Today is a very sad day for me, because I have to announce the death of Windows Home Server (Vail). I have been using Windows Home Server since the very beginning and I recommend it to everyone that I meet. It is a fantastic OS that does so much and it does everything really well. One of the best parts of Windows Home Server is the ability to add any number of drives to the system and they all get pooled together for storage. This ‘magic’ happens because of a wonderful piece of code called the Drive Extender. However, Microsoft has decided to get rid of it in the next version of Windows Home Server.
This decision, in my mind, has killed the best feature, and the entire product line. If your unfamiliar with the Drive Extender, it is the part that allows you to have many different hard drives, of different sizes, act like one giant hard drive. It also allows you to automatically, and easily, duplicate some data, like photos and personal documents, and not duplicate other data, like movies and videos.
For me this is an essential feature. I have 8 hard drives in my current Windows Home Server (1-2TB, 5-1TB, and 2-500MB), and on those drives I have about 4TB of ripped DVDs, 1TB of photos and music, and another couple hundred GB of miscellaneous files. The Drive Extender allows me to ‘pool’ all those drives into one large 8TB drive and to have duplication on just my photos and personal documents.
Under the new system I would have ditch all that and either use the drives separately and do duplication manually, or setup some kind of RAID system where everything is duplicated.
The first option is not going to work for me because that is a ton of extra work, and the second option won’t work because I cannot setup a RAID unless all the drives are the same size, and then EVERYTHING is duplicated. This means I have to buy a bunch of new drives for the RAID and I now have to duplicate the movies as well, which means I need more space. RAID is also expensive to setup correctly, and it is not something you want your grandma trying to figure out.
The third option would be to run a RAID for the stuff I want duplicated and separate drives for everything else. This would be cheaper, but much more of a hassle if I ever needed to upgrade the size of the RAID.
So far this decision has been very bad for Microsoft, they are getting a ton of negative feedback. I hope they continue to get more negative feedback and hopefully change their mind. If not I hope the product fails so badly they change back in the next version. Microsoft says they are working with their OEM partners to work on other solutions, but that leaves people like me (who build their own systems) out in the dark without any help. However, this may be the key to their decision.
Microsoft may have taken the Drive Extender out of Windows Home Server so that everyone will buy from the OEMs and not build their own. It could be that the OEMs threatened to stopped selling Windows Home Server unless they crippled the product, so the OEMs could make more money by selling add-ons. I know this sounds strange, but Wireless Carriers companies regularly cripple their cell phones by adding tons of apps so that they can get more sales later on when the customers use the apps.
So for now I will be sticking with Windows Home Server v1. I will not be upgrading and I will not be recommending Windows Home Server to anyone anymore. It is really unfortunate because Microsoft finally had a winner and I was finally proud to be a Microsoft supporter again.
Windows Home Server Vail is dead, long live Windows Home Sever v1.
Update (12/1/2010 9:00am): I just ran across two new articles that pretty much confirm that Windows Home server is dead.