Here’s what you missed – Five big announcements for Storage Spaces Direct from the Windows Server Summit

This post was authored by Cosmos Darwin, PM on the Windows Server team at Microsoft. Follow him @cosmosdarwin on Twitter.

Yesterday we held the first Windows Server Summit, an online event all about modernizing your infrastructure and applications with Windows Server. If you missed the live event, the recordings are available for on-demand viewing. Here are the five biggest announcements for Storage Spaces Direct and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) from yesterday’s event:

#1. Go bigger, up to 4 PB

With Windows Server 2016, you can pool up to 1 PB of drives into a single Storage Spaces Direct cluster. This is an immense amount of storage! But year after year, manufacturers find ways to make ever-larger* drives, and some of you – especially for media, archival, and backup use cases – asked for more. We heard you, and that’s why Storage Spaces Direct in Windows Server 2019 can scale 4x larger!

The new maximum size per storage pool is 4 petabytes (PB), or 4,000 terabytes.

The new maximum size per storage pool is 4 petabytes (PB), or 4,000 terabytes.

The new maximum size per storage pool is 4 petabytes (PB), or 4,000 terabytes. All related capacity guidelines and/or limits are increasing as well: for example, Storage Spaces Direct in Windows Server 2019 supports twice as many volumes (64 instead of 32), each twice as large as before (64 TB instead of 32 TB). These are summarized in the table below.

All related capacity guidelines and/or limits are increasing as well.

All related capacity guidelines and/or limits are increasing as well.

* See these new 14 TB drives – whoa! – from our friends at Toshiba, Seagate, and Western Digital.

Our hardware partners are developing and validating SKUs to support this increased scale.

We expect to have more to share at Ignite 2018 in September.

#2. True two-node at the edge

Storage Spaces Direct has proven extremely popular at the edge, in places like branch offices and retail stores. For these deployments, especially when the same gear will be deployed to tens or hundreds or locations, cost is paramount. The simplicity and savings of hyper-converged infrastructure – using the same servers to provide compute and storage – presents an attractive solution.

Since release, Storage Spaces Direct has supported scaling down to just two nodes. But any two-node cluster, whether it runs Windows or VMware or Nutanix, needs some tie-breaker mechanism to achieve quorum and guarantee high availability. In Windows Server 2016, you could use a file share (“File Share Witness”) or an Azure blob (“Cloud Witness”) for quorum.

What about remote sites, field installations, or ships and submarines that have no Internet to access the cloud, and no other Windows infrastructure to provide a file share? For these customers, Windows Server 2019 introduces a surprising breakthrough: use a simple USB thumb drive as the witness! This makes Windows Server the first major hyper-converged platform to deliver true two-node clustering, without another server or VM, without Internet, and even without Active Directory.

Windows Server 2019 introduces a surprising breakthrough – the USB witness!

Windows Server 2019 introduces a surprising breakthrough – the USB witness!

Simply insert the USB thumb drive into the USB port on your router, use the router’s UI to configure the share name, username, and password for access, and then use the new -Credential flag of the Set-ClusterQuorum cmdlet to provide the username and password to Windows for safekeeping.

Insert the USB thumb drive into the port on the router, configure the share name, username, and password, and provide them to Windows for safekeeping.

Insert the USB thumb drive into the port on the router, configure the share name, username, and password, and provide them to Windows for safekeeping.

An extremely low-cost quorum solution that works anywhere.

An extremely low-cost quorum solution that works anywhere.

Stay tuned for documentation and reference hardware (routers that Microsoft has verified support this feature, which requires an up-to-date, secure version of SMB file sharing) in the coming months.

#3. Drive latency outlier detection

In response to your feedback, Windows Server 2019 makes it easier to identify and investigate drives with abnormal latency.

Windows now records the outcome (success or failure) and latency (elapsed time) of every read and write to every drive, by default. In an upcoming Insider Preview build, you’ll be able to view and compare these deep IO statistics in Windows Admin Center and with a new PowerShell cmdlet.

Windows now records the outcome (success or failure) and latency (elapsed time) of every read and write.

Windows now records the outcome (success or failure) and latency (elapsed time) of every read and write.

Moreover, Windows Server 2019 introduces built-in outlier detection for Storage Spaces Direct, inspired by Microsoft Azure’s long-standing and very successful approach. Drives with abnormal behavior, whether it’s their average or 99th percentile latency that stands out, are automatically detected and marked in PowerShell and Windows Admin Center as “Abnormal Latency” status. This gives Storage Spaces Direct administrators the most robust set of defenses against drive latency available on any major hyper-converged infrastructure platform.

Windows Server 2019 introduces built-in outlier detection for Storage Spaces Direct, inspired by Microsoft Azure’s long-standing and very successful approach.

Windows Server 2019 introduces built-in outlier detection for Storage Spaces Direct, inspired by Microsoft Azure.

Drives with abnormal behavior are automatically detected and marked in PowerShell and Windows Admin Center as “Abnormal Latency” status.

Drives with abnormal behavior are automatically detected and marked in PowerShell and Windows Admin Center.

Watch the Insider Preview release notes to know when this feature becomes available.

#4. Faster mirror-accelerated parity

Mirror-accelerated parity lets you create volumes that are part mirror and part parity. This is like mixing RAID-1 and RAID-6 to get the best of both: fast write performance by deferring the compute-intensive parity calculation, and with better capacity efficiency than mirror alone. (And, it’s easier than you think in Windows Admin Center.)

Mirror-accelerated parity lets you create volumes that are part mirror and part parity.

Mirror-accelerated parity lets you create volumes that are part mirror and part parity.

In Windows Server 2019, the performance of mirror-accelerated parity has more than doubled relative to Windows Server 2016! Mirror continues to offer the best absolute performance, but these improvements bring mirror-accelerated parity surprisingly close, unlocking the capacity savings of parity for more use cases.

In Windows Server 2019, the performance of mirror-accelerated parity has more than doubled!

In Windows Server 2019, the performance of mirror-accelerated parity has more than doubled!

These improvements are available in Insider Preview today.

#5. Greater hardware choice

To deploy Storage Spaces Direct in production, Microsoft recommends Windows Server Software-Defined hardware/software offers from our partners, which include deployment tools and procedures. They are designed, assembled, and validated against our reference architecture to ensure compatibility and reliability, so you get up and running quickly.

To deploy in production, Microsoft recommends these Windows Server Software-Defined partners. Welcome Inspur and NEC!

To deploy in production, Microsoft recommends these Windows Server Software-Defined partners. Welcome Inspur and NEC!

Since Ignite 2017, the number of available hardware SKUs has nearly doubled, to 33. We are happy to welcome Inspur and NEC as our newest Windows Server Software-Defined partners, and to share that many existing partners have extended their validation to more SKUs – for example, Dell-EMC now offers 8 different pre-validated Storage Spaces Direct Ready Node configurations!

Since Ignite 2017, the number of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) certified hardware SKUs and the number of components with the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) Additional Qualifications in the Windows Server catalog has nearly doubled.

Since Ignite 2017, the number of Windows Server Software-Defined (WSSD) certified hardware SKUs and the number of components with the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) Additional Qualifications in the Windows Server catalog has nearly doubled.

This momentum is great news for Storage Spaces Direct customers. It means more vendor and hardware choices and greater flexibility without the hassle of integrating one-off customizations. Looking to procure hardware? Get started today at Microsoft.com/WSSD.

Looking forward to Ignite 2018

Today’s news builds on announcements we made previously, like deduplication and compression for ReFS, support for persistent memory in Storage Spaces Direct, and our monthly updates to Windows Admin Center for Hyper-Converged Infrastructure. Windows Server 2019 is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting release for Storage Spaces Direct.

Join the Windows Insider program to get started evaluating Windows Server 2019 today.

We look forward to sharing more news, including a few surprises, later this year. Thanks for reading!

– Cosmos and the Storage Spaces Direct engineering team