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New Microsoft storage OS attracts backers

Microsoft launches the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system, accompanied by support from companies including Hewlett-Packard and Veritas Software.

Microsoft launched on Wednesday the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system, accompanied by support from companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Veritas Software.

Such backing gives momentum to Microsoft's bid to move into the higher end of the storage market through its new OS. Storage Server 2003 is designed for network-attached storage (NAS) devices, which are dedicated computers that serve up files and data to computer users on a network.

As part of Microsoft's announcement, HP unveiled the HP StorageWorks NAS 2000s, which runs Storage Server 2003. The product can handle up to 24 terabytes of data and is geared toward customers that have storage and server consolidation needs at the departmental or remote office level, according to HP. A version of the NAS 2000s with 580GB will cost $8,295, said Harry Baeverstad, director of HP's NAS business segment.

HP expects the NAS 2000s to be available within 30 days worldwide. Additional HP NAS gear will include the new Microsoft storage OS by the end of the year, Baeverstad said.

Veritas, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that its Storage Replicator product is compatible with Storage Server 2003. Storage Replicator enables customers to copy Windows-based data from remote sites to a central location where it can be backed up in a consolidated fashion. Veritas also said it plans to make other products, such as backup and restore software products, that work with Storage Server 2003.

Microsoft said the new operating system will be available through hardware makers including HP, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu Siemens, Iomega and NEC.

Dell said Wednesday that it will offer Windows Storage Server 2003 on its PowerVault 770N and 775N systems designed for small- and medium-size businesses, and departments or work groups within larger organizations. PowerVault 770N and 775N devices with the new Microsoft OS are slated to be available later this month for prices starting at $4,999, Dell said.

Spending on NAS machines declined 13.8 percent last year to $1.54 billion, according to market researcher IDC. But IDC projects the NAS market will bounce back to $1.77 billion this year and jump to $3.17 billion in 2007.

Microsoft's new storage OS builds on a previous product that has been gaining market share in the NAS market. The market share for Windows in NAS devices rose 8 percent earlier this year to 41 percent. But Windows-powered NAS machines have tended to be lower-end products.

Microsoft hopes its new release will open the door to more critical storage operations at larger businesses, thanks to competitive pricing and new features. One new tool, called Volume Shadow Copy Services, allows customers to take a snapshot copy of their data for easier management.

Microsoft says the tool is superior to other snapshot products available because it works with other applications to prepare them for the data copying process. That integration results in a better picture of the information and, therefore, better retrieval of lost documents, the company says.

HP disk array products now support Volume Shadow Copy Services, as well as another Windows Storage Server 2003 tool called Virtual Disk Service, HP said. Virtual Disk Service allows for the discovery, support and monitoring of HP storage arrays from Windows Storage Server 2003 or Windows Server 2003, HP said.

Microsoft is offering two editions of its new storage OS, a higher-end "Enterprise Edition" and a "Standard Edition." One difference between the two is that the Enterprise Edition supports clustering up to eight NAS machines, said Zane Adam, director of product management and marketing in Microsoft's Enterprise Storage Division. Both editions also act as a print server.

NAS devices with Storage Server 2003 are likely to compete with products from Network Appliance.

The news surrounding Microsoft Storage Server 2003 comes after a significant storage announcement from Big Blue. IBM on Tuesday introduced the TotalStorage Enterprise Tape Drive 3592, a new tape drive system with a capacity of 300GB and a data transfer rate of 40MB per second. Backup jobs that once took 10 hours on the previous generation of IBM 3590 tape drives could potentially be completed in less than four hours with the new drives, IBM said.