Windows Server 2012 makes storage cool again

The storage improvements in Windows Server 2012 are seriously worth investigating

Storage is an area that's often ignored by outside specialists. That's too bad, because Windows Server 2012 makes a major push to improve its storage management and virtualization technologies.

But IT admins who've started to dive into Windows Server 2012's storage enhancements are smiling. Here's a tour of the new capabilities that have made those admins so happy.

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Storage Spaces

This technology provides virtualization enhancements to the storage stack, allowing you to create storage pool and spaces. Storage pools allow you to aggregate physical disks into elastic administrative units in the sense that it's easy to expand the pool(s) dynamically by adding more drives. Storage Spaces are virtual disks with key resiliency features, supporting both mirroring and parity.

The administrator can create a single pool with all physical disks (both hard drives and solid-state drives) or can create multiple pools and divide the disks. Features include per-pool hot-spare support, background scrubbing, and intelligent error correction. Storage Spaces is integrated with failover clustering features in Windows Server 2012, so you can ensure more highly available deployments with pools spanning multiple nodes of a single cluster and migration or failover capability within the storage cluster.

ODX (Offloaded Data Transfer)

ODX in Windows Server 2012 helps you rapidly move large files and/or virtual machines between storage arrays. Obviously, with the growth in data file sizes (database files, video files, virtual machine files, and so on), having the ability to move that data swiftly is essential. When you copy a file or migrate a VM between two locations instead of routing data, ODX copies a small token between source and destination, either within or between intelligent storage arrays. From there, the storage array handles the actual data transfer so the host CPU and the network itself don't get bogged down in the process.

ReFS (Resilient File System)

Windows Server 2012 introduces a new local file system designed to improve availability and reliability regardless of the underlying storage's reliability. ReFS includes disk updating, data integrity, availability, scalability, application compatibility, proactive error identification, interoperability, and flexibility. It uses methods like allocate-on-write (aka copy-on-write) to ensure reliability of disk updates, all metadata is check-summed, and a feature called Integrity Streams is used to detect disk corruptions.

NTFS online scanning and repair

The NTFS (NT File System) has improved background scanning and repair capabilities so that volumes don't need to be offline. This automatic self-healing reduces the need to perform Chkdsk operations, but when you need to run Chkdsk, you'll find it is now much faster.

Data deduplication and thin provisioning

In a world with tremendous amounts of duplicated data, it's essential to have a dedupe feature built into any storage server. After all, storage may be cheap, but it's not cheap enough when compared to the growth in data or to support VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure). Data deduplication in Windows Server 2012 provides more efficient storage usage with subfile data chunking and compression.

In Windows Server 2012, the thin provisioning improvements increase the efficiency of how storage is used and provisioned. It detects thinly provisioned virtual disks and alerts admins when they reach physical thresholds so the admin can expand the storage as needed or release that storage when it's no longer needed.

More to love

Windows Server 2012 also has enhancements to clustering, file and block access, storage networking, virtualization, and storage management. Microsoft's compendium of Windows Server 2012 storage features and its evaluation guide are worth downloading to go deeper into all these features.

This story, "Windows Server 2012 makes storage cool again," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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