Reading between the lines: Windows Home Server code name “Vail”– Update

When we first started designing Windows Home Sever code name “Vail” one of our initial focuses was to continue to provide effortless support for multiple internal and external hard drives.

Like a sane person, we started out designing the next version of our product with the same key selling point as our previous version.

Drive Extender provided the ability to take the small hard drives many small businesses and households may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume.

Drive Extender was awesome. Oh I’m such a tease.

During our current testing period for our Windows Home Server code name “Vail” product, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward.

It’s not me. It’s you.

Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses. Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutons from OEM’s will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality.

I’m going to lie and say there is no difference between separate individual drives and a pool of drives. Ignore the fact that a storage pool is still applicable to larger drives as it was for smaller drives.

When weighing up the future direction of storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs.

The maths was too hard. We can’t figure it out.

Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” (and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials) which are currently in beta.

You know that piece of candy we already gave you? We’re taking it back.

While this removes the integrated ability for storage pooling of multiple hard drives and automated data duplication, we are continuing to work closely with our OEM partners to implement storage management and protection solutions, as well as other software solutions. This will provide customers greater choice as well as a seamless experience that will meet their storage needs. Customers will also have access to the in-built storage solutions Windows Server 2008 R2 provides for data protection.

We pray one of our pals is going to cover our ass.

We are also still delivering core features such as automated Server and PC backup, easy sharing of folders and files, Remote Web Access and simplified management without any expected changes.

Our product is now reduced to the functionality of common NAS solutions.

Target product availability is still H1 2011, and we expect to deliver a new beta without drive extender for Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” early in the New Year.

Keep an eye out for the headless chicken.

Update: A petition in the Windows Home Server “Vail” beta site on Microsoft Connect to bring back Drive Extender is already 600 votes strong at the time of writing. How’s that for “feedback from customers”.

45 insightful thoughts

  1. I for one, will not be upgrading my WHS V1. This is the only feature that is of any use to me, and it has been taken away for V2. Stoooopid…

    1. I have read page after page after page of vitriol (and rightly so) about this decision by microsoft…

      But this article honestly made me laugh. Thanks for the brief moment of levity and mirth!

  2. Such a strange decision. DE was definitely the motivating factor for me in choosing WHS over other platforms, and it seems that’s true for lots of other people, too.

    I wonder whether Microsoft will change its stance and officially support RAID with WHS, given that DE is gone (not to say that RAID necessarily didn’t work).

  3. That was the main reason why I liked WHS over a standard NAS. The ability to not care about how full each drive is becoming. To remove that feature regulates it back to me juggling which drive is holding what files :-(

  4. What are they really saying:
    “The Windows Server team kill the feature because is much trouble for them and we are so small and cheap to convince them”

    1. Yes, they had trouble with it in the past, but the fixed it. It is working for me right now, so why break it if it ain’t broken?

  5. Wow, talk about hamstringing their own product! That feature was what made WHS actually interesting instead of just being just another server box. Who in their right mind would ever consider upgrading from the first version now?

  6. Maybe they’ll reconsider, I mean this seems like a useful tool and if people can’t use it for something other than its intended purpose, then fine. ps I’m starting to tire with the OEM’s

  7. Yawn! Microsoft removing features again from products as is the trend today. Those who didn’t care earlier when others complained about the loss of functionality are now worried becase *their* favorite feature got removed. Microsoft is past its peak. Products are getting dumbed down.

  8. Ridiculous. There’s no reason whatsoever to upgrade to Vail now. I hope Drobo are taking this opportunity to run some sort of promotion, because that Drobo FS looks like the perfect WHS replacement.

  9. What?! Are they nuts?! Drive Extender is the only feature Home Server has got going for it, if they remove it, we are back to square one! Which customer are they talking about, not me, and I am sure not most of you guys.

    I wonder who the bone-heads are in MSFT that are making these stupid decisions. First they killed Live Mesh, then they refused the let Live Sync (now called Live Mesh) to support XP, now they are killing Home Server too? This is a fail Microsoft! Whoever is making this decision is not listening to Customers, else show us the poll that says your customers want DE out of Vail. This is real Bull!

  10. Another point just came to mind. Could it be that MSFT sees DE as competition to its Cloud push? If customers have reliable expandable storage, why should they care about Cloud? Got the argument?

    Microsoft is notorious for killing anything that threatens their holy cows; no matter how brave the feature may be, if it threatens MSFT source of income, it will be killed. Take for example the refusal to allow WP7 OS to be installed on a tablet, it will compete and beat iPad, but it will kill WP7 market. Internal memo’s show that some products that would have made the Windows Tablet plaform a success have been killed in 2005/2006 because they compete with Microsoft Office, that was why the Tablet genious resigned from Microsoft.

    I will not be suprised if it comes out that MS killed DE because it pose a threat to Azure, companies will not run to the cloud if they have guaranteed storage.

    1. Interesting point. I was also thinking that maybe there were other considerations from the OEM side that their not discussing.

      I see both sides. I know folks that appreciate DE, but some folks that just don’t even really know about DE, yet are happy with their product. I wonder how much resource it takes on the team to support and maintin that functionality. It doesn’t seem like it would free up that much on the surface.

  11. Azure isn’t exactly something marketed to home users. If they had a paid subscription service for Skydrive, I would’ve agreed with your argument.

  12. @Fred
    Normally you would think that, but realize, WHS was also not targetted to Business Customers, but they saw how good WHS+DE was that they moved SBS to it in version 2 of WHS. Now, my arguement is that Business Customers on WHS technology means less Azure profit, and if latter MSFT decides to moneyfied Skydrive, WHS+DE will be a threat. So who says this could not be economic decision?

  13. That’s a good point, actually. Anyway, I think it’s pretty clear that, regardless of wether it’s economic, political, or whatever, the decision wasn’t based on this imaginary feedback they’ve gotten.

  14. > I guess they will have to reconsider this.

    No, they won’t. I bet it’s something along the lines of McAkins’ reasoning behind all this.

  15. i’d imagine they pushed their hardware vendors to add bigger drives in the last few year so they could justify dropping it just like most of thier hardware partners dropped 32bit windows 7

  16. I’m really upset about this. I LOVE my Mediasmart WHS, and I’ve been waiting and waiting for Vail so I can upgrade. But without Drive Extender… what’s the point? Microsoft might as well kill WHS. :(

  17. Thanks for a great laugh.

    I totally agree. I love my WHS v1 NAS (HP DataVault X510) and I guess I’ll be sticking with it for a LONG time to come. I can’t beleieve the stupidity, or straight forward disregard for customers, the decision brings about.

    “Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses. Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutons from OEM’s will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality”

    let’s completely ignore the fact that even though HDDs are getting individually bigger, so are the sizes of the files (in particular HD video) I’m storing!!! This argument for why DE is no longer really needed are absurd.

  18. There was absolutely nothing lost in that translation :-)
    I’m going to have to stick with my WHS V1 until it croaks. There’s nothing out there in the market that comes close, and Vail doesn’t either now.

  19. There must be an economic reason. You don’t cripple your own product on a whim. Either they think they can sell it in an add on package, or they see Vail as too much competition for the business versions so they want it to die. Meaning too much value for the money, a business may be using it, so kill it.

  20. I forgot to add that I currently have 32.3 TB of DAS, and an additonal 8TB backup unit, meaning over 42 TB of storage attached to my WHS server. This rivals our EMC2 Clariion storage at work for size. Sorry, Microsoft, I will not purchase V2 code name Fail. I will use this version until it becomes too outdated, then move to the freeware solution.

  21. Maybe I’m severely missing something here, but I really don’t see what all the hype is about Drive Extender. To me it’s just MS reinventing the wheel again. If you’re looking for a way to pool drives, why not use a JBOD config? It has the same core functionality of Drive Extender except it’s much more reliable and hardware-based.

  22. I for one am glad that drive extender is removed. WHS is a cool product, but DE really crippled the server for my use. Restricting the boot drive to some lame size of 20 gigs prevented me from installing any other server software. I also HATE the aspect of DE where it “tries to be smarter than the user” and assumes how I want to use the storage. My opinion is that this is a good move. I’ll probably consider going back to WHS now that DE is gone.

Leave a Reply