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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Microsoft Brings back Drive Extender Features with Raid Style Performance in Windows 8

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Storage PoolWhen Microsoft announced that drive extender was being stripped out of the final version of its new Windows Home Server line, the full wrath of the Internet literally fell upon them. The comments on the on the announcement were less than kind, and even though they had a workaround of sorts to keep your data duplicated, nothing really matched the allure of a single protected pool of storage. 
For those unfamiliar with it the concept, drive extender is fairly simple to understand. Take any number of disks, add them to a storage pool, and files copied to it can optionally be duplicated across multiple disks to safe guard against individual failure and are presented as one large volume to the user. Fast forward to 2012 and they are ready to make amends by bringing the feature back, however this time they are going to reach a much wider audience by packing it in with Windows 8.
From a feature perspective Windows 8’s “storage spaces” operate in much the same way storage pools did in older versions of Home Server, however Microsoft has clarified that the technology behind it is very different and not backwards compatible. Users can continue to manage disks independently of course, but if they choose to use storage spaces an unlimited number of disks can be added using any combination of USB, serial ATA or SCSI. Users will also need to pick either “mirrored” or “parity” for the entire pool, though both offer file redundancy. Parity is described as superior choice for large sequential files or less frequently-accessed content since it has higher random I/O overhead. 
Of course storage is one thing, but this is Maximum PC, what about performance vs. Raid? Well, according to Microsoft storage spaces also makes use of data stripping giving it performance characteristics similar to raid 0 or raid 10. You no doubt still have questions, but rather than try to address them all here head on over to the Windows 8 blog and check out the FAQ. If you can’t find the answer there, we probably don’t know either.


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