimed at this original file. And, of course, SIS is smart enough to create individual copies should any user decide to edit JanuaryFinancials.xls, but it can still represent a big savings in terms of space and in management headaches.

It's compatible with most of the big backup software applications, including ARCServe, Computer Associates, and Symantec. But on the downside, it can support only six volumes from a single WSS server. That's fine for the SMB set that I love so much, but it makes WSS R2 SIS a little cumbersome for large enterprise implementations.

But that's only one of the goodies in WSS. You'll also find a new management console, a faster index-based full-text search facility, as well as an updated DFS (distributed file system). DFS has received a sexy new compression scheme, called RDC (remote differential compression), which now allows it to use WAN links much more effectively. It's still not perfect for keeping two volumes completely synced up to the second, but it's a big step in the right direction.

You can look for R2 updates from your Window storage appliance vendor, including Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and many others. I've got to keep watching the upload window.

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