I get this question every once in a while – so I thought I would offer my perspective on this.
To answer that, let me do a short reminder of what a Windows Storage Server is:
We started with the mainstream Windows Server operating system – and tune it from being the industry-leading general purpose OS that is equally suited to being the base of Exchange/SQL Server as it is for serving files … and making it optimized for file sharing.
We added additional capabilities that are reasonable and desired in storage appliances – like de-duplication and block-storage in the form of an iSCSI target
And then we hand it over to the OEMs.
Then, the server hardware manufacturer (e.g. HP) starts with the same basic metal as their tried-and-true ProLiant family but have the option of pre-configuring packages of components and form-factors, and adding their own special sauce.
Then they package it up – with the additional understanding that it comes ready to go when you power it up. Basically, 30 minutes from cardboard to file serving (rails and racks, not withstanding).
So, in short, WSS08 powered storage appliances are more than just another version of Windows running on a ProLiant with a different SKU. So, with that in mind, even if we chose to provide the WSS08 software as software-only for production use (it is available in some releases of TechNet and MSDN for testing purposes) … it wouldn’t be the same thing because the metal and the integration are part of it.
If you want a ham and cheese sandwich, you could go to your regular grocer and get a bag of pre-cut circular sandwich meat from the refrigerator section and some pre-processed cheese slices. Throw it between two pieces of generic white bread and call it a sandwich.
But then, one day, you go to an authentic deli or sandwich shop and get some ham sliced fresh from the bone. You add some amazing cheese that you’ve never seen before (and can’t spell) and put it between two pieces of something-too-wonderful-to-be bread that someone hand rolled and baked this morning. Mmmmm…
Now, if you go home and you bring some of that good meat with you. You still won’t have that phenomenal sandwich again – because you don’t have the amazing cheese (additional software) or the wonderful bread (server hardware).
Its lots of stuff put together that comes into your hands – prebuilt for deliciousness. A storage appliance that is powered by Windows Storage Server 2008 is the same way. This is not my best analogy because saying that the general purpose Windows Server 2008 operating system is like store-bought lunch meat is just … well … baloney.
But the rest of the story works pretty good.
As always, thanks for reading …