Opinion: Is Windows Home Server Dead?

by Alex Kuretz on November 23, 2010 · 85 comments

in MediaSmartServer.net

The following is an article that I have been hoping I would not have to write, but the topic has been on my mind for several months now as I’ve watched the progression of events with Windows Home Server Vail and the Microsoft (Home and) Small Business Server team that develops it. I have been involved with Windows Home Server since June of 2006 when I was hired by HP to be the Integration and Test Engineer for development of the MediaSmart Server, and I’ve carried on my enthusiasm for this product through this site. Needless to say it is saddening and frustrating to have invested so much time and energy into a something that has such obvious value and to then watch it slowly be dismantled into a nearly useless shell of its former being.

With the just announced removal of Drive Extender from Windows Home Server, Microsoft has toppled at least one (arguably two) of the four critical foundation points of Windows Home Server – Protect, Connect, Organize, and Grow has become Connect, Organize, and partially protect. The client backup feature offers protection for the PCs in the home, but there is no longer any built-in mechanism to protect the data that Microsoft advises you to Organize on the server.

With the removal of Drive Extender, it is now upon the OEMs and system builders such as HP, Acer, and others to implement the storage expansion and data protection mechanism. Quality hardware RAID solutions are expensive, though I expect some manufacturers will come up with a nice configuration interface on top of a RAID solution, which will work fine especially for those of us that are more technically inclined. But I also expect that this recent development will add a significant additional technological hurdle for these companies, requiring more R&D investment which very likely means increased costs and schedule delays to a product that is already behind the schedule that many of us anticipated. And some manufacturers may choose not to make the additional investment required and abandon the Windows Home Server platform.

This latest blow has me thinking about what we’ve been seeing for the past few months from Microsoft. In recent weeks we’ve gotten announcements of new Small Business Server products that came from the Home Server, including pricing and rough availability estimates. These products go by the overflowing mouthful names of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials aka Aurora and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials aka Breckenridge. Yet Microsoft is strangely silent with any details about the availability or even the name of the next version of Windows Home Server aka Vail. Why would details on the close relatives of Windows Home Server be made available yet no word on Windows Home Server itself? The only positive indicator to this point is the last sentence of the Drive Extender removal blog post.

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” and Small Business Server 2011 Essentials early in the New Year.

The remaining value proposition of Windows Home Server Vail lies in the client PC backup software, and the remote media streaming feature. The PC backup software works great, and to me that alone is worth the price of a license of Windows Home Server in my home. But the remote media streaming feature has too many limitations, unsupported formats, and bugs to make it a useful feature for many users. This leaves me with effectively zero motivation to upgrade from Windows Home Server v1 to Vail and means that after my trusty MediaSmart Server eventually bites the dust, I’ll likely run a home-built Windows Home Server (perhaps v1, perhaps Vail/Aurora/Breckenridge) strictly for the client backups, but will trust my data to a Linux based server utilizing some form of RAID.

These factors all combined have me questioning the viability of Windows Home Server v2 as a standalone product. The direction Microsoft has chosen is gearing the product towards the Small Business Server users of Aurora and Breckenridge and firmly leaving the home consumer behind. Making the critical data backup and protection features available in an easy way to unskilled consumers is no longer an objective of the Home and Small Business Server team.

What do you think, is this the natural evolution of a product that was arguably somewhat ahead of its time, or do you think Microsoft is slowly but inexorably abandoning the Home Server market?





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


{ 79 comments }

Damian November 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

Alex,

I would say this is a very sad day for WHS users (and in many respects a big FU from MS). I think you hit all the key points and many current WHS users should be upset at the approach taken. I can only think that this move will be the death blow for Vail.

As far as myself is concerned, I will just continue using WHS v1 for the foreseeable future. I am also researching alternatives such as WHS + FlexRaid

Nigel November 23, 2010 at 10:37 am

This is indeed a sad day for WHS but until we see the prices of Aurora, Breckenridge or even Vail it will be hard to see if the pricepoint is still worth looking at the products rather than a hybrid NAS box. The value for me having a server product at home is high and the backups have always been reliable.

I’m sure like many, my needs were well matched with WHS V1 even not being a typical consumer.

I do hope WHS isn’t dead and the OEM’s have some cost effective solutions to implement Raid type features but as you say this will no doubt bring delays to the product launch.

Jeremy Gollehon November 23, 2010 at 10:38 am

I couldn’t agree more. WHS V2 has pretty much become “Windows Storage Server 2008 Home”. That, in and of itself, is worth some price. I’m not sure it is the price they’ll be selling for though.

Awake November 23, 2010 at 10:54 am

WHS was always a niche product, not well accepted by professionals which would rather go with things like a Drobo. Sales were very small, and outside of the techie community, WHS is virtually unknown.

There are two reasons why I use WHS, drive expansion and system backup. Without drive expansion, multiple drive systems like the HP systems are worse than a Drobo for growing storage, and I don’t know why anybody would buy such a non-expandable system. I will never buy a system that doesn’t allow swap-and-grow capability, I learned my lesson with the ReadyNAS.

The WHS Backup is great, and I have an HP195 single drive system for that. It also runs Sage-TV as an always on DVR. But for that functionality, Microsoft might as well use Windows-7 with remote access, and offer the backup program as a free or low cost stand alone program. Run it on a small footprint system like the HP195.

So yes, WHS is dead. Removing drive expansion kills it dead as if you were to spray it with a can of RAID bug killer.

t-bone November 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

Hp selling Drobo now makes way more sense. Wonder if the writing was on the wall the whole time? Im going to assume that a new HP version of the MSS is canceled and anyone wanting a MSS at this point should get the ex495?

Gordon Currie November 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I first purchased my MediaSmart 485 in early 2009. What a revelation – a file server, application server (with limitations), backup server and remote access system for the home!

I had high hopes for this product space, but I forgot two critical issues. 1) Microsoft depends on third parties to do hardware 2) Microsoft’s interest and understanding over the last decade has been in the enterprise area, not in the consumer area (where they have failed, failed and failed again).

I expect two things to happen. First, Vail will be either cancelled or put on the back burner, and the Home and Small Business Server group will remove the Home from it’s name. Second, Apple will (with their superior software and hardware integration and focus on the consumer) launch a product that delivers what Vail only promised (but unfortunately will not run any Windows applications).

Wild Bill November 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I highly doubt Apple will take up this niche. In my mind they would only focus on subscription based cloud services. They would want to serve the data to you, make it “idiot proof” and charge you monthly for the privilege.

Me, the only broadband I can get is cellular, I don’t have the bandwidth to work with cloud based services…

Hurmoth November 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Sad news. I’m really disappointed in Microsoft. I have been wondering what was taking so long to get any news about WHS V2, now I know. Without DE, this product is useless. I can use Acronis True Image to backup my computer, that’s never been a problem for me, but having the ability to backup my computers to a single box, have all my files on that box, and know that if a drive failed, I would lose any data was the selling point to WHS. Now it would be pointless to drop money on WHS V2. I’ll continue running WHS V1 until either the software doesn’t install on future versions of Windows or the hardware gives out.

All aboard the Microsoft Fail Whale.

LarryA November 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Yep, WHS without DE is dead as a doornail. I am a full time PC person. I could easily install a RAID sysem at home if I wanted. But I have much better things to do than to manage RAID systems. I tried NAS years ago and gave it up after just a few months. WHS is mostly an install it and forget it system. It just works! That is what makes it so attractive!! If I run out of space on WHS I simply replace a 500GB drive with a new 1000GB drive.

Microsoft has gone brain dead–one taco short of a Mexican plate.

JohnCz November 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I had a feeling this might be the case…especially in light of the rumors that Windows 8 might include some sort of cloud based storage/backup solution. If that indeed pans out, if I were Microsoft I wouldn’t invest in the future W”Home”S interations because thats not where the market is heading as a whole. By the time my v1 WHS bites the dust, I probably will have enough cloud options to choose from.

N November 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm

dead, sorry but MS have killed WHS

Funksultan November 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Agree with everyone here. DE was THE killer app for my migration to WHS. Without it, it’s just a feature-poor version of windows.

Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come long term. Home servers are for “Hoarders” and MS has already declared that their vision of the future is in “the cloud”.

Things to keep us happy:

Version 1 is VERY stable. I can see using it for another 5 years without a problem.

Someone will see the need, and come up with a solution, and hopefully, make a ton of money. That’s how Microsoft learns their lessons… by watching someone else make money. (Iphone, Google search… too many examples to mention)

fieldhouse November 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

spot on, Alex. This seems to be a very bad day for WHS.

Can we expect to see a linux storage forum sprouting up on the site in the near future? :)

Alex Kuretz November 23, 2010 at 1:44 pm

The underlying need for backups, redundant easy storage, streaming, and remote access remains, I foresee continuing to help people accomplish that via whatever technology is appropriate. :)

Damian November 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Alex will also be starting a hot swap backup service. For an annual fee of USD 5 or a box of twinkies he will personally stop by your home or office with a duffle bag worth of hard drives, back up your data, and then take the drives offsite. This service will only be offered in the U.S and Eastern Europe ;-)

Matt Sawyer November 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This was just a flat-out stupid decision by Microsoft. Their claim is that they took DE out because “this is what our customers have been telling us.”

Uh…aren’t WE the customers? I’ve seen perhaps one comment on various forums, including here, Microsoft Connect, Home Server Land and ZDnet that downplays DE. Everyone else is pretty pissed off at the decision.

So if “this is what our customers have been telling us” is Microsoft’s answer, I think it probably translates into, “this is what the OEM vendors who are losing money by not selling their expensive storage products have been telling us.” Microsoft is pissing on the little guy/gal (us) in favor of bending over to keep big money (the OEM vendors) happy.

Unfortunately, unless they put DE back in, the WHS family of products (Vail, Aurora and Breckenridge) have just been rendered about as useless as tits on a bull.

Perhaps what Microsoft could do, since Vail is based off of Server 2008 R2, is make Drive Extender a Role (or Feature). Then make it available to users, either via Server Manager or, if too tightly integrated, at installation time. Users who want DE can have it, and those who would prefer to go without it, they can too.

Matt

kay.one November 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Matt Sawyer November 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Already done. :)
Thx for sharing.

teq November 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I tried your link but I got the following error:

Page Not Found

The content that you requested cannot be found or you do not have permission to view it.

Alex Kuretz November 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

teq you have to log in with a Live ID.

Fredipus November 23, 2010 at 8:56 pm

That feature request has been removed by Microsoft.

Says it all, doesn’t it?

Eeyan November 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Booo to MS.
This is so disappointing.
Maybe someone else will produce a bolt on for Windows 7 or Server 2008, and MS will miss out on $$$$

aart12 November 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Amen, Alex.
What a death-blow to such an eagerly anticipated product.

…mouth agape… slowly opening. closing. opening. closing… like a landed fish. repeating in a soundless, uncomprehending stupor. Nothing emanating from a grotesquely twisted visage… and that’s just Microsoft! I don’t know what to say either. I am dumbfounded. I am found dumb.
It’s like watching a state-of-the-art submarine sinking, for no reason, in a perfectly calm harbor upon a maiden launch. No reason other than because somebody forgot to secure the damn screen door!

Oh boy (sigh). Yeah. REALLY? Yeah, really.
So, what happened? In the 11th hour was something discovered about DE that scared the wooly socks off you guys (MS)?
What was it?
* Major corruption of files?
* DE created a black hole and started sucking Redmond into it until little Jimmy pulled the plug and saved the universe?
* Did it work too good?
* Or perhaps was it discovered that “you could not profit enough from it” [sic]?
* A little internal suicide maybe?

I can only assume so, because I am sure you would not have pulled such a vital component to WHS without some really excellent, friggin darned good reason.

So, where do we go from here boys and girls? At this late stage of the game/beta phase, I am assuming that Vail (at least) is dead. Surely you guys are not going to try and pawn off Vail, as it is now, as a finished product?
My customers, nor I, will buy into that one… and I rather doubt anyone else will either, unless some genius in marketing is about to come up with some absolutely brilliant spin!
As a devout WHS user, and advocate, I am rooting for you… but, you know… this sort of thing does not increase confidence in us out in the trenches. It seriously casts a pall and a really awkward silence on the whole relevance question. Is MS even relevant anymore? Just another thumbscrew in the obsolete, heavy, enclosure.

MS, R.I.P.

teq November 23, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Not much to add to what has been already said above: Vail is dead, and I will try to continue to run V1 as long as possible.

Now my problem will be to find an upgrade path before my current HW reaches its life cycle end…

Cheers,
teq

Guillaume Boudreau November 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm

For anyone interested in tinkering, there is a Linux alternative to DE called Greyhole.
It is not that easy to use, and probably still has some bugs, but it does have the features everyone loved about DE, and then some.
For those keen on trying it, check the website and install it yourself on your own Linux server, or install Amahi, which comes with a Greyhole implementation.
(Being the Greyhole developer, this should be considered a shameless plug, but one I think many WHS users could care about. I’m an ex WHS user myself, before I saw the light!)

fieldhouse November 24, 2010 at 12:55 am

good to know that Amahi is still alive and kicking. I may need to head down that way again. Shameless or not, we need to understand what alternatives are out there. Thanks for the recommendation.

hasi5 November 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Quite a BS announcement from MS: “..we have received feedback from partners and customers..”. Where is the end user, the consumer, real user, He ?

WHS was a real solution to today’s household real problem to keep safe all the digital data. Real worry-free, simple, effective, innovative MS solution to what we are looking for in computing. Without DE now, WHS Vail is completely dead proposition for home users. Nobody needs Vail. Nobody needs 3.party proprietary solution either. Simple like that.

Another MS blunder. No wonder that Apple is able every-time to bulldoze over Microsoft whenever it chooses – when it comes to fulfilling real consumers needs. Unfortunately, I doubt that Apple is coming to have MS for lunch again with their version WHS, as they are building their own supers-server cloud centre in NJ. Search for Linux, zfs, etc. home server starts now.

Gadget Insane November 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

WHS server is dead. What are the alternatives once I outgrow WHS 1?

Kemiker November 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Vail – DE = DOA

A sad day indeed. I’ve owned and enjoyed my EX-475 since Jan. 2008 and planned to upgrade to a new server with Vail. Sadly MS has kicked dirt in the face of WHS fans.

Their alternative? Admit the design failure of DE2 and start over. Support and enhance WHS V1 while taking a year to do it right. Don’t insist on a tight link with other MS server products. Sadly their track record indicates they won’t do this.

Matt Sawyer November 23, 2010 at 8:41 pm

@Kemiker,

I can certainly appreciate why Microsoft developed Vail in concert with SBS 2011 and Storage Server 2008 R2. Microsoft for years has developed many of their products with shared code bases. It just makes practical, financial sense.

Think NT 4 Workstation vs. Server, XP vs. 2003, Vista vs. 2008 and 7 vs. 2008 R2. They all share many components, but they also have their own components that make them unique.

What Microsoft has here is a situation where three products (WHS, SBS and Storage Server) share a lot of their code. Fine. We understand that. But now they need to uncouple WHS from the other two, because it’s a home product, whereas the other two are business products. Home users want DE, business users may or may not want it. So give both sides what they want.

There is absolutely no reason why they can’t keep the underlying “guts” of the OS the same across the three products while individualizing each of them. For WHS Vail, that means Drive Extender should stay!

Kemiker November 23, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Agreed. The implications are that this is partially schedule driven. They want to deliver all these products in the same time frame. It’s great when it works out. But it’s more important to meet customer needs than it is to make a release date.

Matt Sawyer November 23, 2010 at 9:33 pm

You’re probably right, at least to some degree. But if you look at Microsoft’s track record, they’ve pushed dates on products back many, many times. Heck, Windows Server 2008 was supposed to be released at the same time as Vista, but it didn’t come out until several months later, at which point Vista was already at SP-1. Many folks didn’t realize it, but there never was an “RTM” of 2008. When Server 2008 hit the market, it was actually Service Pack 1.

This should be an easy one for Microsoft to “get away with” pushing back the date. Since WHS is really different than the other two, being a home product whereas the other two are business, they should nix DE from the business ones and march them forward to their planned release date. That is, if business users REALLY want DE culled.

That will give them the liberty to get WHS Vail right. What is the “right” answer? Is it reverting back to DEv1 and just kick DEv2 to the curb? Or see if they can really get DEv2 working right? If timelines are really a concern, they should go back to the DEv1 we all know and love, and make DEv2 available later on as a Service or Power Pack.

varun November 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm

It’s dead. Completely and utterly dead.

They’re now going to develop this, try to sell it, find no takers, then complain it was piracy and/or Linux and/or no interest in the marketplace for the product and it’ll enter the ranks of Microsoft Bob and other such hits from Microsoft. Never once will they say, “oh hey, actually, it’s our fault for cutting the raison d’etre for WHS”.

WHS = Drive Extender. Otherwise, it offers nothing that Buffalo, Synology and Qnap offer do not.

What a Fail, Microsoft Vail.

paul November 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm

As many others have said will keep running V1 for the time being, and probably buy a NAS to replace my WHS, how disappointing!

welchwerks November 23, 2010 at 11:23 pm
cakalapati November 24, 2010 at 12:36 am

It took a lot of courage to say what you did, and I applaud and respect that.

Geoff Coupe November 24, 2010 at 2:08 am

I don’t want to tinker with RAID or manage Windows Server 2008 R2 with add-ons. I want a storage appliance that just works. That’s why I bought WHS V1 in the first place, and I’ve been happy with it. It sits in the corner and does its job with no fuss: taking backups, duplicating precious files and streaming media (music, DVD and Blu-ray).

Looks like my WHS V1 system will just have to keep going for a lot longer than I had originally planned.

Eidos November 24, 2010 at 5:39 am

Large companies are making stupid mistakes every day in sales and marketing. This is another good example of one where the company, Microsoft, has killed a great product and is out of contact with their users or simply doesn’t care about them.

I own 3 WHS systems, two HP and one DIY Vail. I have thousands of dollars invested in hardware and software and use them all to back up my digital life. I will not forget Microsoft’s decision to do this. They have essentially killed the DIY server builder. It is time for another software company now to set up into this hole created my MS to take us to the future.

I hope in the years to come that MS regrets this day as us users vote with our wallets.

Mark G November 24, 2010 at 6:22 am

I believe the writing is on the wall for Vail, it will probably never make it to market. There is just too much work to be done for what is a nitch market and now, with the removal of DE they have no way to differentiate the product from others. Between Microsoft and the OEMs I’m betting everyone is re-evaluating just how much money can be made here.
Bye bye Vail :-(

anonymous November 24, 2010 at 6:25 am

Well at least v1 is supported till 2016.

anonymous November 24, 2010 at 6:26 am

Oops typo I meant 2013 according to http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/?p1=12624

Seth November 24, 2010 at 8:44 am
CubanBlood November 24, 2010 at 9:20 am

I have to say that I am not suprise MS decide to eliminate WHS OS. I think WHS V1 is good and I will still use it even if they dont support it. Of course remote access will be turn off to avoid threat. I voted to keep DE.

Jason November 24, 2010 at 9:26 am

I don’t know if it is necessarily dead, but they have removed the most compelling feature, in my opinion.

Maybe a cheap home built box running WHS off of a USB3 connected Drobo or something similar is the wave of the future.

I find it particularly interesting that HP just announced that they are direct selling the Drobo line of products to customers through their retail sites and small business consultants… they apparently have also trained 200 of their call center staff to answer questions about the Drobo.

This all makes me wonder if HP sees themselves exiting the WHS market or maybe we will be lucky and we will see an HP branded Drobo actually running WHS.

jdomi November 24, 2010 at 9:30 am

What else can be said?

As usual, they have been using us as guinea pigs, milking us and using us as testers in order to refine a very good product with the only purpose of giving in to businesses at the end.

To me it is simple: Either V2 with DE or keep V1 until it dies of natural death.

xrayfixr November 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Microsoft has just put Vail in front of those infamous “Death Panels” that were talked about this summer. No they didn’t kill it, but they are going to make it virtually useless that no one will buy it and then say “there just isn’t a market for a home server”.

Wrong. The people who need the home server just don’t realize it yet.

Larger capacity sensors in digital cameras, cameras in almost every cell phone, HD video recorders for under $500. The need for a home server to organize and protect priceless media is growing but the technical ability of a user to run a server is not. There is a growing need for an EASY solution.

DaveN November 24, 2010 at 3:01 pm

This post overlooks the immense potential of having a Windows server in the home, over and above anything that’s built into Vail. That wouldn’t be surprising coming from a non-technical, average consumer. But, I would expect that those who frequent this site would be the type of enthusiasts who take advantage of an always-on, server OS device in a wide variety of rich ways. Yes, file storage is trivial, but WHS provides opportunities for so much more than that.

Alex Kuretz November 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm

DaveN, if I’m understanding your point correctly, you’re advocating that Windows Home Server be more business/work server than home server. Sure that’s a possibility and lots of us on this site use our servers this way, however the point is that by removing DE the consumer oriented product is no longer as simple and easy to use and has become in inhibitor to adoption by average users. I’d suggest that Aurora or Breckenridge is more suited for the use you advocate.

DaveN November 24, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Not really business. I just don’t think the loss of DE means WHS is no longer a viable product. The enthusiast community has found all kinds of uses for home servers relating to multimedia, home automation, remote access, etc. So in the best case scenario, MS or the OEMs put in something really good to work around the loss of DE. In the worst case, you buy a box with tons of storage, and you’ve still got all your media and other functions on a robust, always on box. And you’ve still got great backup and restore for the home network. DE is a big loss, but I think it’s premature to say that Vail isn’t viable or that MS is abandoning the home server market.

Oh and a point about limitations on streaming – I agree, but some of that DRM-related stuff has been getting worked out over time, so I’m still optimistic about getting decent streaming capabilities.

Alex Kuretz November 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I can agree to an extent for the enthusiasts, though I for one find DE significantly easier to use than RAID and don’t relish having my personal server be harder to use. For the average consumer I think that making an already difficult to understand and relatively technically complicated product harder to use will only decrease it’s acceptance and viability.

AndyN November 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Microsoft probably wants to focus on a cloud based solution to complement Office 365 – then it can get a recurring revenue stream by charging a monthly fee for storage etc … cloud services are the rage (look at box.net, dropbox etc) and probably feel that the masses don’t want to deal with a home server anyway.

I personally don’t agree and was about to implement Vail as my current XP home server is feeling a little dated with Windows 7 clients … so it is too bad Microsoft is detuning Vail. Now what? Start with Windows 7 and add all kinds of “stuff” ??

ChrisW November 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Great. Been lurking here for a while and put an ex490 on my list for Santa.
Now what? Tell Santa to exchange and wait till the dust settles, or plug ahead and stick to the plan running WHS 1?

Gadget Insane November 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Plug ahead with your plan to get the EX490. WHS 1 hasn’t suddenly stopped working and you found it valuable enough to accommodate your needs. It can still backup your PCs, protect your data, and allow you to grow your storage amongst other positive things. The upgrade path on the EX490 to VAIL would have been very difficult, if not impossible anyway.

Let’s no lose sight of the fact that WHS 1 is still very much supported, alive, viable, and can still serve your needs. It continues to serve mine on the original EX470. With DE being absent in Vail, I plan on running WHS 1 until there’s a viable alternative.

Ray November 30, 2010 at 2:49 pm

If I where u, I would NOT wast another min with Vail or V1. Microsoft has done us dis-justice, I say turn off ALL WHS and have a blackout, they deserve it, PERIOD………

I am going to take the time to install “Amahi” this week, then its done for me if it all works out. PERIOD………

JustinZ November 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

ChrisW, my thoughts exactly. If I was to purchase a new ex495 what version of WHS ships with it? I’ve been eyeing it up for awhile and was just about to pull the trigger and now I’m more confused as to what to do.

Gadget Insane November 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm

You would get the original version of WHS. This recent announcement would not have changed that.

EricE November 24, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Meh – I won’t miss DE. It never did work right and introducing uncertainty around my most important files – the ones I want duplicated and protected against hardware failure – never did sit well with me.

If HP adds a fifth drive slot and some mechanisms to offer mirror sets, and shuffle files around to upgrade the size of the mirror set, I think that will easily cover 80% of the users – if not 90% or more. 2TB drives are under $99 – what exactly does the complexity of DE get us?

What’s the fifth slot for, you ask? If I have two mirror sets – a 1TB (the original system drive plus one new drive) and a 2TB mirror set and I want to upgrade my 1TB mirror set, with a fifth slot I could insert a new 2TB drive, issue some command/activate a wizard, wait for it to complete, then pull the 1TB drives and insert a second 2TB drive and move on. Pretty similar to how DE works, but with much less complexity – and once the mirror set finishes it’s initial sync, unlike DE each block is mirrored pretty much as they are created. Yes, technically there is a slight delay, but nothing compared to what there is with DE today.

I imagine this is what the WHS team, rather clumsily, was trying to communicate. For over 6TB, you could connect a Drobo Pro via iSCSI.

I understand why DE was appealing to many – but at it’s core it was a set of hacks. It worked pretty well, but I don’t blame MS for finally deciding it wasn’t worth the long term hassle and potential ridicule for data loss in perpetuating DE. As long as they have a follow on plan, it may stink from our perspective now – but in the long term we will be far better off.

And DE, mirroring or RAID with parity notwithstanding – I’m still backing up independently. All of those previous technologies are not backup, but insurance against hardware failure. Comments in several threads related to this subject bemoaning the lack of backup in the absence of DE are way, way off… sigh…

Matt Sawyer November 24, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I created a community page on Facebook – WHS Users in Support of Drive Extender. There is strength in numbers!

When Discovery tried to sue the Hillstrands, causing them to bail on Deadliest Catch, the fans revolted against Discovery. Discovery realized this would cost them a lot of money, and they listened to their fans.

We can do the same with Microsoft. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WHS-Users-in-Support-of-Drive-Extender/143773099008485

Tom November 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm

M$ you might as well just tell your employees to go home an don’t come back then lock your doors and tell apple you WON! because until you get it thru your Thick headed mind that WHS WAS A “HOME” server and that anything without DE in it is for the most place too complicated for the average home user to use. So by eliminating it you have in essence told APPLE that they have WON.

Good luck with that decision, as i for one will not be bragging bout how M$ has been so good to listen to its customers lately & how there products lately are amazing, Reliable, & exactly what the community has asked for, but will instead tell them to see my brother who is an Apple Store manager for there computer needs!

Damian November 25, 2010 at 5:18 am

Tom,

Exactly. I think this is what some people are missing. I have seen some people say that DE was horrible, glad to see it go, etc… but once again they fail to realize that WHS was for the HOME which is why DE (no matter if you thought it was inefficient versus RAID or other) was a perfect fit.

Andrew November 24, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I agree with the sentiments above – with no DE technology as well as nothing happening on MC integration, WHS is now dead in the water. What was one of the most exiting and innovative products in their portfolio (however niche it may have been in the grander scheme of things) is no more than a bag of buts that you could build so many other ways now – so long to the ease of use for the home user. Aghhhhhh.

LarryA November 25, 2010 at 6:41 am

After reading all the comments on this subject, I’m beginning to wonder if some of the people suggesting that RAID is a good replacement for WHS or how WHS isn’t reliable have ever used WHS. I have used WHS from the very first day it was available from Amazon and have never had a corrupted file. Also there are some features of WHS that RAID doesn’t provide. A few examples:

WHS backs up only one copy of identical files from multiple PCs. This saves a ton of space and backup time.

WHS backs up only those sectors that have changed. Again a savings of a ton of space and time. After the first backup of a PC, the daily backup for my 5 PCs is less than 10 minutes each.

Because of the first two automatic features I mentioned, I have about 20 terabytes of backups stored in only 2.6 terabytes of disk space. I have about 17 backups of each of my 5 PCs.

I can choose to duplicate a folder for extra security by a single click. I can undo duplication with a single click.

My WHS started with a single 500-GB drive and now contains drives ranging in size from 500-GB to 1.5-TB for a total of 4.78-TB of space available.

I can start a backup prior to installation of new software with two clicks and have to wait for less than 10 minutes for it to complete. On at least 2 occasions I’ve had to restore a PC because of a bad installation.

I don’t have to do anything to manage any of these features. Installation could not be simpler and my HP WHS takes up a tiny little bit of space under my desk.

I don’t know of any existing system, RAID or otherwise, that has all these features. If anyone knows of one I would like to hear about it.

And oh yea, I will never store my data or backups in the cloud!!! I’ve been a programmer in the financial industry for more than 35 years. So I have lots of experience with the internet, clouds and networks, all of which have been hacked.

Without DE WHS is a dead product. Microsoft take your cloud and RAID solutions and stuff’um!! Screwed by Microsoft again!!

Geoff Coupe November 25, 2010 at 7:24 am

LarryA – spot on!

Awake November 25, 2010 at 9:10 am

As ‘kludgy’ as ONE person here is saying that Drive Extender is, the facts point in a different direction.

People want JBOD, in a simple implementation. I don’t want a bunch of separate drives, I want one big drive. DE provides that. Add disks and they become one bigger disk (JBOD), lose one disk and only the full files on that disk are affected, you don’t lose the whole array (as with Raid-0).
Using DE, you can mix different sizes of disks into one bigger disk. If you have ever used RAID-5, with the requirement that all disks be identical, you know the pain and expense that can be. With RAID 5, if you are out of slots and need more capacity, you need to change EVERY drive to a bigger drive.

Anybody that uses Raid-0 for getting larger storage without a copy being generated somewhere else is an idiot. Lose one drive and you lose everything on all drives. So you have to mirror the Raid-0 drives, typically with identical drives. Need to add more capacity? Add another two mirrored drives, managed and accessed separately. Need to remove a drive to replace it with a larger one? Manually reorganize everything… with WHS you just tell it “I want to replace this drive with a bigger one” and a while later you just pop out the old drive and replace it. One drive replaced with a couple of clicks and your capacity grows.

Drobo has been hugely and wildly successful because it does the same thing that DE does.. makes storage simple. DE2 was basically a Drobo clone in that it was block based instead of file based. Dynamic growth with data protection is the future. Manually managed Raid schemes is the past.

Try doing a 5 drive dynamically adjustable sized JBOD with variably selected file replication using only mirrored drives and see how far you get!

DE and backup are the heart of WHS. What they have done by removing DE is they are going to sell a product that is basically a dumb disk enclosure with backup software built in… what’s the point of WHS then? I might as well buy a cheap enclosure and have individual machines backup to that. And then start pulling my hair out trying to organize my data on the mirrored / duplicated / non-expandable storage.

Gadget Insane November 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm

@Awake.

That is the best summary of the issue that I’ve read wrt removing DE out of WHS and its impact.

While I consider myself an enthusiast and don’t shy away from technology and hacking with my systems, the lower cost and ease of use of DE vs. an expensive RAID implementation is what makes DE very attractive.

I don’t need an enterprise-level RAID solution. DE fits the bill just fine.

Damian November 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I agree with that Insane Gadget guy as well :-)

People must remember, the “Power User” is not necessarily the target of WHS, it is meant for the average consumer. Give them an affordable product that will allow them to back up and product their data. Make it as idiot proof as possible, which means installing any size hdd at any given point. If a drive fails let the user pull it out, put a new one in, and in a few steps be done with it. Some comments about removing DE and focusing on RAID folks are forgetting who the target audience of WHS is. Even though I consider myself more technically inclined and would be a power user I still rather go with the simplicity of WHS/DE then with a RAID solution so I can focus on other stuff

EricE November 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm

@Awake

Drive Extender has nothing to do with the client backup. In fact you have to hack the client backup to get redundancy for it via Drive Extender which, ironically, is not a problem if you move to simple mirroring.

Again, I think this is exactly the development teams point. The ability to selectively turn on parts of a hard drive for duplication is much less necessary with the overall lower prices of hard drives these days.

There is no reason a vendor couldn’t build in management interfaces that would provide many of the seamless user experiences we have now with DE by managing files on top of either mirror or non-mirrored volumes.

When you can routinely get 2TB drives for $99 (and you can’t tell me an OEM like HP can’t get them even cheaper in volume) being able to sub-manage a drive for selective duplication is now operational complexity for relatively little value.

I would much rather be able to add a new drive of equal or greater size to the system drive and have the *entire* system drive, including the backup database for the computers, be redundant. If I add a larger drive, I get some non-redundant storage too. If I add an equal size drive and I want non-redundant storage for, say, DVD RIPs, then I would be prompted to add another hard drive for the non-redundant storage. I would view this as a “worse case scenario”.

Yes, you loose a little flexibility you have with DE, but in the grand scheme of things it’s minor. Especially when it eliminates the current issues with DE and with the DE v2 technology.

And for those of you who assume you have no issues with DE, I encourage you to pull a drive and verify it’s working as you are assuming. You also should try restoring from a computer backup. One of the current faults I see in WHS is it is so automated, and appears to be working so well, that I have seen enough people in the various forums find out at the worst time (when they really need the data protection features of WHS) that whoops! – there was a problem they didn’t know about and they weren’t protected like they assumed.

I’m not saying that you will find an issue. I hope you don’t (and you probably won’t) but forewarned is always better than finding out when it’s too late there is an issue. I think this is why you saw the major changes with DE in v2 – MS trying to get the reliability of the system improved, and ultimately why you are seeing them drop it. It was getting way, way complex “under the covers” and complexity is the breading ground for instability.

In the long run, this is a *good* thing. Knowing when to terminate something that is going down a path that can’t end in a good result is a very positive sign, especially for Microsoft. Microsoft has traditionally been unwilling to kill bad or outdated ideas until way too late – and I am encouraged by the direction I see the WHS team taking. There were, no doubt, some fierce internal debates that make threads like this one appear tame by comparison. There are some smart cookies on the WHS team and if they can deliver similar functionality to DE via different methods, more power to them. Even if they can’t in version 2, WHS is far from a dead product – indeed, out of mainstream users that the product was initially targeted at, a unit with two 2TB drives would probably meet 90% of the marketplace needs. Without DE there are still lots of other features of WHS – such as the the computer backup – that are well worth it. Indeed, I was hoping for a two drive WHS (for redundancy of the system drive) and the ability to more easily hook to external devices like a Drobo. I can afford to have data redundancy for a large media library on a device like a Drobo (indeed, that’s where my main iTunes library with all my music and movies resides). Sure, I can re-rip DVD’s, but that’s an insane amount of time to re-do something that a more efficient disk scheme can cover for me. That’s why I am thrilled that V2 of WHS supports iSCSI. I’ll eventually pick up a refurb Drobo Pro and have storage nirvana.

Other than not integrating with better external redundant storage like a Drobo, my chief complaint with WHS was that it didn’t come with a friendlier version of WSUS pre-installed. I have installed WSUS with no problem on my WHS’s to patch my networks, but it’s definitely not something the average home owner could do. That, along with coordinated updates for the Adobe and Java crapware would go a long ways towards fixing 98% of the software holes in Windows. I see MS going in that direction with Intune, but I’ll be darned if I’m paying a monthly fee to keep my PC’s “in check”. I just downloaded the free version of GFI LanGuard – you can monitor 5 computers for free with it – and I’m very impressed. Between it and WSUS it will do all I need. Again, it’s way beyond the capabilities of the average home user and I think a huge potential for MS to address.

Comp1962 November 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Alex I could not agree with you more!!!!!!

I do not want to sound negative and always try to look for the more positive side of things. However since the Beta Release of Vail its like an emotional roller coaster ride for me personally. While I do have a Vail Test server running its not been a motivational experience for me that I thought it would of been like when WHS first became known.

I like my WHS the way it is, I would like to see it become a 64 Bit System with some of the Vail functions but I want it to be simple to use and while the Drive Extender is not perfect I like it very much for its simplicity.

To remove the simplicity from the next version of WHS I think would mean the death for the average consumer to utilize it. If MS takes this approach then the new version of WHS will be the new Win ME or VISTA requiring MS to fix and replace it quickly or to elliminate.

MS can do what they want to taylor this to the small business users but I certainly hope they do not forget the Consumers User base and seek out a solution that keeps it simple as was WHS v1. Although WHS v1 is not perfect it works, works well and I for one have never regretted using it. Its enhansed my life and made working with my computers easier and has saved my butt time taking days off a full recovery to less then 1 hour and its bullet proof which I can not honestly say for some of the other client backup solutions I have tried in the past.

Randy November 25, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Without DE – WHS is dead as a doornail. I don’t think I ever would have bothered with WHS were it not for DE, a NAS box + backup software can do what I do with my homebuilt system (second one, actually). Being in the tech business, I really LIKE that I don’t have to deal with RAID on my home system. That I only periodically log in and check disk space and check for updates. Going to RAID is going to make things too complicated for the average user, and there’s another big problem – drive technology is always changing. With a home machine, there is no long term parts supply like you might get for a high end server – I have a couple of 750GB drives in my system that you can’t get the same model anymore. And as I’ve run into with older hardware in the business world – sometimes there are subtle changes which measn the new version of the drive ends up not being compatible with older ones in a RAID configuration. So say your nice new WQHS with RAID system is chugging along fine for 3-4 years, when finally a drive fails. Can’t get that drive anymore – now what?
Sorry, DE is what made this product. It’s whay I recommended WHS to peopel over a Drobo – that and the fact that a Drobo with ethernet with NO drives cost more than my homebuilt WHS WITH drives. Guess it’s either wait for the Linux alternative to mature and be stable and bug free or pony up for a Drobo when I finally run out of capacity on the WHS v1 box.
Microsoft, you really blew it on this one. I guess small businesses that didn’t need all the goodies of a full blown SBS were using WHS – too much revenue loss.

Fred November 26, 2010 at 8:13 am

Microsoft really had a winner in DE. Instead of abandoning it they should have expended the energy to fix the problems. Maybe if they had called it Virtual Disk or Virtual Disk Array or Cloud Disk it might have been kept. The idea of eliminating all the individual drives, drive letters, etc made life so easy. Maybe it should have been Network File System – oh wait, that’s already been implemented by someone else.

Ben Ogilvie November 26, 2010 at 9:35 am

Well, there still remains Flexraid, Unraid and Amahi with Greyhole.

SLicK November 27, 2010 at 12:13 am

As I continue to read the many comments on the future of WHS, I can’t help think that AK is probably right on the mark – being someone who is likely more in tune with the inner workings of HP and that WHS will more than likely fade away.

A conversation I had a few months back with the local Best Buy manager also comes to mind. I had noticed that the HP MediaSmarts were no longer displayed prominently as they once were, in fact there were none to be found. This prompted me to ask him and I was enlightened I guess as he quoted me poor sales and customer feedback that indicated the WHS was too technical a product for their retail stores and that it would only be carried online.

I mention this only because whatever incarnation WHS becomes if it fails to get the support going forward from retailers “with the exception of online sellers” than is that not somewhat of an indication that it was a “product before its time”? The removal of DE is certainly not going to make it any easier.

I’ve seen this before with great consumer technology that slowly faded from store shelves not because the product didn’t perform as advertised but that it was “perceived” to be too difficult or more hassle than a consumer was prepared to put up with.

I guess I’ll wait and see like everyone else but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Patrick J. Greene November 27, 2010 at 7:36 am

I’m sure ‘cloud storage’ has something to do with it. However, the ‘Cloud’ is not cost effective and relies on your broadband connection. WHS v1 provides my own private ‘Cloud’. I don’t know about anyone else’s broadband, but my Comcast fiber has fairly good download limits and speed, but nasty slow uploads. I am backing up 6 workstations in my home, that’s quite an upload. Now think, you have a movie up in the cloud, you want to watch it. Every time you watch it you are using the same amount of bandwidth as the first time. What a waste of shared resources [fiber network]. Local storage makes sense for users of anything beyond basic needs. Local storage doesn’t rely on your WAN connection, it is internal and there for you, under your control. Now add up monthly fees for online storage, and compare to local storage. My last purchase was two weeks ago, 2 x 2TB drives for $60 each [all inclusive -including tax, shipping]. Cost per gigabyte = 3 cents. Warranty on drives – 3 years [36 months]. Cost for 4 TBs of storage each month for 3 years – $3.33. Amazon US standard S3 storage [full of restrictions] 1st 1TB of storage $0.14 per GB = $140 per month. Next 49 TB – $0.125 per GB = $375 per month, for a total of $515 dollars per month for 4 TBs of storage. Note these are rough figures – you don’t get anywhere near 2000 GB from a 1 TB drive, for example. Amazon has ‘not as secure’ cloud storage for $0.10 a GB. Google cloud storage 4 TB $1024 a year.

I have currently 42.3 TB of storage hooked to my WHS. I won’t calculate how expensive that would be in the cloud, and what a major PITA it would be to try to use it for streaming anything or quick retrieval.

Drive extender made it easy, cheap, and foolproof to expand my personal ‘cloud’. Same for my workstation backups. When I need to expand, I want to buy a drive and shove it in. Not rebuild arrays or carve out LUNs. Not at home, anyway. I get paid for doing that stuff.

So for me, removing drive extender is killing WHS. I’ll stick with the old version until linux comes up with something as good.

GPKing November 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm

As dead as it can be !
WHS v1 forever, until support stops.

LarryA December 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Can someone explain something to me? In their announcement for killing WHS Microsoft uses the availability large or “multi-terabyte” disks as part of their excuse. What has that got to do with anything in the real universe?

If I have big drives I can use in my backup device how does that help me? The availability of cheap, big drives just means that I have big, cheap drives in my PCs that are crammed full of data that I need to back up.

There is a law for this–the data I have to store grows more quickly than the space I have to store it in. And increasingly large disk drive sizes (either in my PCs or in my backup device) don’t help me with this problem. DM does or should I say did!

Tom January 5, 2011 at 12:45 am

I agree with Alex here,
Unless MS goes it normal route for consumer products (every other one is good for the most part) and solves this for v3, WHS is dead. Perhaps with the outcry they will put DE back into a V3, in time for a product for all of us V1 users to upgrade, other wise WHS will die with Vail, the streaming is not that great and running a 24/7 box is going to cost a whole lot more than a cheap NAS box, many of which also come up with some type of backup solution, there is just no compelling reason for anyone to want Vail at this point, it can grow but not protect, I mean come on what person is going to keep all their 12MP family photo’s on a server that is difficult to grow, or the HD home movies, or dvd or music collections, that stuff just takes to long to rebuild to risk and some can never be replaced, Hard disks are getting bigger, but Media is also getting Bigger.

A few years ago you could rip a dvd down and convert it albeit with pretty poor quality and wind up with a video file you could burn to a cd in VCD format, since then bigger and better have came with Divx, h264 etc and you had good quality movies in the GB range or you could just rip the DVD down and have a 3 to 7GB file, now we have Blu-Ray and these can go to 16 GB or more per video… WHS with DE solved this issue as it could ever expand and still offer a degree of protection for these items.

Vail, not so much.

Drobo which is being highly suggested every where is 1 – no more reliable than WHS v1 and 2 for many price prohibitive and 3- Limited by the size of current drives, so realistically now with the cheapest drobo you could get around 6TB with 4 2TB drives installed, that would be roughly $1000, just for storage alone then you have to tag on the cost of WHS software, hardware etc and you just went from a $139 and some old hardware and or a sub $500 starter box OS included to at least double that, people are just not going to pay that much and again your next storage addition would be yet another drobo… consumers are not going to spend this kind of money.

I think short if a miracle WHS is dead, and believe MS is really dropping the ball on this one, files as I stated are just getting larger and the Cloud for a very long look ahead is not going to be able to handle these, not the speed it would require to upload / download, view… nor the storage capacity / price to even make it viable for much more than office documents and small to moderate photo collections.

The good thing I hope that comes out of this is that some other company siezes this opportunity and makes and even better product, perhaps even adding in the media center functionality so many users wanted, I just hope they do it before my V1 dies…

WHS at least from MS, is dead.

data support January 18, 2011 at 1:08 am

WHS failed when they based it on SBS 2003. it should have been a nice Win xp box with a simple install. DE FTW!

TomK February 9, 2011 at 11:47 am

I had been looking for a home server for quite some time last year. When I found out that MS was going to drop one of the most appealing features (DE) to me as a “home” user, I started to look to buy an HP unit. I managed to buy an HP EX495 last week and must say that I am thrilled with it. The fact that the unit can “sleep” and will wake itself to start backing up my computers, or that I can wake the server from anywhere my travels take me, is outstanding. Too bad MS is dropping the ball on this very nice OS, meanwhile, this server will serve me for many years to come!

Sethy March 20, 2011 at 6:26 am

My post is not a joke or a taunt, be sure.

I bought a few weeks ago an iPad an I’m really impressed on it.

So, for the first time since many and many year I’m thinking to buy a Mac as a “PC” replacement but … I’m really enjoyed for my WHS I (a Fujitsu one, but no matter).

I must say that your opinion about the death of WHS II remove one of the last point …

I have heard that Mac have a Time Capsule device which hosts also back-ups and more.

Sethy

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