Microsoft NAS solution plays well with others
Storage Server R2 upgrades storage experience with better management and space saving features
Admins can monitor the space savings obtained by SIS through the MMC-based Storage Management UI. Using SIS on its own servers, Microsoft was able to gain a total space savings of more than 14TB across 269 servers -- my dataset was much smaller, but I saw immediate savings nonetheless. Admins can also filter out specific file types, such as audio, that they don’t want to be indexed by SIS.
One feature previously available in Windows Server 2003 R2 is now a core feature to Storage Server R2: Distributed File System (DFS) replication. Previous versions of Windows Server relied on the file replication service to move files between servers. In R2, DFS replication also replicates data stored on distributed servers, but adds differential compression to reduce traffic. This means only changes to the files are sent across the wire, not the whole dataset. Another nice feature is that admins can schedule when this replication takes place and the amount of bandwidth that the replication is allowed to consume.
There are two types of DFS replication in Storage Server R2: multipurpose and data collection. Multipurpose DFS replicates data between two or more servers in order to share content and publish files. Admins define the member servers, the various connections between members, and the folders to replicate.
DFS for data collection is more of a 1-to-1 relationship between a branch office appliance and a back office destination. Defining this connection is very simple and requires only two members. I used a DFS connection between my branch office and the datacenter and found the replication swift and easy to manage. Changes to the data were replicated immediately (I chose full-time replication) with only the differences sent after the initial base replication.
Windows SharePoint Services is now integrated into Storage Server R2 to provide a location for collaboration. SharePoint allows users to create and manage document libraries, calendars, contacts, and Web links for better organization, and all of this data can take advantage of SIS and DFS replication. Also featured more prominently is Windows’ full text search.
Admins can install other third party applications, such as anti-virus or backup software, but they cannot install Microsoft Exchange or SQL server. Data from these two apps can land on it, but the main applications will not install -- both are verboten on Storage Server R2.
A new MMC, File Server Resource Manager, provides quick access to quota, file screening (SIS filters), and storage report management. The storage reports management tool allows for automated reporting on various volume, file, and user statistics -- a useful feature for busy admins.
The combination of OEM-supplied hardware and Windows Storage Server R2 is a good mix of performance and platform flexibility. Storage Server R2 is an all-around good performer, and I found that it integrates well with existing DFS structures. Some of the benefits, such as the DFS differential replication and SIS, are only available on Storage Server R2, giving it a leg up on Windows Server 2003 R2, but overall, it is a fine way to add useable storage to your network.