Editorial: Paul Thurrott Makes U-Turn on Windows Home Server 2011

by Alex Kuretz on February 21, 2011 · 51 comments

in News

Prominent Microsoft evangelist Paul Thurrot has published an article outlining why he is now betting on Windows Home Server 2011. In the article he attempts to explain why Windows Home Server 2011 is just fine and dandy, yet just like Microsoft he focuses on the tech enthusiast point of view and completely neglects the ease of use and data protection requirements of the unskilled average home user for whom Windows Home Server is targeted.

Paul had previously been a strong proponent of the consumer friendly features in Windows Home Server that Drive Extender made possible, and when initially briefed on the removal of Drive Extender he assumed that it would mean the death of Windows Home Server. I was pleased to see him taking a strong stance and vocalizing his concerns to Microsoft and his readers with articles like these:

Paul has taken a surprisingly sharp u-turn in this latest article, which (perhaps coincidentally) follows the same formulaic recipe we’re seeing from Microsoft themselves. It’s much more of a marketing style approach, outlining the bullet points of the remaining features available in Windows Home Server 2011, saying “Hey look at all this great stuff WHS still has, and pay no attention to that easy-to-use-storage problem behind the curtain.” I have to wonder what motivated the abrupt change of heart. Surely there must be more than simply spending some time with the RC of Windows Home Server 2011 as the only significant difference between the previous Beta release is the Move Folder Wizard which even Paul disparages.

At least in his article Paul acknowledges he’ll just have to deal with splitting up his shares to multiple drives. Microsoft employee Sean Daniel disconcertingly advocates deleting the majority of your digital photos since you’ll never actually print them all anyways.

Several of Paul’s arguments about why he’s betting on Windows Home Server 2011 miss the mark on the need for Windows Home Server 2011 to be an easy to use product for the average consumer. Here are the problems I noticed in his article, and my take on them.

Windows Phone 7 Support
I’m not sure I need to touch this one, in my opinion it’s mostly just a gimmick to promote the Microsoft mobile platform. Nearly all the features in the special Windows Phone 7 Add-In could be delivered to any modern smart phone via a cross-platform browser based site such as we have in our WHS Health Add-In and mobile streaming apps such as Orb.

Mac Support
Paul touts this as a great new feature, however apparently he hasn’t seen how completely broken this feature is for the average home user. HP was able to get this feature working fairly well with a simple wizard interface back in Windows Home Server days, why can’t Microsoft deliver a feature that doesn’t require a whitepaper of a blog post targeted to the tech enthusiast?

Cloud Backup
The future Add-Ins for Windows Home Server 2011 that excite Paul the most are “cloud-based backup solutions”. I still think this isn’t a viable solution for anyone but those with the most expensive internet plans and willingness to pay a lot for storage. The move of ISP’s towards capping monthly data transfers and providing low upstream bandwidth speeds all serve to reduce the likelihood of cloud backup being common. Paul says he wants to backup his documents and pictures the cloud, given the numbers he shared in the blog post that’s 500GB of data to transfer. Comcast gives me 1.5mbit/sec upload speeds and caps me at 250GB of data transfer per month, it would take a significant amount of time and cost to back this up or restore it.

Add-Ins
In nearly the same breath that he extols the future storage Add-Ins, he also slams the door on Add-In developers by calling the recently announced Drive Extender replacements “silly”. While I agree the Add-Ins require extensive testing before we trust our data on them, it seems foolish for someone who finds the Add-Ins for WHS 2011 to be one of the most compelling features to disrespect several Add-In developers before we’ve even had a look at what will be offered.

He summarizes his article by saying:

I can tell you now that Microsoft’s home server solution is still the best game in town, even with the removal of Drive Extender. And if you could stop crying into your beer, I think you’ll admit the same.

I’m sorry, Paul, but Windows Home Server is still the best game in town when talking ease of use for expandable and reliable storage. As I’ve stated, Windows Home Server 2011 is great for the tech enthusiast, but fails to deliver consumer friendly storage.





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.


{ 50 comments }

C Guidry February 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

So i’ve been a V1 user for several years, installed several systems for friends and family; loved drive extender
but i’ve been playing around with WHS11 RC without DE and guess I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It feels like a PC we are all used to, instead of duplicating folders, I take one of my 2 TB drives and use it for backup. In away it seems more direct and confidence inspiring than the ‘magic’ of DE. So if I lose my active data drive I’m shut down until I do a restore from the backup, but can live with that.
Don’t shoot me, but I am now pretty comfortable with the outcome. I am not affiliated with MS, not even in the IT industry. Just a user with some tech skills

Ian February 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

what happens when you have a folder bigger that any one drive?
say, you have 9TB of movies?

Creegs May 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Umm… Make another folder on another drive…

Heaphus February 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I think there are a few key facts that explain Paul Thurrott’s conclusion about WHS 2011.

1.) Paul Thurrott is a tech enthusiast.

2.) Everyone who reads/listens to Paul Thurrott is a tech enthusiast.

3.) The only people who actually buy WHS are tech enthusiasts, or were directed to do so by a tech enthusiast.

Look, I had the same initial reaction when I heard about the removal of Drive Extender. Now, I’m looking forward to leaving my WHSv1 behind for WHS 2011. Guess what, I’m a tech enthusiast!

Damian February 22, 2011 at 2:53 am

I guess I would consider myself a tech enthusiast, and the removal of DE has me looking at alternatives. Along the same lines, and as you mention in #3, I would direct family members, so if I am less then enthusiastic about WHS that means I am less likely to point family/friends in that direction as well.

Matt Sawyer February 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

I too am a tech enthusiast–a geek at heart. And even for me culling DE from the product is a huge blow. I am someone who likes RAID, knows how to configure RAID, etc. But that’s at work. RAID is a great enterprise level solution, and solid solution for a small business as well.

But the HOME user probably doesn’t want to deal with all that. It’s complicated, and to build RAID right, it’s expensive. Oh sure you can get a RAID adapter on the cheap by shopping around, but in my experience with RAID adapters–at least server-class SCSI-based ones–I’ve found that “you get what you pay for” holds very true. Get a cheap RAID adapter, and you’re walking on thin ice.

I don’t want to trust my data to an entry-level or cheap adapter. And I don’t want to turn my home server into a second job, and RAID would do just that…turn the server into another job.

I’m nonetheless intrigued by WHS 2011, more so with DE-like replacements in the works. I intend to test out WHS 2011 in a controlled Hyper-V environment once the add-ins are available.

But as it stands right now, my EX490 is going to continue running WHS v1 with no plans to change it.

Matt

AWT February 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm

If I were to go to WHS 2001, How would it handle my current 56TB storage pool? What would need to be done to port those 56TB of hard drives over and have redundancy for all my data?

Damian February 25, 2011 at 3:15 am

Right now the only options would be:

1) Copy all your data off of your current WHS v1 system, install WHS 2011, and then copy the data back.

2) Build a new server running WHS 2011 and t hen copy all your data over from v1 to WHS 2011

As of now there is no way to simply upgrade your current WHS and still keep the storage pool in tact

Creegs May 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I’ve never used Drive Extender before so I can’t say for sure. (I built all of my Home Servers with RAID from the beginning since Drive Extender always seemed like an unnecessary waste of performance and data integrity. Mark me down as the only person in the world who thinks killing off Drive Extender is better for the world). Anyways, from my understanding, any file in a Drive Extender array should exist on 2 physical hard drives at all times. So you should be able to break up the array one hard drive at a time.

Reformat one of the physical hard drives in the array. Then cut and paste as much data as possible from the array onto that newly formatted hard drive. Then, wait until full redundancy has been achieved on the array again. Then reformat another hard drive from the array. Cut and paste as much data as possible from the array onto that hard drive… And so on, until you’ve completely broken the array up into single drives.

At this point, at least half of your drives should be empty. Use these drives to create a RAID 5 array (or RAID 6 if you have enough drives). Then start cutting and pasting data from single drives into the RAID array one drive at a time. After you move the data from a drive into the array, join that empty drive into the array itself, and then increase the array’s partition size. Do this for the rest of your drives.

Once you’re finished, you’ll have a hardware RAID array which has significantly better performance and reliability than your old Drive Extender array. Now update to WHS 2011, and you’re all set! Yes it’s a lot of work, but it’s for the better.

Alex Kuretz May 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I’ve never used Drive Extender before so I can’t say for sure.

No offense, but you make this fact painfully clear with your entire post here.

Anyways, from my understanding, any file in a Drive Extender array should exist on 2 physical hard drives at all times. So you should be able to break up the array one hard drive at a time.

Data exists on more than one physical hard drive at all times only if you have duplication enabled, and while a file exists on a single drive, multiple files for any given shared folder can be scattered across multiple drives.

Reformat one of the physical hard drives in the array.

You must first Remove the drive from the Drive Extender drive pool, hopefully you have enough free space on your other drives to do so and keep duplication enabled.

Then cut and paste as much data as possible from the array onto that newly formatted hard drive. Then, wait until full redundancy has been achieved on the array again. Then reformat another hard drive from the array. Cut and paste as much data as possible from the array onto that hard drive… And so on, until you’ve completely broken the array up into single drives.

Ok, this is possible, it requires organizing your data on the new drives, and you’ve now lost redundancy. Hopefully a drive doesn’t crap out while you’re in the middle of this quite possibly multi-day endeavor.

At this point, at least half of your drives should be empty. Use these drives to create a RAID 5 array (or RAID 6 if you have enough drives). Then start cutting and pasting data from single drives into the RAID array one drive at a time. After you move the data from a drive into the array, join that empty drive into the array itself, and then increase the array’s partition size. Do this for the rest of your drives.

Where is the hardware RAID controller coming from? You’re assuming a DIY build here that likely doesn’t have a RAID controller since the user had DE, so factor in the cost of a new RAID controller. Also, how long does it take to resize the array when you add drives?

Once you’re finished, you’ll have a hardware RAID array which has significantly better performance and reliability than your old Drive Extender array. Now update to WHS 2011, and you’re all set! Yes it’s a lot of work, but it’s for the better.

Unfortunately there is no “update to WHS 2011″, you’ll need a new system or at least somewhere to store your data while you build up the WHS 2011 system and copy your data onto it.

This article should give you a better perspective of what’s involved with storage in WHS 2011.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2011/05/11/guide-a-storage-enthusiasts-journey-from-whs-v1-to-whs-2011/

Creegs May 12, 2011 at 8:20 pm

“No offense, but you make this fact painfully clear with your entire post here. Data exists on more than one physical hard drive at all times only if you have duplication enabled, and while a file exists on a single drive, multiple files for any given shared folder can be scattered across multiple drives.”

As far as I’m concerned, this is the only piece of information I was not perfectly correct about. I was not aware that duplication in drive extender was optional. So let me add this then. If you do not have duplication enabled, and your array is full right to the brim (56TB), then you’re going to have to purchase another hard drive. But since the original poster asked how he can have data redundancy, I think it’s safe to assume that he already has duplication enabled, or he expects to be purchasing an additional hard drive. And I realize that files are scattered across multiple drives. That’s the whole purpose of drive extender. Remove a drive from the array and drive extender transparently reallocates those files onto other hard drives.

“You must first Remove the drive from the Drive Extender drive pool, hopefully you have enough free space on your other drives to do so and keep duplication enabled.”

I realize you have to explicitly remove a drive from a drive extender array. I was just giving the poster a general idea of how to achieve what he wanted. I wasn’t trying to walk him through it click by click. And if he does have duplication enabled, he doesn’t even have to explicitly remove the drive. He can just directly format it, all the data on it is already redundant in the array anyways. And by pretty basic logic, once he cuts and pastes data from the array to the newly formatted drive, he’s automatically making enough space in the array to keep duplication enabled. Think about it for a bit, I believe in you, you’ll get it.

“Ok, this is possible, it requires organizing your data on the new drives, and you’ve now lost redundancy. Hopefully a drive doesn’t crap out while you’re in the middle of this quite possibly multi-day endeavor.”

He’s rebuilding a 56TB array. It should be assumed this is going to be a multi-day endeavour. The details of this whole operation completely depend on the specifics of his current setup. But worst case, he has to purchase 1 additional hard drive and create a RAID array and transfer and expand to it directly, basically just skipping the whole single disc part, in order to retain complete redundancy throughout the entire operation.

“Where is the hardware RAID controller coming from? You’re assuming a DIY build here that likely doesn’t have a RAID controller since the user had DE, so factor in the cost of a new RAID controller. Also, how long does it take to resize the array when you add drives?”

He has a 56TB array. He’s obviously packing something under the hood. And if his motherboard doesn’t have RAID built in (most mobo’s these days do), firmware based RAID cards with port multiply cost less than $30. Unless he’s using a bunch of USB hard drives, which he shouldn’t be for permanent server storage anyways. Just pop those open and connect them to SATA. You’re just wasting massive resources otherwise. And yeah, it’s going to take a long time. I never said it was a quick process. But that’s the beauty of a hardware based RAID array. It’s not OS dependent. Once he converts to a hardware RAID he’ll never have to worry about migrating that data ever again. (Assuming your OS partition is separate from the RAID in the case of an OS update, or you’re using an external RAID card in the case of new server hardware). You can even migrate the RAID array to a Linux system in the future if the need ever arises. There’s no compatibility constraints.

“Unfortunately there is no “update to WHS 2011″, you’ll need a new system or at least somewhere to store your data while you build up the WHS 2011 system and copy your data onto it. This article should give you a better perspective of what’s involved with storage in WHS 2011.”

I don’t actually mean “update”. I just mean replace the old WHS version with the new one. I’m hoping your OS is on a separate partition from your data. Setup the hardware RAID from your old WHS installation. Then format your OS partition, install WHS 2011 on it, and your RAID array will already be sitting there waiting for you once you boot up. You don’t need a whole new system, or anywhere to store all of your data while you upgrade. You can do it all progressively with the possibility of nearly zero downtime if you’re planning on employing a RAID 1 array in the chain somewhere. Worst case you’ll need a RAID card and one additional hard drive. I basically explained exactly what that article you linked to described. Except my method doesn’t require an entire backup medium (which for 56TB would be pretty expensive), and has potential for greatly reduced down time (although performance would suffer while all of this was happening). Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I do this stuff on a regular basis as a living. The guy in the article you linked to plans on using SAS drives when he could have just used SATA with port multiplier to get the same functionality for significantly less money, and he’s using iTunes as a media server… And even he said “And you know what, it wasn’t that big of deal!” in reference to hardware RAIDs.

Paul Carvajal May 13, 2011 at 12:02 am

Just an FYI – I’m using SAS with SATA drives.

Alex Kuretz February 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

You both have fair comments, thanks for sharing your perspectives. In case anyone hasn’t noticed :) I’m holding strong with my advocacy for the average home user that will be likely be frustrated, confused, and quite possibly lose data with WHS 2011.

Joe User February 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

I’m the family tech guy/geek but I do not work in IT. I have a family, friends and hobbies that come first. In addition, I have little free time. The simplicity and security of using drive extender if why I jumped on board. I can and, if absolutely necessary, will learn RAID and whatever else I need to. But I rather spend my time doing other things. Version 1 HP 470 until it dies for me.

Kevin February 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I still just don’t get it…

I’m very sad; I have 6TB of data on my server although I have no confidence whatsoever that I’d be able to figure out how to set up RAID’s etc in order to use WHS v2. I’m probably what you call a “home user” who just knows enough to completely and utterly screw things up if I were to try anything sophisticated (like what I see v2 turning into).

I have no doubt I’m one who will be stuck with v1 for a few years hoping to find some non-WHS alternative to migrate my data to; already looking at Linux solutions but I’m sure to be disappointed at best, or at worst lose 5 years worth of painstakingly organized media.

BTW, I’m definitely a nerd, but I guess I’m not a “Tech Enthusiast”? whatever that’s supposed to mean…. lame.

netscan February 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm

When you’re running multi terabyte systems, single drive shares are not a possiblity. However they swing it, the loss of DE is a deal breaker. RAID is the only option and a poor option at that (expansion flexiblity).

Yes, I’m a techie, but FFS I don’t want to have to be – which is why I’m running WHS. If I wanted exotic storage, I’d be running a Linux server which would do the job much, much better, just nowhere near as friendly.

Luke February 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I’m quite interested in WHS 2011. I am a bit of a techie and think 2011 would work for me as I don’t have large amounts of storage and the loss of DE is going to impact me as much as others.

There are Pro and Cons of each system but the one thing which really has me interested in 2011 is being able to backup the server’s system drive. Restoring the server in V1 can be time consuming process depending on modifications.

LoneWolf February 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I’ve read too much Paul Thurrott to think of him as an unbiased source. He’s always seemed slow to criticize Microsoft when they warranted it, preferring to give at least faint praise and avoid negativity.

I like Windows and all –but I’ll read other sites for objectivity.

Darryl February 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Alex,

The only surprise was Paul Thurrott’s initial strong condemnation of a Microsoft product. The man makes his living pitching Microsoft products to the techie masses, and his articles criticizing the move were the classic “man bites dog” story that alerted the rest of the tech press and the analysts to the fact that Microsoft had made a major miscalculation with their Home Server product. I applaud Paul for speaking out when so many other Microsoft evangelists and employees who had praised WHS v1 kept their thoughts about v2 to themselves. I also suspect that Paul had to find a way to gracefully come around to accepting the new WHS reality, or find his access to MS (and his income opportunities) negatively impacted. I’m sure the MS evangelists have been working you pretty hard (and I trust you won’t be too shocked not to be renewed as a Microsoft MVP if you don’t have a similar change of heart).

I’ll probably upgrade to the new WHS, but without the Drive Extender, it’s going to take a bit more work to set up a reliable data store. I’m an IT professional who works with servers everyday, so I have the knowledge, I just hate losing the spare time building yet another server, and I know that I won’t be able to talk my family through fixing things if they happen to break while I’m on the road.

Matt Sawyer February 22, 2011 at 9:54 am

Darryl,

I think you could very well be on the right path with respect to Paul’s U-turn. Based on some commentary to his own articles, as well as the anti-DE camp that seems strong in the WHS 2011 TechNet forums, he has definitely caught some heat.

I am, however, bothered by the fact that he calls the DE replacement add-ons silly. They’re far from that. The very fact that two different companies are marching forward with them goes to show how passionate the WHS v1 user base is, and to call that “silly” seems to be thumbing his nose not at the add-ons themselves, but rather the community that so strongly supports DE.

Paul definitely took some heat, and it would seem he’s tried to take a diplomatic approach to get back on Microsoft’s “good side.” But the dig at the WHS community was uncalled for.

Matt

macruiskeen February 22, 2011 at 3:42 am

Darryl – I have no idea if you’re reading the same Paul Thurrott as me, but your comments are so inaccurate that I have to think that maybe there’s another one out there. Is ‘your’ Paul Thurrott the author of the following?:

http://www.winsupersite.com/article/paul-thurrotts-wininfo/Massive-Microsoft-Reorg-May-Not-be-Enough.aspx
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/microsoft-products/Microsoft-Should-Abandon-the-Consumer-Market.aspx
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/paul-thurrotts-wininfo/Microsoft-s-iPad-Response-is-Too-Tepid-Too-Late.aspx
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/paul-thurrotts-wininfo/Windows-Everywhere-Wake-Up-Microsoft-It-s-2011.aspx
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/paul-thurrotts-wininfo/For-Microsoft-2011-to-be-Year-of-the-Tablet-Again.aspx

If you ever listen to Windows Weekly, you’ll know perfectly well that he has been extremely critical of MS at times, as well as supportive when they are moving in the right direction.

And the truth is that Paul happened to be one of many people who were critical of WHS 2011 when they first had an opportunity to offer an opinion. He, along with a few others it would seem, has changed his mind about it – and I for one am disappointed with his change of heart.

Nevertheless it sometimes helps to deal with what people really have to say rather then creating strawmen that you can easily attack without dealing with the substance of their arguments.

Darryl February 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I don’t recall attacking Paul, I actually praised him for speaking up when others chose to keep silent. I’ve seen his recent articles criticizing Microsoft and pushing them to move away from consumer products (and I agree with his reasoning mostly), but that does not change the fact that in general, he has been (and still is) a major cheerleader for Microsoft, and makes money from pushing their products (he pretty much admits to that fact in the article). I don’t have a problem with him being a strong Microsoft supporter, but I do take that fact into consideration when I read his opinions.

Again, the fact that he was so critical of WHS 2011 made me and others pay attention, he is not someone anyone would consider to be an Anyone-but-Microsoft type. Like you, I an a bit surprised at his change of heart on WHS 2011, and wondering what could have caused it.

GPKing February 22, 2011 at 7:34 am

Alex, your writeup hits the mark right on. I like reading what Paul Thurrot has to say. I am an Apple enthousiast and Paul is probably the lone crusader who comes close to get enthousiastic about Mickeymouse Software products.

To me MS had only one compelling product – Windows Home Server, a product that was lightyears ahead of the competition.

Now, WHS 2011 comes out and it is an unfinished product. Let’s put the DE debacle aside, MS could have remedied it but failed to do so and here is why:

Mac support – there is no MAC support. Once you tell a MAC how to read SMB shares, you can use Time machine with ANY Windows disk. True MAC support would have been the creation of exactly the same user features, for which btw. MS only needed to leverage their own technologies – speaking of RDC for Mac!!

A Windows Phone 7 addin – please? An Android and iOS addin would have been an eye opener. Noone uses Windows Phone 7 and this platform is doomed … So why not expand the userbase by providing support for 2/3 of smartphone users?

Storage: I believe had they kept folder duplication, most of the average users would have been satisfied. People who have monster size folders are tech enthousiasts and have means to work around the limitations. They may not like it but you could make it work. But the lack of automatic folder duplication is the real blow and the manual workaround just does not cut it.

So Paul – I believe you should take a hard look at your article again and apologize to the developers who (most of them will never recover their intellectual investment) are trying to make this software a viable option again for Joe Sixpack and provide the features wher your buddies at Mickeymouse Software failed miserably!

LoneWolf February 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm

While I agree with some of what you have said, Windows 7 Mobile is still early days. “No one uses it” = it is new enough that there has not been widespread adoption.

I don’t believe the platform is doomed, and I would expect nothing less from Microsoft than to support their own platform. I expect their reply to your comment would be that there is plenty of opportunity for developers to make an Android or iOS add-in.

rshol February 22, 2011 at 8:27 am

My experience with Time Machine to SMB backups is not so great. Every time AAPL updates OSX it breaks and its not all that reliable.

That said, given the absence of DE, I see no reason for a Tech enthusiast to prefer WHS to linux for a home server. Some reasons:

1) Zero $ cost for Linux (spend the difference on extra ram or disk).
2) Easy remote access for any client operating system (ssh/sftp) baked right in.
3) Just as easy to configure software raid on linux at install as windows.
4) Use VNC for remote access if you are a tech enthusiast that requires a GUI. Again clients for every operating system.
5) No need for AV software (spend the difference on hardware).
6) Easy ways to use your own domain (what tech enthusiast worth his/her salt does not have their own domain name) for remote access.

varun February 22, 2011 at 8:37 am

I wonder what Microsoft threatened him with that caused his U-turn. Did they cut the ads on his site? Refuse access?

There’s no logical reason for someone to copy Sean Daniel’s insane missive verbatim, unless they’re working for Microsoft in some fashion.

(BTW, Alex, I do think you and the other WHS MVPs should take a strong stance and turn down the MVP for the year.)

Alex Kuretz February 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

(BTW, Alex, I do think you and the other WHS MVPs should take a strong stance and turn down the MVP for the year.)

Trust me, the thought has crossed my mind. Understand that the MVP Award is a historical award recognizing excellence in the Microsoft community over the past year. The most positive aspect of being an MVP is that it gives me a direct channel to voice the community feedback to Microsoft development, marketing, and executive teams. Refusing the award would close down that line of communication which I am not yet ready to do.

Matt Sawyer February 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

I agree with you Alex. Refuse the award and you’re burning a bridge–one you might not get to rebuild.

I think Microsoft has “heard” us — they’ve just chosen not to “listen” to us. Refusing the award won’t change their mind.

Damian February 22, 2011 at 10:05 am

Alex – you will always be an MVP to me ;-)

Ricardo February 22, 2011 at 8:53 am

Without DE WHS 2011 is basically Windows 7. Use one drive to run OS and the rest setup with “extended volume” which basically combines drives into a single volume. This is what I setup for my younger brother: 1TB drive running Windows 7 x64 and four 2TB with “extended volume” which gives him two volumes to manage. The one thing still missing is the folder duplication which again its whats missing from WHS2011.

Seth February 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

I’m concerned about the lack of DE support in Vail but am certain someone (or some company) is going to fill that void with a 3rd-party solution that mimics the functionality of DE and does it at least as well as MS did it. I think what concerns me far more is the upgrade process itself. Has anyone actually done an in-place upgrade of WHS v1 to Vail with pooled drives connected and, if so, can you describe what the consequences were? My understanding is you cannot actually upgrade WHS v1 to Vail, you have to wipe and start over. I’m ok with that as long as the end result is similar to the WHS v1 reinstalls I’ve done before which is an automatic recovery of the tombstones after the upgrade process. I’m guessing with a 3rd party solution you’d likely want to physically disconnect the pooled drives, upgrade the OS to Vail, install the 3rd-party solution and reattach the pooled drives but I haven’t really seen any discussion of this anywhere. Alex, maybe you can hit up some of these 3rd parties, like the Drive Bender guy(s), to find out what they’ve got in mind for an upgrade path? Without a clean way to safely migrate *in-place* the multiple terrabytes of data I have duplicated in my current WHS install there’s no way I’d be willing or able to upgrade to Vail, regardless of any 3rd-party DE replacement; I don’t know about you but I don’t have an extra 12TB sitting around somewhere to offload my existing data so I can upgrade my machine to Vail and then copy everything back over.

As for Paul Thurrot’s article (and plenty of other articles I’ve read about the DE debacle), when you come right down to it there’s plenty of people that have never turned duplication on and couldn’t care less that it’s not going to be included by MS anymore, for those people it’s a non-issue. But trying to downplay the concerns of people for whom it is an issue by making non-sensical suggestions like “cloud storage” makes me question exactly where his thought-process is. Cloud storage, and I’ll try and be as diplomatic as I possibly can, is a joke under current industry conditions. With my 75Kbyte/sec upstream limit and 125G/month combined transfer cap it’d take me more than *8 years* to backup my 12TB of data to “the cloud”. Now granted I’m probably way up in the highest percentage for usage on my WHS but to even backup what I’d consider a more consumer-normal 500G it’d still take me 4 months to do it without penalty assuming I used my bandwidth for nothing else. Sorry Paul, you’re out to lunch.

Damian February 22, 2011 at 10:17 am

There is no upgrade path from WHS v1 to WHS 2011/Vail. V1 is x32 and Vail is x64. You will either need to do a new build, or transfer all data off, install Vail, and then transfer data back (as well as redo all your settings/users)

Seth February 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

Damian I covered that in my first paragraph, I’m well aware that you cannot upgrade the OS and retain any settings. What I’m talking about is an OS upgrade that includes keeping all the data in the pooled storage drives intact.

Damian February 22, 2011 at 10:36 am

Sorry about that, speed reading!!!

I would think that any sort of 3rd party app would need to make sense of the tombstones used by V1 to even attempt to recreate the pool in WHS 2011. Trust me, I would be floored if this could be done since my WHS is sitting at 25TB (with duplication) and the thought of having to migrate is nauseating at times (so if some developer could come up with a method then that would definitely be worth a fee to get)

Seth February 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

No problem on the speed reading thing, I do it, too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is on a WHS reinstall the pooled storage drives are scanned, data files are cataloged and the tombstones are rebuilt based on what files there already are on the drive(s) and on which drive(s) they’re located. Assuming these 3rd-party solutions use their own method of tracking file duplication (I’m guessing this is a given) wouldn’t it simply be a matter of them using the same methodology? i.e. looking at a drive added to the pool to see if it has data on it already and, if so, adding those files to the catalog? If this is the case the non-destructive addition of drives from an existing pool should be possible, I’d think.

Gordon Currie February 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

My respect for Paul Thurrott has declined to zero after reading his article. I appreciate diverse viewpoints but the article reads more like regurgitation of Microsoft marketing than reasoned arguments. It’s pretty clear that he has been coached on what to say.

And Sean Daniels! Talk about out of touch with the customer. Unfortunately (having worked at Microsoft both as employee and consultant), this type of alternate reality is disturbingly common among the employees. They become exceedingly self-referential and all their ‘research’ ends up supporting their world view instead of expanding it.

GPKing February 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

To Darryl:
What could have caused it – mmmm let’s see: $$$ ! All supported by the fact that he has not even tested it thoroughly. Otherwise he would have seen the obvious rough edges. This is not a finished product – far from it. But it is better than the other stuff that is out there. And I hope that more “silly” developers will step up and help make the product great again! I for one am eternally greatful to each and everyone of them because they all put the desire of enhancing the product first. I have not yet seen “Angry Birds” type revenue streams for any WHS developer!

Geek Boy February 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Nicely said GPKing and I ditto your comments. :) If they don’t fix the “hard coded” client BU settings, they have created a support NIGHTMARE :) Someone must like the numbers 12-6.

Since Alex and others are an MVP, maybe you could answer this question for me:

Does the Vail development team only see one color and that would be the GREEN icon in the right hand corner of the client /taskbar/desktop? Chuckle, it never changes color when your server is off line or for any other reason. /humor Got to start/watch the dashboard window pop up on the client and stare very carefully at the GREEN flag in the lower left corner of the window.

:)

Skar February 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

I’ve always struggled to see the real difference between a WHS and a NAS box, from say Synology (I have a few of these)/Qnap. Is it the cost? Bits of functionality?

For me (Yes I am of a technical background), setting up a raid 5 is the simplest thing in the world using the Synology interface. What is it that the NASes are missing that WHS has?

Damian February 23, 2011 at 11:26 am

I have never used Qnap/Synology. Once you set up your Raid 5 are you now locked in as far as what size hard drive you can use? For example, with WHS you can install any size hard drive at any time and get full utilization of that drive (JBOD).

For me I like that fact that you can also build your own WHS. I believe with QNAp or Synology you are stuck with their hardware (which can get pricey)

Skar February 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm

If I may drop this in, from the Synology website on one of their newer features. Sorry if it’s a cut and paste.

“Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR)
DSM 3.0 introduces Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR), an intelligent volume type that optimizes volume size when combining hard disks of varying sizes. When set as the standard volume type in DSM 3.0, SHR provides one-disk data protection and the flexibility of expanding to an optimal volume space when a larger or additional hard disk is inserted into the array.

For users who prefer manually configuring the volume type, DSM 3.0 offers RAID-protected volume types (2-4 way RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, RAID 5+Spare, and RAID 6) as well as volume types without data protection (Basic, JBOD, and RAID 0).”

Skar February 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Damian,

Forgot to answer.

I know what you mean, but there are various levels of each box. For instance a 411j, 411, 411+, each one has more processor/memory from the start. However what you do get, is a small, low power device.

Now since I tend to drop in 4 disks of the same size and make when I buy one of these, the SHR is meant to get around this. So I “think” you can add drives as you go along. But you’d need to double check.

I don’t intend for this to be a sales pitch. I just wanted to get my head around the differences between a NAS of this type and WHS.

Damian February 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Skar,

Actually, I think this is an important discussion. With the removal of DE (and no clear path as to whether 3rd party Apps will succeed in bringing DE back) it is critical to look at alternatives, make a pros/cons list, etc…

For me my WHS I built and currently holds 16 hard drives, something I imagine would get rather pricey with Synology or QNap. I am also looking at alternatives such as unRAID, Amahi, etc…

Skar February 24, 2011 at 3:12 am

Damian,

To be honest there is no equivalent to that size of array from Synology. Yes they have rack mounted equipment, but that’s not a path that 99.9% of people would/should even consider.

Synology, do offer something slightly different though, which is nice, but again a bit pricey. The DS1511+ (5 Disks), which can have 2 slave devices DS510 added via the Esata Port, which would add 5 disks each. I have been told you can have as one volume, or multiple volumes. But like I said, it’s beyond my price bracket, though I’d like to save up for it if my wife lets me ;)

I suppose when you are in that size of array, there are many different ways to skin a cat, so to speak.

Damian February 24, 2011 at 3:47 am

Yeah, unfortunately the DS1511 ($865) + DS510 (2 x $575) comes out to over $2,000 for 15 drives, which already puts it at twice as much as my 16 HDD WHS build. I think this highlights a strength of WHS (or any O/S that the user can install and build off of such as unRAID) as the price different can be rather significant once you start looking at larger needs.

Skar February 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

I agree about the price difference with larger sets of drives.

I liked the compactness/power usage of the DS1511 and the software side of the synology is strong.

I think they are worth considering, but for me it would I end up buying a bit at a time.

Henk February 24, 2011 at 1:19 am

Paul also gracefully forgets to mention automated server backup is limited to 2TB

Seth February 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I’ve actually spent some time looking in-depth at alternatives to WHS and there really isn’t anything I’ve found that’s analogous and would suit my needs as well. One glaring difference is the automated backup and recovery system. There are third-party tools like Acronis TrueImage (this was my go-to for years) and Windows 7 has a pretty decent backup component, but in neither of those cases do they work as well as WHS works for me now. There’s also the issue of price. In general, hardware-tied alternatives like Drobo, QNap and Synology are all notably more expensive than simply building your own WHS box and are far less easily expandable. There’s also usually some sacrifices you make in available drive space due to having to use one of your drives as a parity drive (and you can’t use your smallest one as a sacrifice, it has to be as big as the biggest drive in the pool), or weirdness in how much space is available in a mixed drive size array (in some cases you lose A LOT of available space if the size disparity between the largest and smallest drives in the array is big). As someone who’s dealt with various RAID levels for years the one thing I can tell you is I also sleep far better at night knowing the large amount of data in my WHS array is on drives that are simply NTFS format and, in the case of an emergency, you can simply yank any of those drives and attach them to another computer that has NTFS support and they are readable, something that isn’t generally going to fly with a typical RAID array.

I’ve heard some good things from someone with a large array using unRAID and that can be purchased as software-only (it’s actually more expensive than WHS for the Pro license and has a 21-drive limit), but it’s got the issues of no integrated backup component and the requirement of at least one parity drive (although you have the option of a cache drive which could be useful). Amahi is interesting but let’s face it, Greyhole is beta and that’s a big no-no as far as I’m concerned when it comes to the safety of my data, and again, it has no integrated backup component. I can also tell you the horror story of a friend of mine who invested heavily in a Drobo setup and had his ENTIRE array wiped out because of a software bug. Drobo’s customer service reponse to him was that he should “build a second Drobo to back up the first one” in case it ever happened again, so they’re off my list permanently (not to mention they’re outrageously expensive). FreeNAS is interesting and has ZFS, but there are drawbacks to using that as well (drive number limitations in each Z-pool, for example).

My real hope at this point is one of these plug-in, NTFS-based solutions being developed for Vail pans out, and allow for an in-place migration.

DustoMan February 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

The fishy thing about his post of me is that the Official WHS blog made a post that had almost the exact same talking points on the exact same day. They even linked to Paul Thurrott post. I’ve listened to Windows Weekly since the beginning and I like that Paul, while he advocates the use of Microsoft software, also has no problem writing any criticism about the company. He’s normally not the kinda of guy that would “tow the line”. I know other people here will have a different opinion of him, but that’s how I see him after what…. four years of listening to him?

It almost makes me wonder, after he pretty much considered WHS dead, if he was made to write this article or he would be “blacklisted”.

Phil February 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Got to agree with Alex,
Its gone from a Windows Home Server to a Windows Server at Home.

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