When you create a storage volume, Storage Spaces offers three different layout options -- simple, mirror, and parity -- that roughly equate to RAID 0, 1, and 5, although the algorithms used for distributing the data are totally different. Storage Spaces also provides the ability to "thin provision" volumes, which means you can create volumes of a virtual size larger than what is actually available in terms of physical capacity. More physical storage can be added to the pool to increase the physical capacity without affecting the virtual volume. This ability to add storage without incurring downtime is obviously a significant advantage when high-availability applications are involved.
The venerable CHKDSK utility is a major beneficiary of file system improvements. A new disk corruption scanner runs in the background on NTFS volumes, identifying correctible errors and data corruption. Most data corruption issues can be handled without the need to reboot the system and run CHKDSK to repair. If CHKDSK does become necessary, it can complete all operations in a matter of seconds -- versus the many minutes or even hours, in the case of large RAID disks, that it takes in previous Windows Server versions.
There are a few gotchas with ReFS, though none are showstoppers. You can't boot from a disk formatted with ReFS, nor is ReFS supported for removable media. More significant, you cannot convert an NTFS volume to ReFS in place, meaning you must copy the data from an NTFS volume to an ReFS volume.
Windows Server 2012 supersaver No. 2: Hyper-V 3.0
Microsoft has been chasing VMware in the virtualization market ever since Hyper-V was introduced. Microsoft made inroads with the version released in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2, which delivered many features considered "must haves" to serious virtualization users. Hyper-V 3.0 raises that bar even further and in many ways reaches parity with the lower end of the VMware spectrum. At the high end, Microsoft still has some work to do -- primarily in the area of storage service levels and what VMware calls the "software-defined data center."
Hyper-V 3.0 extends many of the specs from the previous version, including pushing the limits to 4TB of max RAM per host, 320 logical processors per host, 64 nodes per cluster, 8,000 virtual machines per cluster, and up to 1,024 powered-on virtual machines per host. Hyper-V now supports SMB (Server Message Block) for file-level storage, along with the previously supported iSCSI and Fibre Channel. Other new features include a new virtual switch and virtual SAN. The virtual SAN includes a virtual Fibre Channel capability to connect a VM directly to a physical host bus adapter (HBA) for improved performance.
One of the most significant improvements in Hyper-V 3.0 has to be in the area of live migration. This feature supports both the migration of the virtual machine and the underlying storage. File migration can take place as long as a network SMB-shared folder on a Windows Server 2012 system is visible to both the source and destination Hyper-V hosts. You can also move a virtual machine between hosts on different cluster servers that aren't using the same storage.
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