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Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Storage Spaces is a new storage subsystem with Windows Server 2012. Using Storage Spaces, a collection of internal and external drives can be placed into storage pools. Those storage pools can have storage spaces created on them. Storage Spaces are actually virtual hard drives that are placed on the storage pools. The Storage Spaces are then presented to the operating system as volumes, looking just like a hard drive.

Storage Spaces is built in with Windows Server 2012, it's not another role or feature to install and can be managed simply and easily right out of the box. All you need to do to take advantage of it is to add some storage to your Windows Server 2012, and create a storage pool.

Serial SATA (SATA) and Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) storage can be used to create the storage pools. It doesn't matter whether the drives are internal or external. Once the drives are added, you can create a storage pool that includes some or all of the physical disks.

It's easy to create a storage pool using the GUI, and for the command-line aficionado amongst you, there's a rich set of Powershell commands.

As you would expect, there are a number of resiliency types for the pools, making Storage Spaces a viable alternative to SANs for companies with smaller budgets.

There are some very useful things about the Storage Spaces. A fantastic feature is that Storage Spaces can be thinly provisioned meaning the VHD will start out small and grow as it is used. When you create the Storage Space you create it as large as you need, but the size of the actual VHD will be much smaller. If you have a file server with an expected requirement of 1TB over 3 years, you create the Storage Space with 1TB, and it will provision as much space as is required up to 1TB. However, you do not need 1TB of storage in your storage pool. In fact, you only need as much space as you're actually going to use now. Once the actual used space begins to approach the available physical space, Storage Spaces will notify you to add more physical capacity.

Another great feature is the redundancy options that are built into the virtual hard disk - simple, mirrored and parity. Once set up, you don't need to further configure the drive. Storage Spaces will handle the duplication of data between drives, and even perform error checks and repairs as background tasks.

One of our favourite features about Storage Spaces is how easily storage can be added. If, in the example above, you only had 750GB physical storage where you allocated the 1TB VHD, you might soon run short of capacity. With Storage Spaces, you can dynamically add storage to the storage pool! You can add external SAS or SATA disks in an enclosure, or new add internal disks, then add that new storage directly to the storage pool that supports your Storage Spaces. The capacity is instantly increased!

Storage pools can also be shared between nodes in a cluster, and can be instantiated on individual nodes. Once this is set up, Storage Spaces shared across nodes will automatically fail over in case of any hardware failure in the cluster.

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