Posted by: tranquilpc | May 19, 2011

Windows Home Server 2011 – Drive Extender functions

It’s been a long time in the making, but Windows Home Server 2011 and now Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials are upon us.

The removal of Drive Extender, the magical service in Windows Home Server v1, was a real shock to many in the Home Server world.  Drive Extender, or DE, was so simple to use and yet so powerful – this two functions when read in the same breath often suggest some real thought and work has gone into making the solution.

Over the last 6-8 months Tranquil PC engineers have worked very hard to determine the best way forward – both in terms of ease of use, performance, value for money, data reliability and hardware dependency.

Intel RST / Add In

The Intel hardware based solution did and does seem a neat system, and we have been working with Intel on the ‘real world’ requirements for the pending Add In.  The benefits will be solid operation based on RAID 1/5 function.  The downside is reliance on very specific hardware, and the inability to offer upgrades to existing customers – something we are very keen to ensure we can do.

DataCore / DriveHarmony

DataCore, of Florida, have an innovative solution for Home Servers 2011.  They have expert knowledge in virtualised disk management.  DriveHarmony has been tested by Tranquil.  The Add In runs a sort of ‘soft RAID’.  Adding HDDs to the ‘pool’ is straight forward (except that the first HDD can’t be used at all).  Choosing to build a ‘protected’ pool means the use of ‘paired’ HDDs.  Remembering that HDD1 (incl the OS partition) can’t be included in the ‘pool’ or a ‘protected pool’, sadly forced our engineers to look further.

DriveBender

The specialised ‘driver’ company in Australia have also been working hard to develop a data / disk management system.  As they do not have the heavy legacy of the two previous companies they, like Tranquil, can bring new concepts to the table, and put in huge efforts to complete designs.  Sometimes a fast, lean organisation is needed to listen and implement the needs of it’s customers (quickly).

As the company is ‘aligned’ to Home Server, they understand the need of the customer “a product as near to, and as good as the original Drive Extender”. 

Another important function is the ability for HDDs in a protected or unprotected pool to be able to be read ‘outside’ of the server (ie on a PC).  DB uses standard NTFS systems, which ensures that Data can be easily recovered, from a single HDD (Data Transit).

The product (now at Beta3) is nearing it’s pre-production phase, and is looking very good.  Performance is also very good.  In it’s final version the product will be very much like DE – simply adding mixed sizes of HDDs to a pool, and then determining which ‘folders’ should be protected.  It may not have the complex virtualisation functions behind the scenes that DriveHarmony may ultimately offer, or the simple hardware RAID that the Intel RST may have on specific hardware platforms – but as far as we can see – it will deliver the best ‘all round’ package – Performance, Reliability, Data Transit.

Current plans are that Tranquil will work further with DriveBender, towards a customised version of the Add In for Leo HS4 and Leo SS4 Servers.

image image

The time for final release is towards the end of June.

Tranquil may also offer the customised Add In for it’s own customers for use on older Home Servers.

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