back to article HP dumps Microsoft's Vail Home Server 'to focus on webOS'

HP has ditched Microsoft’s Windows Home Server operating system, codenamed ‘Vail’, just days after the software giant killed a popular feature in the product. However, Microsoft insists that HP’s decision to retire its MediaSmart Server line, which includes Windows Home Server in the line-up, had nothing to do with Microsoft’s …

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Anonymous Coward

No point in WHS without DE

I've recently replaced a 5 year old HP rack with a Tranquil PC WHS box - mainly to save power, the fact its built on Win2k3 just meant I knew I wouldn't have s/w issues.

Now I have NAS boxes which do RAID 5 and that's fine in general but when a drive fails it obviously takes a fair old while to rebuild the array - during which time the contents of the array are pretty much inaccessible (for writing anyway).

With drive extender however its a hell of a lot faster - I'm actually very impressed with it much to my surprise. The tl;dr for anyone wondering what DE is - basically its a mirroring system for spanning multiple disks (my WHS box has 6, although two are in a RAID module).

DE has a load of issues with any sort of defrag (even MS's defrag) and some AV programs throw wobblies about it (NOD32 is fine). However its stunningly simple to use - simply replace the drive that's failed and DE will rebuild the storage pool. Even works on hotswaps. The average user doesn't need to know anything about admin stuff - all he needs to do is add the replacement drive to the storage pool using the Janet & John console.

Without DE then there's no point in WHS. You may as well just opt for the full server product or build a box with Win7/Linux and some RAID.

HP know the score and so do MS. Vail is dead in the water without DE.

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KV Tranquil power

John - watch out for Tranquil's transformers, they seem to be programmed to fail after c.13 months...

I eventually gave up and cannibalised the A3 server I was using, putting whatever I could into an HP MSS box. (Which I will now keep running on WHSv1 as long as possible, then look at the open source and admin-hogging replacements I was avoiding).

Tranquil's box design good, transformer spec and customer service 0/10.

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WTF?

Alternatives?

What do people typically use windows home server for? Is it just used as a NAS box?

From what you say, it sounds like drive extender is easily replicated by LVM on linux, or perhaps ZFS on BSD/Solaris... The ease of use aspect could easily be replicated on a dedicated unix box if your willing to accept it automatically assimilating any drive you attach into the storage pool.

Surely a small ARM based box, with linux/bsd and zfs support would make a far better choice for a home server if marketed correctly... If your saving power, ARM is the way to go right now, even the lowest power atom chips are quite some way behind.

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Went from linux to WHS

Actually I went from a headless debian server (bubba One from excito.com) to a MediaSmart EX490 3 months ago which I picked up on a cashback offer, making it quite good value.

I originally used the debian server as a backup for the two laptops in the house (Macbook, Windows 7) and a media server for music and photos. It all worked find until EDF fried it by blipping the neighbourhood's power supply one afternoon, but was very low on free space.

The new server (with 3 2TB drives installed) acts as the backup server (including TimeMachine and Windows 7 backups as well as data only backups), music server, photo server, and DVD store (we use a Popcorn Hour A110 as a movie jukebox for 300+ ripped DVDs).

This is all backed up to a 4.5 TB NAS (belt and braces approach), with the laptop image backups protected using WHS replication).

Essentially I am using the WHS as a NAS on steroids, but at the price point I purchased it at it worked out better value than a dedicated NAS with the feature set (and room for expansion) that we required.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alternatives?

I think it's x86 based and not ARM, but Amahi uses Greyhole to provide DE-type functionality. Now that I dig some more... it looks like they have an ARM version of it and there is a features comparison to WHS DE here: http://code.google.com/p/greyhole/wiki/MigrateFromWHS

I do think it's important to note that DE and Greyhole are essentially JBOD concatenation solutions and not RAID, although I am not quite sure if you can pull the same trick with Greyhole that you could with DE... and that's pulling the drives out individually and being able to direct read them from another machine. Granted, that's not something anyone should need to do on a regular basis... but it's still cool.

Now to answer your question: "What do people typically use windows home server for? Is it just used as a NAS box?". My $0.02: it's essentially a file share (NAS) box that can be easily extended (any combo of internal, external, and mismatched drives that you can plug in can be used) and provides easy backup of your home/SOHO machines. Not *that* different from a NAS really.

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Anonymous Coward

3 year warranty....

Its a SQA-5H which comes with 3 year warranty but ta for the warning.

I've contacted them about a couple of things and got decent responses within a couple of hours so maybe they've improved? Dunno really.

Only problem with the hardware was the temperature switch on the inside of the unit was set to the wrong position (45C instead of 55C) which caused a sata controller to occasionally have issues. Set it in the right position and its fine.

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Anonymous Coward

Various things really

I have Mailtraq on there for a family mail server (been using it for years, does what it says on the tin), NOD32 admin console so I get notified when the kids have another virus, there's some stuff the box provides USB over TCP/IP, Windows Updates, load of video/audio etc etc. It also handles DNS, WINS, DHCP for the network - basic stuff that you'd expect a server to do.

Oh and of course it backs up all the Windows machines automatically and manages the backups rather well (for Windows). Never underestimate how handy it is to simply put a USB stick into a machine and boot it to recover over the network - one stick will restore the XP lappie, the Win7 machines and the server itself. No longer do I have to work out what the hell has happened to a machine, anyone in the house can simply restore it to any day in the last 6 months. Happy days :)

Its actually a very very good product which frankly surprised the hell out of me - I was just looking for a way to reduce power while maintaining compatibilty with old (but still fine) s/w. Didn't want to pay for 2k8 + CALs either when this is fine for ten machines.

What I got was a lot more than I expected - if MS actually had a clue about marketing things to normal people they'd have sold a shedload of these.

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Unhappy

Such as shame DE had to die

From what I understand Microsoft wanted to roll out drive extender to Windows Service Small Business edition and then to other Windows server products after that, however they couldn't make it work with legacy server software that enterprises were likely to use and after many attempts to make it work, canned drive extender for the sake of backwards compatibility, which to be fair is a key requirement for enterprise customers. It's just a shame they were unwilling to leave it in WHS only where no compatibility issues exist, but I guess given the relatively low sales of WHS it wasn't economic to do so.

Windows home server has now had it’s number one feature removed which begs the question is it even worth Microsoft selling and promoting a product that gives the intended target audience very little benefit at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Is it too early to nominate...

Fail Home Server for a Rusty Dodo?

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FAIL

Fail

Microsoft. Because it's easier to drop features than to get them working properly.

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Coat

Drive Extension essential

So if I understand this right - what they've dropped is the ability to easily expand your server's storage.

Sounds to me like an absolute must have for a consumer server - you're going to fill your drive and you're generally not going to plan that far ahead to buy something huge. You hit a wall and go "Ah. Now what?" Score double for a media server.

You really do need the ability to simply be able to slam in a new SATA drive which expands the current storage of a single logical volume. Oh, and have RAID-like goodness of drive redundancy so one of your array can go phut without losing it all.

Yes, thanks, the one with a Drobo in the capacious and ever growing pocket.

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Gates Horns

Drive Extension not essential if you're microsoft...

They make their money with all the copies of windows that are "_free_" if you buy a PC from most vendors. If they gave the average user an easy way to expand or replace storage they wouldn't make as much money. And once they get this feature working, they'll try to use it as a way to charge for another product line. It's all about $ with M$.

Luckily those of us that know better can build a nice media server using Solaris (ZFS + virtualbox = Heaven) or Linux.

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Anonymous Coward

Nearly right

What they've dropped is the ability to have JBOD (just a bunch of disks) where every file that's in a share on the storage pool is replicated on a physically different disk. In addition the storage across disks gets automatically balanced every day so you don't end up with one drive full and the replication spread across the remaining disks.

Adding disks to increase storage pool isn't the issue - any Windows server product can do that. Its the replication/management that they won't do - or not easily anyway.

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Unhappy

Without DE...

Without DE what exactly is WHS? to me it seems like its nothing more than a stripped down server OS with client backup capabilities. thats nice...

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Anonymous Coward

Begining of the End ?

Imagine if HP and Compaq had ditched windows 95 in 90s ?

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