How to Make Your Voice Heard About Drive Extender

by Alex Kuretz on November 26, 2010 · 23 comments

in News

There has been a lot of noise over the past few days about Microsoft’s decision to remove Drive Extender from Windows Home Server, not just within the Windows Home Server community but more broadly across the internet. With so much discussion and so many of you unhappy about the decision, you may be wondering what is the best way to make sure Microsoft themselves hear your feedback. Leaving comments on this site and the other home server communities is good but Microsoft likely won’t hear it all directly.

The single best thing to do is to visit the Microsoft Connect site for Windows Home Server and vote up this Feedback item that says to “Add drive extender back to Vail”. You will need a Windows Live ID and to register with the Connect site in order to vote up the suggestion. This feedback goes directly to the product team and is visible within the broader Microsoft organization. Be sure to also leave a comment, explain politely but clearly what kind of user you are (average consumer, IT specialist, reseller, etc), and what your thoughts are on the removal of Drive Extender. It’s important that Microsoft hears from as many of us as possible, and as of the time of this article there are nearly 3000 votes in three days.

Next, be vocal in your communities, especially try to inform people that may be Windows Home Server users but are not active enthusiasts in the community. Ask them if they will upgrade to a new Home Server if it does not have the easy, reliable data management feature that they are used to and enjoy in the current version of Windows Home Server. Point them to the Connect site and ask them to leave their feedback.

An enthusiast has started the site VailFail.com as well as an online petition, be sure to sign the petition and add your comments there.

Become a Fan of the WHS Users in Support of Drive Extender page on Facebook. Also post your feedback on the Windows Home Server Facebook page.

You can try to comment directly on the Microsoft blog posts that announced the decision to remove Drive Extender. I list this last because Microsoft appears to have either closed the comments or else stopped moderating them. Adding your voice there will at least build up the moderation queue, if they have 1000 comments to moderate that is still a message to the team.

Finally, Terry Walsh over at WeGotServed went so far as to send an email directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and actually got a response indicating that Ballmer would look into the situation. Terry is a Microsoft MVP for Windows Home Server and Steve has asked that MVPs contact him directly when there are serious concerns, so while I highly recommend against this course of action for the general public, I think Terry wrote a strong letter that speaks well on our behalf and I hope that Ballmer and his staff take the time to look into this thoroughly.

Post in the comments if I missed any other good ways to make your voice heard and I’ll update this article.





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.


{ 23 comments }

jam3ohio November 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

Thanks Alex for helping to keep the heat on. Without DE the product is dead. It is now or never if we want to get this changed.

Seth November 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Alex,
I don’t see any way to “vote up this Feedback” over on the Connect site. What am I missing?

Seth November 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Never mind, found it. Green box with which up-triangle.

Alex Kuretz November 26, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Glad you found it, I’ve added a screenshot to hopefully help other readers.

paul finney November 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Alex, I noticed that Microsoft have taken down the area where you can leave your comments about the removal of drive extender. I guess they are not interested what the user thinks now!

Very unfortunate, as this removal of functionality basically kills the use of the product going forward for myself.

Such is life…… :-(

Alex Kuretz November 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Paul, the Connect site still has the option to add a comment and that is the most important place. On their blog I still see the “Post Feedback” form but they haven’t approved any comments since the first day when they got flooded, I presume there’s a huge moderation queue backing up.

Paul November 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Damn, I knew I should have bought a Drobo!

Alex Kuretz November 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm

And why would you want a Drobo?

Seth November 26, 2010 at 5:43 pm

I’ve seen a few people say “Drobo” in the context of all of this and I really don’t get the comparison. First of all, if I wanted just file storage with upgradeable pools there are far less expensive alternatives to Drobo like unRAID or FreeNAS+ZFS on homebuilt hardware. WHS, to me, is far more than just a storage pool (think automated backups, media server, ability to use an attached DVD-RW to backup my media, etc…). And second, more than a few users have lost entire arrays on their Drobos due to various bugs (including a friend of mine). The fact that DE is just NTFS is a big plus in my book which is also why I’m interested in unRAID, it just uses ReiserFS. [Just as an aside, when the bug took out my friend's entire array on his Drobo he contacted Drobo's customer support about it. Their response was "You should buy a second Drobo to back up the first one!" He now refuses to put anything on his Drobo that he considers essential. It's pretty bad when you have a file protection system you can't trust to protect your files.]

varun November 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

In fairness, there is one thing that is nice about Drobo and that is that it is a no-brainer to use, like Quattro’s version of DE.

I agree with you, though, about Drobo being a piss-poor product otherwise, and having a terrible customer support reputation. I think had they just spent six more months testing the initial device, and working out glitches, they’d have built a loyal brand following instead of being in the situation they are now, where no one (but idiots including one particular TUAW author) trusts them.

Seth November 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm

By the way, just as a follow up to my previous post about my friend and his Drobo experiences…here’s his Facebook status update as of this morning:

“hey look! My drobo died *again* that’s twice in 2 years.”

varun November 26, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Maybe this is mean, but Michael Leworthy (the author of those two posts on WTB) is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624805903 … perhaps we should tell him directly?

Alex Kuretz November 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm

He is just the messenger and not a decision maker no matter how poorly he wrote those posts for the team.

Dave November 26, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Thanks Alex. I was going to wait until Vail was released to replace my EX470 but after this happened I decided to start shopping for an EX490. Fortunately I got in on NewEgg’s black Friday sale… This is such a shame, I really hope MS changes their mind but it looks like the DE problem resides in changes that they made in the very core of the code, doesn’t look like an easy fix at all…

Chuck Coleman November 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Alex. I don’ think I’ve seen this question posted so if it has been, I apologize. The drive extender is valuable because it allows the storage pool to be easily increased. Several comments I’ve seen express deep dissatisfaction with RAID because of it’s complexity. I get that. However one aspect of drive extender that I’ve been dissatisfied with is running the “back end” of a Microsoft Access database on a shared folder with Duplication turned on. It creates errors and produces iStor IDE errors. It is my understanding that DE caused this problem. Couldn’t the RAID complexity issue be overcome/solved with a nice GUI that isolates the user from the complexity? Maybe a nice GUI that manages the pool is DE. What do you think?

Alex Kuretz November 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Application compatibility is one of the reasons that MS has decided to remove Drive Extender, see here: http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/11/24/technical-failures-emerge-as-reason-for-death-of-drive-extender

Software RAID in the OS might be able to be managed with a nice GUI, but there’s still the issue of matched hard drives. In a hardware RAID situation you need to be able to interact with the RAID controller, which means no more headless device and no pretty GUI to aid the configuration and troubleshooting.

Matt Sawyer November 29, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Alex,

On top of that, only the highest-end (EXPENSIVE) RAID controllers support dynamic RAID expansion. So let’s say you build yourself a RAID-5 array out of 5 x 1 TB drives, yielding roughly 4 TB of usable space. After about a year, you get it loaded up so you buy a couple more 1 TB drives. Let’s assume you’ve got free slots or another location to put these disks.

What do you do? Build a separate RAID array? Now you’ve got another drive letter, and separate storage pool. Not desirable.

What about adding it to the existing array? Unless you have a high-end controller, you have to back up all that data (4 TB worth) because you need to whack and rebuild the array.

NOT exactly what I have in mind for a “simple” solution, and I’m a technical person! Your average home user will want nothing to do with RAID.

DE solved all these problems. So why, oh why would they kill it?

JohnBick November 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm

DE makes growth simple. It makes it simple for my family on their systems,
for me on my (personal and professional) systems and for a number of my
consulting clients — who I encouraged to use MS WHS in lieu of Linux. Heck, at this point is ALL of the IT portion of my consulting business. I guess it is time to turn the WHS test system back into a Linux server.

Generally the WHS systems I use or support are for file storage and/or backups with only minor applications running. I would prefer to limit the applications than to loose DE. Even better would be to make DE a standard feature in ALL versions of Windows and Windows Servers.

Comp1962 November 28, 2010 at 1:18 am

The optomist side of me really crashed and burned upon reading about MS opting to stop developement on DE v2. The DE may not be perfect but it works, works well and is fairly reliable and MS should build on this not abandon it for something thats more convient. I was honestly hoping for Vail to become an improved version of WHS v1 but maintain its simplicity and flexibility for the average user. I am beginning to wonder if MS is losing site on the humble beginnings of WHS being simple and easy to use. I do know some of us have taken WHS to a new level pushing it beyond what it was intended for but not everyone has done this but I do feel the majority of the WHS community feels right now its being kicked under the bus.

What is clear is that if when Vail is released and its not simple to use, flexible and reliable as is WHS v1 then the majority will just stay with WHS v1 and MS would of just wasted their time developing VAIL.

Ripstop November 28, 2010 at 3:20 am

As a long time user of an original EX470 this makes no sense to me at all. DE was one of the main considerations for using WHS and in the HP format was as far as I was concerned a perfect solution. I am an IT professional and the key reasons were exactly has been mentioned before. I don’t want to go messing with RAID at the hardware level, I wanted to simply add/remove as required and have several times already. I was holding out for Vail for my next machine but may now consider an EX490 or X510 if this goes on. I would not move to Vail for now and I suspect many others won’t either. I managed to convince several IT folks at work to invest in these devices for home use over the last few years based on DE and the other features.

The Windows *HOME* server should be exactly that, simple and available to home users without having to understand RAID configurations. Simply, DE works well, nothing more, nothing less and surely in this day and age MS can make it work for Vail.

Brian November 28, 2010 at 9:45 am

A big disappointment. Like many, I don’t have time with family and job to learn and pay for RAID with ever-growing storage needs. DE just let me stack ‘em on. Without it, I’ll look for something new. Beats me what it’ll be…

Matt Sawyer November 29, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Definitely keep up the heat! The Connect site had the votes at 3838-41, a healthy 98.9% lead in the polls! I really hope Microsoft is watching as they “claim” to be. They keep saying the decision to kill DE was driven by the customer. But when you look at the customer feedback, it’s clearly to the contrary.

Thanks for the tip of the hat towards my WHS Users in Support of Drive Extender page!

And to reiterate Alex, please keep up the heat in the other communities in which you participate, whether it’s here, Home Server Land, We Got Served or Facebook. It sounded like late last week, we got Steve Ballmer’s attention. If that is the case, we can’t back down now!

GPKing November 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm

So ironic … MS is making the same stupid and arrogant decisions that IBM did 30 years ago (MS DOS … ancient history I know).

You know, WHS did not need a 100% overhaul … 99% of the improvements that were requested are refinements, so evolutionary not revolutionary.

Well from a WHS standpoint we are now moving back to the stone age … MS was looking for a reason to kill this product … now you have just created your reason. Just don’t bother and rather make those entry level business servers a success. You just lost your home user base … so why bother ?

Very sad.

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