Windows Server 8: Standards-Based Storage Management

Windows Server 8 is a cloud optimized OS.  You’ve probably heard that phrase or similar comments a lot recently since we introduced Windows Server 8 last month (see Bill Laing’s blog post.)  Let’s drill in a bit to explain what that really means and why it matters to you. In the past, Windows Server was a great OS for a server and its devices.  Windows Server 8 is a great OS for lots of servers and all the devices connecting them whether they are physical or virtual, on-premise or off-premise. 

At the BUILD conference, we showcased for the first time all the new capabilities that deliver on this vision including scalability, availability, Hyper-V, networking, manageability and storage.

Whether we are talking classic architectures or private/public/hybrid cloud architectures, one thing is absolutely clear – there is a large and growing appetite for data.  Customers’success is predicated on the efficient and effective management of storage.  Windows Server 8 is there to help meet that challenge whether the storage is directly attached to a server or is an external storage array.  Working with our storage partners, we are delivering a new set of capabilities, APIs and PowerShell Cmdlets.

Windows Server 8 introduces a new WMI-based API called the Storage Management API (SMAPI) and corresponding set of PowerShell Cmdlets.  These provide storage management primitives to manage direct attach storage on the OS as well as external storage arrays.  The PowerShell Cmdlets replace tools like diskpart and diskraid.  The API is comprised of a WMI object model along with the corresponding set of methods and properties.   Storage partners plug into the new API either by:

  1. Implementing the SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) industry standard for storage management called SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative –Specification)  
  2. Implementing a new provider model called the Storage Management Provider (SMP)

Many storage products already support SMI-S.  We participate in SMI-S Lab Plugfests with the storage vendors to ensure interoperability so that things “just work” when you use Windows Server 8.  What does “just works” mean?  Simple - after you enable the Windows 8 Microsoft Storage Management Service feature, you will be able to discover and manage SMI-S storage devices without installing any additional software.  Either model will work just fine and will have the same level of support by in box tools (including support for proprietary extensions) and UIs.  Partners that do not already support SMI-S should evaluate both provider approaches (SMI-S and SMP) and make a decision based on their business needs.  Either is a great choice but only one is required.  (BTW - kudos to SNIA and the participating vendors both for developing a good standard and for holding regular plugfests to ensure interoperability. )

Storage vendors that implement SMI-S won’t have to wait until Windows 8 to reap the benefits of that investment.  System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 (SCVMM 2012) delivers great private cloud management using SMI-S to manage storage arrays.  SCVMM 2012 uses SMI-S to interoperate with a large number of arrays from multiple partners including NetApp, EMC, HP, Hitachi, Dell, IBM, and Fujitsu, to provide storage discovery & provisioning as part of virtualization management.

SCVMM 2012 uses its storage management capabilities to deliver three scenarios:

  1. End-to-end Mapping
  • Identify how VM, hosts, and clusters relate to the underlying storage infrastructure
  • Host and Cluster Storage Capacity Management
  • Adding storage to a host or cluster including unmasking, initialization, partitioning, formatting, validating, and CSV cluster resource creation (in shared storage case)
  • Rapid Provisioning
  • Creation of new VMs leveraging the SAN to copy the VHD

Windows Server 8 offers a rich set of storage capabilities natively through the SMAPI.  Not every storage capabilitywill be available via the API surface as storage vendors each offers their own special features.  We’ve thought about that as well and designed a no-compromises solution which gives you access to these features.  For storage partners who want to showcase additional new features and capabilities, SMAPI offers a pass-through mechanism. The pass-through mechanism works with both the SMI-S and SMP providers and gives partners like System Center and 3rd party storage vendors the ability to light up new capabilities without having to wait for the next version of the SMAPI.  (Future versions of SCVMM will use the SMAPI and be able to use both SMI-S and SMP providers.)

Call to Action for Storage Partners

  • Plug into Windows Server 8 Storage Management API
  • Already have a v1.3 or later SMI-S provider?
    Continue to enhance and update that provider. Work with Windows 8 to ensure the inbox tool sets work well for your hardware, as well as test with SCVMM 2012.  The new storage management capabilities available in Windows Server 8 support SMI-S. Additional capabilities in your array can be accessed by partners like System Center using through pass-through mechanism which will talk directly to your SMI-S provider. 
  • Don't have an SMI-S provider?
    Evaluate both the SMP and SMI-S and make a decision based upon your business needs.
  • Deliver new value-add on top of the platform
  • SCVMM 2012 delivers powerful end-to-end virtualization scenarios that include storage discovery and provisioning.  Future releases of SCVMM will leverage the new SMAPI and pass-through capabilities to deliver more storage integrated virtualization capabilities.  Storage management vendors should do the same.  The existing scenarios in SCVMM 2012 will continue to work with no regression in functionality or scale in a future release that utilizes the Windows 8 SMAPI.
  • Collaborate with Microsoft
  • Continue to engage with Windows and System Center to understand which end-to-end scenarios best showcase your hardware + our software working better together.
  • Windows Server will continue to grow the Storage Management API in future releases of the operating system.  Pass-through gives partners a way to deliver innovation and value-add prior to the next release.  Popular capabilities implemented via pass-through are the prime candidates for inclusion natively in the next release of the SMAPI. 
  • Join us at the SNIA plugfests to ensure that we interoperate so we deliver the best possible experience for our customers.

Windows Server 8 is a cloud optimized OS and its new standards-based storage management capabilities deliver efficient and effective management of storage.


Jeffrey Snover

Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect for Window Server

Comments (6)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article

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