Drive Bender Beta Now Available

Division-M, the company behind Drive Bender, has made available the beta release of their flagship product. With Drive Bender, you will be able to achieve some Drive Extender like functionality with storage pooling and data duplication.

This beta release is no where near final and does come with some risk. I do NOT recommend using Drive Bender on a server with production data.

System Requirements:

– Windows Home Server 2011

– .NET Framework 4.0 (if not installed, the Drive Bender installer will take care of this for you)

Important Notes:

– As stated previously, DO NOT use with production data. You are solely responsible for taking necessary precautions with your data.

– This release does not contain the add-in for the Windows Home Server 2011 Console. It will be coming in a future release.

– Performance during read/write operations is not optimal (read: saving and accessing data is slow)

– Be aware of a locking issue when renaming folders.

– When deleting folders or files, if a lock is held on the target folder or files, the folder or files may remain on one or more volumes in the storage pool.

– A file size check has not been implemented yet. What this means is that Drive Bender does not check to make sure that there is enough space in the pool when files are being stored to properly ensure data integrity. This will be fixed in a future release.

To download Drive Bender, click here.

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.

Seattle-bound for MVP Summit and Student Insider Meetup

I’ll be in Seattle February 23rd-March 3rd for Microsoft Student Insider stuff and the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit. I’ll be taking my new SLR digital camera with me and taking lots of pictures, so look for those over the course of those eight days.

Please join me in welcoming the following to the Student Insider program for 2011:

  • Den Delimarsky –@denniscodedennisdel.com – Den is what I consider a Windows Phone Ninja. He knows the platform inside and out and blogs about it extensively on his own website and on DreamInCode.
  • Drew Devault – @sircmpwnsircmpwn.blogspot.com – Drew is an XNA and Silverlight wizard (and he’s still in high school!)
  • Billy O’Neal – @MalwareMiniGunwinwrench.com
  • Steven Nowak (Don’t have any blog or Twitter handle for Steven yet. When I do I’ll update this.)

MVP summit content is covered under the Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I’m not able to talk about what I’ll be doing there, other than to say that I’ll be meeting with the Home and Small Business Server team at various points through out the week. If you have any questions that you want me to try to answer, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Windows Home Server 2011 Walkthroughs

To coincide with the release of the Release Candidate build of Windows Home Server 2011, I will be posting walkthroughs of functionality in Windows Home Server 2011 periodically. These are very high-level walkthroughs (think 100-level) and are designed to provide a brief introduction into the Windows Home Server 2011 feature set.

(To view these walkthroughs you will need to have Adobe Flash Player installed.)

Walkthroughs:

Windows Home Server 2011 Dashboard

Windows Home Server 2011 Launchpad

Windows Home Server 2011 Remote Access

Windows Home Server 2011 Release Candidate Now Available

SplashScreen_WHS2011

Today Microsoft has made available to the public, the Release Candidate build of Windows Home Server 2011.

This build is the first build made available without Drive Extender technology, and is the first build to officially reveal that “Vail” will indeed be called Windows Home Server 2011. (For those that remember, I blogged about this after some confusion during CES.)

Because there is no Drive Extender anymore, you will need to rely either on some form of RAID to increase your amount of available storage, or rely on a large single drive if you want lots of storage from the get go. Microsoft is not saying too much yet about what they and their OEMs strategy is around storage. Hopefully in the coming days and weeks we will know more.

As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated. Since this is a release candidate, not everything can or will be acted upon, but every bug report will be looked at. You can file bugs online through the Microsoft Connect website.

For the build number curious amongst us, this is build 8400.16385 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: GRMSHSxFRE_EN_DVD

CRC: 0xC191510A

SHA1: 0x65AB44627F12E6FC5268BE2ED9F5489CB98021DF

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 EN-US_WHS_PREM_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

Proof that Windows Home Server “Vail” is Windows Home Server 2011

Over the last few days there has been speculation, possible confirmation, possible denial, and even silence on the matter of what the official name of Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” will be when it is released later this year.

There was some speculation this past week that it would be called Windows 7 Home Server. That’s not correct. Here’s what I’m offering as proof that Vail will indeed be marketed as Windows Home Server 2011.

This past week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Windows Home Server team showed off integration between Vail and Windows Phone 7, and then took to their blog to tell us all about it. In that blog post, there is a screenshot showing a remote access domain name (win7phone.homeserver.com). I decided to see if after the show that server was still up and publicly accessible. At the time these screenshots were taken, Microsoft’s demo server was still available. Upon arriving at the login screen, I was presented with Exhibit A.

If you look at the logo as well as the title bar it says Windows Home Server 2011.

To be completely clear, this is not a screenshot taken from a server of mine, it is not taken running a build of Vail that I have access to, nor is the image photoshopped in any way. This comes directly from a server hosted by Microsoft, using a build of their choosing, and it appears conclusive that Vail is in fact Windows Home Server 2011.

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