A Brief History of Windows Storage Server Releases

Here is a very brief outline of the history of the Windows Storage Server product line and a feature breakdown for each edition.


Storage Server Release Timeline

Once upon a time, right around January 2002, Microsoft saw a trend that has yet to stop: the massive growth of electronic data, far from unlimited storage space and an ecosystem of proprietary management tools. Soon after that realization, we created the Enterprise Storage Division. This division took responsibility for testing and developing the storage version of Microsoft's Windows Server Appliance Kit (SAK), which was renamed Windows-powered NAS

In April of 2003, Windows Server 2003 was released, and it quickly became one of the most widely used server operating systems in the world. In June of 2003, Microsoft announced a new, more powerful version of our NAS platform: Windows Storage Server 2003 which was built on the Windows Server 2003 foundation. 

In December of 2005, Microsoft announced a significant upgrade called Windows Storage Server 2003 R2. The release highlighted several key features, including Single Instance Storage (SIS), SMB and NFS improvements, Storage Manager for SANs, DFS Replication, an index-based full-text search engine, file-serving performance tweaks and a collection of MMC snap-ins to manage it all. It was all based on the award-winning Windows Server 2003 R2 upgrade. The release contained four editions (Express, Workgroup, Standard and Enterprise), see below for a chart outlining which features are in each edition.

Shortly after this release, in early spring of 2006, Microsoft acquired String Bean Software, which included the WinTarget iSCSI software target.  We quickly repackaged the code into a new product from Microsoft called the iSCSI Target Application Pack. This could be optionally installed on Windows Storage Server and was available from our OEM partners under a separate license. The package also contained VSS and VDS providers that could be installed on application servers. The VDS providers allow application servers to carve up storage and map it to the server without having to go directly to the storage server to do the administration. Windows Storage Servers suddenly became popular for use as an a gateway to a SAN using the iSCSI Target (using the raw storage blocks on a shared SAN and serving them up as SMB or NFS file shares).

A few months later, we introduced an update to our management UI in a release called the Integrated Management Pack. This introduced a new initial configuration task interface with command-line support, a new Out of box Experience (OOBE), an updated share and storage provisioning console and a brand new Java-based Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) applet that gives Unix and Linux users a way to get a full-screen desktop of a Windows Server.  The new RDP client was a really cool addition and made managing Windows Storage a snap in non-Windows environments.

At the same time as the management pack was released we came out with a new product called Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003. This was a combination of the three previous releases; Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, the iSCSI Target, and the new management pack.

In August of 2007 we provided an update to the platform that we called the WUDSS Refresh, even though it actually applies to both WSS and WUDSS.This package contained several key features:

  • iSCSI dual-active clustering
    This allows both nodes of a two-node cluster to actively serve up different LUNs at the same time. If one of the machines fail, those LUNs will fail-over to the other node. This gave the ability to have both servers active, instead of having one sit around doing nothing while waiting for a failure. 

  • 16 Terabyte iSCSI LUNs
    We upped the maximum size of an iSCSI LUN from 2TB to 16TB.  This broke through the VHD file format barrier, but it also means that you could no longer mount these in a Hyper-V VM.

  • OOBE customization
    We added flexibility and support for pre and post-task activities, so vendors could configure an array, or other machine-specific tasks before setting up clustering, etc

  • Software RAID support
    The share and storage management interface now could be used without a vendor-specific VDS provider on directly attached storage. Users could now create many interesting form factors and configurations without a dedicated hardware RAID controller.


Edition Features

*WSS = Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 WUDSS = Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003


We are working hard on the next version of Windows Storage Server and I'll be outlining that product in a future blog.

Other Links and Resources


Thanks for reading this far!   Next week, I'm going to do another post about Windows Storage Server.