When Bad Things Happen to Good Technology: RIP, Drive Extender
In this age of ten-second attention spans, bloggers are often guilty of over-dramatizing non-events to make them seem more important.
This is not such a time.
Microsoft today announced that it is removing its Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server "Vail" (WHS v2) and Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (formerly "Aurora"). I mentioned this in today's daily update, and discussed it on Windows Weekly today, but based on the number of emails I've gotten, few people were aware that I had already discussed this topic elsewhere.
That said, I have some additional information that Microsoft didn't discuss in either of their blog posts (here
) today announcing this decision.
First, let's review what Drive Extender was, and what it was going to become.
Drive Extender debuted in the first version of Windows Home Server in 2007. It supplies two key benefits: Data redundancy and a single, expandable pool of storage that doesn't require drive letters and is easily expandable.
The data redundancy feature is easy enough to explain: Through a simple UI in the WHS console, you can ensure that all of the files in a given share were duplicated across two physical hard disks. This ensures that, should a drive fail, your only copy of an important photo, document, or other file doesn't go with it.
The second one is like RAID for Dummies: It lets you add hard drives to your server and have their storage added to the WHS storage pool. You don't have to deal with drive letters, and because content is essentially stored in shares, the available storage available to those shares is limitless (or at least only limited to your server's ability to add more disks).
Drive Extender is awesome, and as the underlying technology responsible for two of WHS' best features, Microsoft was planning to expand its use beyond WHS, first to Small Business Server (in "Aurora") and then later to other versions of Windows Server and the Windows client.
So here's where we get to the bit that Microsoft didn't communicate for some reason: Why Drive Extender is being killed. In a briefing last month, I was told that Microsoft and its partners discovered problems with Drive Extender once they began typical server loads (i.e. server applications) on the system. This came about because Drive Extender was being moved from a simple system, WHS, to a more complex, server-like OS ) (SBS "Aurora") that would in fact be used to run true server applications. And these applications were causing problems.