Back in April we dissected Drive Extender v2 – Microsoft’s storage pool and data duplication technology for Windows Home Server – based upon the first preview release of Windows Home Server “Vail”. In “Vail”, Microsoft was going to significantly overhaul this cornerstone piece of technology for WHS, replacing the file-centric Drive Extender v1 with the block-centric Drive Extender v2. In a nutshell DE v2 was intended to fully modernize the underpinnings of Drive Extender by bringing it closer to contemporary peers like ZFS, and in turn bringing with it a number of performance, compatibility, and data reliability benefits.

With such a change would also come some drawbacks compared to the existing implementation of Drive Extender, but it’s nothing we expected Microsoft wouldn’t be able to surmount. Certainly everything seems to have been firing on all cylinders over at Microsoft, as WHS “Vail” was joined by 2 additional business-focused WHS offshoots, Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials.

So imagine our utter shock when we found out that Microsoft is going to be removing Drive Extender entirely from “Vail” and the rest of its offshoots. Effective immediately, Microsoft is dropping Drive Extender from all of these second-generation WHS operating systems, and instead will be releasing these OSes without a native storage pool/duplication feature.

Ultimately Microsoft is citing the feedback based on the potential drawbacks of DE v2 such as the inability for other OSes to read DE v2 disks, and what Microsoft believes is a diminished need for DE with the availability of 2TB+ hard drives. The needs of “Vail’s” two business-class offshoots may have also played a part, as Microsoft notes that “our development for these products is very closely tied, a decision like this affects all three.” What we can easily imagine however is that DE v2 development was not going as well for Microsoft as they hoped, as OS programmers and drive makers alike can tell you just how difficult it is to design a new product/filesystem while avoiding corruption – even Microsoft got it wrong the first time. DE v2 by extension was going to be pushing the envelope as far as what any consumer filesystem was capable of.

In any case at this point we’re still trying to scoop our jaws off of the floor. Drive Extender is by no means the only major feature of Windows Home Server – least we forget remote access and client backups – but it’s certainly a cornerstone of the OS and goes hand-in-hand with the OS’s file server capabilities. The loss of DE further blurs the line between WHS and Linux, not to mention reduces the separation between it and dedicated NAS boxes.

Ultimately however this is only the beginning of the story for WHS “Vail”; Microsoft has made it clear there’s still a great deal to discuss about “Vail” at CES next year, so hopefully by then we won’t be left scratching our heads at where exactly Microsoft is going with the next iteration of their Home Server line of OSes.

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  • davepermen - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    There's a Microsoft Connect Feedback page, where you can vote for getting the DE back into Vail:

    over less than 24hours, this request got more votes than any other vote over up to two years.

    I'm very sad and angry seeing the feature being dropped. I'm curious if that's just it, or if there will be more to this story. They don't seem to realize that DE is the one main feature about WHS that made it so much loved. maybe an SBS doesn't need that. so don't try to combine what doesn't need to be combined.

    I know tons of SB that like to have a DE based storage solution (so simple, any non-techy can understand it), some already do by using WHS1.

    I know tons of individuals, home users, famimlies, who like to have a DE based storage solution.

    According to Paul Thurrotts internal infromations, it's more a development problem than a simple "we don't need it" choice. It seems like the new technology did not work as well as they hoped. Falling back to DE version 1 seems not to be an option sadly.

    I really hope they change their mind. They lost a huge fanbase here. The features of DE are great, not having those features drops any usage gain from having a WHS at home. Which is where it belongs. All in all, it's a HOME server.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    I'm getting a page not found error after logging into my live account. Did MS pull the plug?
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    Must've been a glitch. i was able to find it by navigating from connect's home page, and it was able to load from there.
  • GotThumbs - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the link. Placed my vote seconds ago. Not sure whose taken over the driving wheel in the vail project, but needs to get out of the car.
  • brshoemak - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    Thank you Microsoft for once again letting us know what we want. Also, I'm glad that we don't need the Drive Extender technology now that 2TB drives are available - since no one will ever require any more storage space.

    I wonder how long they will support WHSv1 because that seems like the only real option for a proper home server at this point. Without Drive Extender I can just get a NAS.
  • davepermen - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    I personally don't like linux, or unix based stuff. But it looks like the most likely whs inspired project amahi (+ the DE inspired project greyhole) seem to fit the whole that whs2 opens quite well. I have to test it, but from the stuff i've read, it's quite nice.

    Might be the solution for me after my whs1 stops serving me well. Then again, that might be years off.
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    Unfortunately it won't be any farther off than 2012; Windows Home Server is a consumer product, meaning it's only going to get security updates for 5 years.
  • davepermen - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    well, even then, that doesn't mean i just have to drop it. but yeah, still.. have to re-prepare for the future. my whs is whs2 ready. just, whs2 doesn't seem to be whs-ready anymore :(

    i'm considering not extending my technet account. there won't be any new os' or applications next year. i just have to redownload and store all the os versions i might need over the year for support/reinstallation needs, and then drop it.

    I'm very angry about the move.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    5 years from initial release? Or 5 years after the next version came out?
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - link

    Unless general availability is referring to a technet/msdn date, but the 5 year counter is tied to a retail launch, they're giving it slightly more than 5 years of support.

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