A Gift from Microsoft–HP ProLiant Microserver

HP_ProLiant_MicroServerIn the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to take a moment to announce that during the 2011 Global MVP Summit, Microsoft gave me an HP ProLiant Microserver.

The HP ProLiant Microserver is designed for the small business space, and is meant to be a first server for those that have no real IT infrastructure or are using a peer-to-peer network. The Microserver has a very low price point of only $349 for the base model with no OS.

The server supports RAID 0 and 1, and for those that want remote management, an optional iLO card can be purchased for an additional fee.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be installing Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, Windows Home Server 2011 RC, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials RC to test the software and the performance of the ProLiant Microserver. I may have just found my replacement for my aging HP MediaSmart EX475 server.

Thanks for the server, Microsoft!

Life after Drive Extender

As I’m sure everyone is now well aware, Microsoft has removed Drive Extender from both Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011. This now leaves it up to third parties and OEMs to fill the void that has been left in the marketplace.

So far, there are some companies that are stepping up and creating what look to be some very promising solutions. Let’s look at each of them.

  • StableBit DrivePool – StableBit DrivePool is an add-in that will bring some element of drive pooling and folder duplication to the WHS/SBSe 2011 platform. According to the developer’s website, DrivePool will let you take multiple hard drives and combine them into one storage pool. You can create shared folders on this pool and choose whether or not to duplicate folders. Sounds a lot like Drive Extender. There are a couple caveats to DrivePool, however. The first is that DrivePool is an add-in and requires that WHS/SBSe be installed. The second is that data is only duplicated once (stored on two hard drives), not much unlike how Drive Extender is implemented in WHSv1. As of right now, the add-in is in the alpha stages, a technical preview is expected in a few weeks, and no release date is known at this time. Look for more on DrivePool as it becomes available.
  • DriveBenderDriveBender is a new storage pooling product that is looking to WHS/SBSe as well as all versions of Windows. DriveBender is slated to have native 64-bit support, use a file system that can be read in other PCs, support data duplication, be self-balancing, and add new storage quickly and easily. DriveBender is slated to release a beta on the 21st of this month, so look forward to more on DriveBender in the next few days and weeks.
  • DataCoreDataCore is a storage virtualization company with years of experience in the enterprise storage space and is looking at providing a solution for WHS/SBSe customers. Not much in terms of specifics are known at this time about what DataCore will be offering, but they are looking to bring some of their provisioning and mirroring features to WHS/SBSe. WeGotServed did an interview with a VP from DataCore that provides some insight as to the direction DataCore is headed. I look forward to seeing what they bring to the table in the next weeks, months, and years.

These are just three possible solutions and don’t take into account what OEMs are planning or DIY solutions like Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology or using a hardware RAID setup.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the storage landscape for Windows Home Server evolves over time. I, for one, am glad to see third parties stepping up to fill the void that Microsoft left.

Windows Home Server Dynamic DNS Update

Microsoft just passed along some information that next week on January 11th, there will be an outage of the service that powers *.homeserver.com and *.remotewebaccess.com domain names. If you are a Windows Home Server or Windows Small Business Server user and are using a remote access domain name in one of those two categories, there is a chance that you will be affected.

This outage is taking place to migrate the service from the Windows Live Custom Domains platform to the Azure platform. By moving to Azure, stability and performance will be improved, and will lay the groundwork to support the new Windows Server Solutions products (Vail, Aurora, and SBS2011) being released later this year.

The outage will last approximately 24 hours and during this outage no updates will be able to be performed. What this means is that if your IP address changes during the downtime, your server will be unavailable until the outage is cleared. What this also means is that if you want to change your domain name or release your domain name, you will be unable to do so.

Also, you may see alerts stating that your server was unable to update your domain name, and any 3rd-party add-ins that rely on the remote access services may fail.

Not to worry however, when service is restored your server will automatically update the remote access configuration, alerts will disappear, and remote clients will be able to connect once more.

If after the update, in the rare case that your domain name is not working, follow these steps to correct your configuration.

1. Open the Windows Home Server Console

2. Click on Settings

3. Select the Remote Access item in the Settings page

4. Click Repair and follow the instructions on the screen

Windows Server Code Name “Aurora” Public Preview now available

Dashboard3

Today along with the release of the August Preview build of Windows Home Server “Vail”, Microsoft has released the first public preview of Windows Small Business Server “Aurora.”

Windows Small Business Server “Aurora” is what I’m going to call the younger brother of Small Business Server. Aurora is designed to be the “bridge to the cloud,” with on-premise features such as network monitoring, remote access, PC backup, and cloud features, such as e-mail and collaboration through services such as Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services Standard Suite (BPOS).

Aurora is designed for small businesses with less than 25 users and do not have the resources or budget for an SBS or even higher setup.

Aurora and Vail share the same code base so there is some feature overlap, and in the case of Aurora, the “home” features such as media sharing have been removed. Some of the features of Windows Small Business Server “Aurora” are listed below.

  • Active Directory integration for enterprise grade user and resource management.
  • Remote Web Access to files, computers, and applications created by third parties
  • Integration with Microsoft’s online service offering, BPOS
  • Client Connector and PC Backup of Mac OS X clients (must be using 10.5 or above)
  • Launchpad for quick access to common tasks
  • Drive Extender storage technology, first introduced with Windows Home Server v1, for easy upgrades and management of server storage

While this release is a public preview, it is not recommended that you use Aurora for production use as there is no support and there are some issues around server storage. I’ve listed those issues below.

  • There is a QFE available along with this build that addresses an issue where saving files to an Aurora server may fail when a large amount of data is present on the server. It is advised that this QFE be installed immediately after installing Aurora.
  • Storage Check and Repair is broken in this release, as under certain conditions, there may be data loss.
  • If a hard drive goes missing from the storage pool and you attempt to remove that missing hard drive from the storage pool, the removal wizard may inadvertently remove the wrong files from your server.

For the build number curious amongst us, this is Build 7657 and is available from Microsoft Connect today. The CRC and SHA1 hashes for the ISO have been posted below along with steps to check the integrity of the downloaded ISO.

Hashes for today’s release:

Volume label: GR0SAAxFRE_EN_DVD
CRC: 0x15C92BAA
SHA1: 0x83D7341DB9916145749A02B010981494227F1166

To run MSCDCRC against an ISO file that you have downloaded follow these steps.

  1. Download MSCDCRC to the same folder that you downloaded the Vail ISO to. (Click here to download MSCDCRC)
  2. Open a Command Prompt window and navigate to the folder from Step 1
  3. Type "MSCDCRC InstallDVD.iso" (without quotes)
  4. The integrity check will take a few moments to complete. After the check is complete compare the CRC and SHA hashes to the hashes posted below
  5. If the hashes match then you have successfully downloaded the ISO