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Drive Extender Cut from Home Server

Microsoft have today announced that Windows Home Server Vail will no longer have the Drive Extender (DE) technology within it which is currently in the Vail beta as well as WHS Version 1.

DE was the technology with the reliability and benefits of RAID which provided the following three capabilities:

  1. Selectable multi-disk redundancy in the form of “drive duplication”  so if one disk failed, data was not lost.
  2. The ability to add hard drives of different types (ATA, SATA USB etc) in any mixture and size to the "storage pool".
  3. A single folder namespace without the need for drive letters.

Drive Extender

Microsoft have come to this decision due to the fact that larger hard drives have become available (2, 3 and 4TB) and that smaller hard drives are becoming less common.

Looking forward without DE, hard drives will now be able to be copied onto another computer, if the need arises due to a Home Server failure etc (ability to read DE drives in non-DE machines). Drive letters will be back in "My Computer" and application compatibility is increased with Drive Extender’s removal. BUT what about drive duplication?

Microsoft are hoping that disk duplicating methods will be developed by third party’s and that cloud based add-ins will be utilized. And off course users can use FlexRaid or similar tools for their data protection needs.

This announcement also applies to the other products within the Colorado family:

  • Breckenridge – Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
  • Aurora – Small Business Server 2011 Essentials

What do you think of the decision of Microsoft to remove the Drive Extender technology from future versions?

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Comments (47)

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  1. shoon says:

    There is no need for a whs if the drive extender capability is removed.

    • Chris says:

      How is this going to work for custom builds. I loved using old computer and just attaching a bunch of old hard drives for backups and media storage. Not sure what the point of WHS would be in the future?

    • Matt says:

      I wouldn’t say “no need”. There’s still all the backup functionality, add-ins, streaming, remote access, etc. This does remove one of the main feature points though.

      It’s odd to see them remove a feature and hope a 3rd party will pick it up though.

    • Eric says:

      I 100% agree with Shoon. I don’t understand why they put all of this effort into drive extender v2 only to remove it at the last minute. WHS is pointless without drive extender.

    • Guy Brown says:

      I agree!

      Why remove drive extender and duplication – it was the one thing that turned me on to WHS in the first place.

      What do I do with my 5TB movies shared folder?

  2. Lane says:

    Yep, pretty much kills any interest I had in Vail. I’ll stick with the original version and switch to some flavor of NAS device when the time comes to upgrade.

  3. Guy Brown says:

    I think I will stay with V1 too – the only issue is that some Add-In developers may drop V1 add-ins and support …

    • diehard says:

      I think it will go the other way, why develop an add-in for v2 (if it will ever be released) crippled and most people will not pay to upgrade and the hassle to move the data.

  4. This is the #1 reason I bought a WHS to begin with. With this gone, there really isn’t any reason for me to be fooling with it anymore.

    I’ll stick with V1 of WHS until such time as it just stops being supported then look at other alternatives out there.

  5. Alexis Argyris says:

    I’m speechless! Drive duplication was the reason why I decided to switch from NAS to WHS in the first place. The excuse MS provides doesn’t make any sense. They should at least explain what really made them reach such a decision.

    Like some people already mentioned above, I plan to keep the existing version of WHS and just upgrade my disks to bigger capacity.

  6. Steve Owens says:

    I agree with all the commenters here and on the original post’s site who said that DE is the feature that attracted us to WHS. I have heartily recommended WHS to my non-technical friends.

    The rationale seems to indicate that business-class users wished for a more direct access to the underlying storage media. No problem – differentiate other offerings from WHS by using the prosaic disk-at-a-time model.

    But keep DE for the home-class user. It eliminates complexity for them while providing a measure of safety.

    I truly hope they rethink this decision.

  7. Henri Fournier says:

    Stupid move… doesn’t make sense. I agree with all the comments, it takes away much of the appeal. Please reconsider.

  8. John says:

    This is hilarious. They’ve now apparently (on my screen at least) removed all the negative comments from the official blog post. Awesome!

    This is a really poor decision. DE is the primary reason I use WHS, along with the backup functionality and removing it removes any reason to upgrade for me.

    If I can’t have something that “just works” like DE does, there’s really no incentive to not just build my own solution. I deal with computers all day at work and the biggest draw to WHS for me was just turning the thing on and it working. I’m not going to invest the time and energy into getting my storage to “work” with Vail when there are so many alternatives.

  9. Everton1878 says:

    I agree with the majority here that there is little point in Vail without this, it was one of the main selling points
    I hav mne set to duplicate in case of drive failure
    Could backup costs are too expensive
    Supposed it still has the PC backups otherwise might as well just get a normal server
    Why get rid, what have they done to break it?

  10. Dave C says:

    I am not an expert with WHS, but I do use it and have been following Vail looking for an RTM date.

    Anyway, I also think it is a boneheaded move to remove it, but with the recent announcements of Windows Server products, I feel Microsoft may be trying to align their server family more-so. I feel in the past WHS was more segregated from their other Server products (other than using Server 2003 as the underlying code).

  11. bigred says:

    I agree with @Robert.

    Wait till it dies…then get something better.

    way to FAIL M$

  12. LarryA says:

    This has to be about the dumbest thing Microsoft has ever done. The whole idea behind WHS was having safe backup and duplication without all the design, planning and experience it takes to implement RAID and other technologies. The average home user doesn’t have the experience or time for those technologies.

    I agree with most everyone else, what’s the use of WHS without DE?

  13. Jon Heupel says:

    The DriveExtender is the only reason I use WHS. My cable provider blocks the remote access features. I don’t use the backup and I have no add ins installed. I was using WHS as a dumb NAS that I don’t have to put any thought into but has disk redundancy. I’m pretty disappointed to hear that it won’t be continued.

  14. This kills it for me too. The back-up is nice, but there are other cheaper options to get the same result, but if I have to sink $600 into a Drobo (or some other super-easy to setup and extend RAID system) in addition to a $400 WHS, I can’t see the point.

    That makes me sad.

  15. Matthew says:

    This is such an incredibly stupid decision. Drive extender is really what separate WHS from SBS. I don’t need a SBS but a home server is very important to me. Way to go ruining a good product, Microsoft.

  16. Hector says:

    The grat thing about WHS was the DriveExtender. I am going back to my Old WHS no more Vail beta testing. This whole thing is so stupid.

  17. Bob Crook says:

    I don’t think we are hearing the whole truth here. Surely some engineer has found a serious problem and MS does not want to admit it.

    Philip Churchill might as well pack up shop and hand back his MVP status in disgust.

  18. Olav says:

    Yep, count me out on this one. I had 4 Seagate drive failures and DE is the most important feature to me.

  19. I’m sorry. Is this the new alias for failblog.org?

    DE was the _one_ feature that makes WHS the product I have been using and recommend to friends and colleagues. Now it’s reduced to a dumb file server with integrated backup software.

  20. Ed says:

    In an earlier blog posting from Microsoft: “geeks, when encountering Windows Home Server for the first time, often ask the question “Why doesn’t Windows Home Server use RAID?”. The simplest answer is RAID sucks as the basis for a consumer storage product.”

    http://blogs.technet.com/b/homeserver/archive/2008/08/11/why-raid-is-not-a-consumer-technology.aspx

    Back at you, Microsoft.

  21. John says:

    I agree with the group, drive extender was a major feature and without it, well I am not sure I see the point of WHS.

  22. man friday says:

    Wow, do I ever feel like a fool? All this time I was not using DE on V1. I had some dopey idea that a Box full of TB+ size drives attached to my main rig with Sync app would do the dupe for me, once a week I would sync the two boxes, how stupid was I to separate the two copies of content into two different environments. Dumb ass me even had the two machines in two different buildings. What an idiot I am, my wife even said I has my head in the clouds.
    I have seen the light.

    • Ed says:

      “I had some dopey idea that a Box full of TB+ size drives attached to my main rig with Sync app would do the dupe for me, once a week I would sync the two boxes”

      And you have the potential to lose 6 days of updates due to a drive failure. The rest of using DE won’t lose any.

  23. Eeyan says:

    Gobsmacked.. absolutely gobsmacked……….
    Which pillock decided to dump the most important part of WHS.
    WHS is a great product, I even paid for it!
    I was sooo looking forward to the new version even if I did have to migrate my data manually.
    So annoying I just finished buying a replacement server in anticipation so I could take advantage of the 64 bit requirement.

  24. Subserverant says:

    Humm, you know, MS could set this product up with DE enabled and have the option to disable it. Why not do that? An optional feature.

  25. What says:

    Madness, I guess it’s time to look at something else. DE was the number one reason to get WHS, without it I may as well use Linux and a RAID card.

  26. lost server says:

    DE is most important for the consumer as you can pump your media/data to the server wihtout having to calculate disk size and folder size and not knowing future folder size, how can you manager all this without DE?? Sure it takes more work and time, DE relieves the consumer of all this BS. DE is not about duplication, proper back up takes care of that. Its about a dummy server, and thats what the consumer requires. This has to be a false article, else MSHS has some serious product issues.

  27. Bernard says:

    Let’s see,

    1. Almost no one on any of the forums thinks this is a good idea.
    2. Did anyone see the slightest hint this action was a possibility?
    3. Microsoft is working with it “OEM partners”? What, all 3 (HP, Acer, ASUS) of them? Do any of those 3 really try to promote WHS?
    4. I always found it strange you could never get a full retail version of WHS. Either buy it on a new unit or fool with the OEM nonsense. A good way to insulate yourself from the users.

    I see no reason to even consider an upgrade. I still have XP on 2 of my computers. I guess I’ll keep the current version as long as possible.

    There is probably something else going on. I’d just like to know what.

  28. paul says:

    What? looks like I will not be buying Vail as I was planning on doing, this is a stupid move by Microsoft!

  29. varun says:

    What’s the point of WHS without drive extender? It’s one of the only three known ways of combining arbitrarily-sized drives; the others are Drobo (which is a joke!) and ZFS (which is now mired in the mess that is Oracle).

    It’s dead. The only question is if Microsoft will admit it was their own stupidity and failing decision-making that led them here, or whether they’ll blame piracy/Linux for the failure. My money is on the latter.

  30. Geekwithin says:

    What a stupid move. I signed up for the beta and bought the full all because of DE.

    I agree with others… I am using old hardware that was useless otherwise. It is not in my plans EVER to buy the off the shelf versions.

    I’ll stick with V1.

  31. Erik says:

    Wouldn’t have bought a WHS without DE, would have bought a NAS. So here’s one word for MS: STUPID!

  32. Jody says:

    What!!!! I could not believe this when I read it thanks to Slashdot. This is the most absurd thing. I have many of the new large drives in my WHS server and there is not a drive big enough to hold it all so I guess I can’t upgrade. I’ll have to look for alternatives elsewhere. What is someone supposed to do in WHS without this and one drive isn’t big enough? Is there going to be an option to select a drive on the WHS server then directory? If so, I suppose one could attempt to manage their data and move things around as needed….BUT THIS IS THE REASON WHY I BOUGHT WHS TO BEGIN WITH…SO I DON’T HAVE THIS ISSUE AND CAN ADD MORE DRIVE SPACE AS NEEDED WITHOUT GOING THROUGH ALL THIS HASSLE AND PAIN…IF I DIDN’T WANT THAT FEATURE I WOULD HAVE JUST GOT A SIMPLE NAS OR KEPT USING A HOME WINDOWS MACHINE AS A SERVER. YES, I DO MEAN TO BE SHOUTING HERE AS SOMEONE ISN’T LISTENING

  33. Jody says:

    I just remembered….I have my WHS setup to share information with Microsoft to help them improve the product, etc. So, why don’t they know that all my data won’t fit on even the largest of the new drives?

    Also, they are removing the data replication too. Wow, another biggie. I have it on for all important files. I’ve found it has issues at times on individual files going bad but in case of a complete drive failure, I’d sure want it there.

    They are basically saying they are getting out of this part of server management…but that was the idea behind WHS. Without it, I would have gone elsewhere from the start. WHS made doing these things easy…WHS was to be an end user friendly product. I love version 1. Version 2 isn’t even showing up to compete…it is crippled and won’t meet my needs.

  34. David says:

    Without DE and replicaiton, Vail is DEAD. Worst decision ever.

    I have put up with WHS since launch as it is just easier to use and expand (even with the data corruption issues in version 1). I was really hopeful about Vail and the strong community support (this site and others) for WHS.

    All of that no longer matters. If DE and replication is not included in Vail, Vail should not even be released. Just kill it off entirely. Perhaps that is what MS really wants anyway.

  35. Mark says:

    Well i was sad to see that Media Center was not beeing added to the next version of WHS but now with DE gone, i’ll do like some other have suggested …. stick with V1 until update required then get something else.
    The fact that it will be X64 only also tells me to get off this system, i mean the pc i use for this is an old 32 bit and i am not getting a new 64 bit for this.

    I really do believe that this WHS thing was a project done by ms just for the fun of it and we’ll kill it eventually.

  36. remco says:

    Looks like microsoft does not get DE working right, but some manager wants a release.
    Knowing software development, I think it will be back in SP1 (Or PP1), since noone should buy Windows before there is a first SP.

  37. Tim Waite says:

    Death of WHS
    No Media Centre and No drive extender.
    Come on Google/Linux give us a better home server and we’ll all change.
    I’ve already dumped ie9 and am now on Chrome.
    Can’t wait to get rid of my Windows phone and get an Android.
    Wake up Microsoft, the world is going Google, listen to your frustrated users.

  38. Ben Fourie says:

    Stupid choice of action by MS…
    I was curious and excited about the new version coming out.
    Now I will simply stick with my old version, and never upgrade. DE saved my butt twice already with those buggy 1tb drives from seagate. All the 1tb drives with firmware version 11 crashed between 6 months and a year. version 12 of the firmware sorted that problem, but I had 3 drives on version 11. Twice I had to recover using DE.
    Now should I migrate to the new version, that functionality is not there yet, and I have to rely on 3rd party apps?
    Very un-microsoft like, and VERY stupid Move!

  39. Matt Rees says:

    Microsoft you really do need to listen to the users here.
    Remember why WHS became so popular:
    Ease Of Use, Flexibility, Ability to develop add-ins
    The community users helped iron out bugs and helped MS get WHS to the stable state it is today.

    We understand the need for multiple versions of windows and even the requirement to try and streamline coding and releases by having a small amount of builds for release, but isn’t it clear that a Home Product like this should not be included in this Server suite?

    You have done wonders with this product. In fact its become so much of a hit, I have non windows fans and users using it. You managed to bring people from the dark side over to the functionality and features of WHS. That’s one hell of a serious win! No other product Im aware of has achieved that.

    Currently WHS is the LEADER by FAR in the Home Server Market.
    Why would you want to lose that? You WILL lose that position if such a flexible service like DE is lost. And you know what happens when you lose Microsoft users? It becomes almost impossible to get them back. Once they lose faith they will not continue to use that product (and probably many others) anymore.

    I recommend a lot of users to WHS. I’m a huge fan of it. I install WHS systems for a lot of people and very rarely have issues to worry about. If The DE service is removed there is no way I can do this anymore.
    I can’t install or recommend a product I’ve lost faith in. I will be sure to have to look into alternate products for myself and my users.

    I don’t believe an add-in will fix this issue either.
    No offence to all those amazing developers out there, but there is NO WAY that I’m trusting my WHS 30TB of data duplication and migration to any add-in. I don’t care who it’s developed by. If such an important feature is not native, I won’t be sold or convinced.

    Microsoft you really need to listen to users here.
    If DE gets removed, one of the major features will no longer exist and you will lose not just a lot of customers, but a lot of believers in the product and that’s worse because it effects not just future MS purchases but also harms you in the way of word of mouth.

    I applaud sites like mswhs.com for saying things like ‘onward and upward’ regardless of the outcome, I however have a lot more of a realistic view on this and firmly believe if DE gets removed WHS will be dead.

    You Must Reconsider

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