Windows Storage Server is an exciting development in the storage platform. It can run on nearly any spec’d hardware and allows for simple management of storage appliances across a wide variety of manufacturers. Unlike customized NAS OS from other platforms, you get similar features and functions across an array of manufacturers. It is offered in two flavors, provides simple management, and runs like a champ. Additionally, having familiarity with Windows Server operating systems allows administrators to dive right in.
Windows Storage Server comes in two flavors, WorkGroup and Standard. While they function the same, there are some key differences between the two:
|Role/Feature||Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Workgroup||Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Standard|
|Active Directory domain controller||No||No|
|Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)||Yes||Yes|
|Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS)||No||No|
|Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS)||No||No|
|Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS)||No||No|
|BranchCache™ Peer to Peer||Yes||Yes|
|BranchCache™ Hosted cache||No||Yes|
|Virtualization (Hyper-V® host or guest support)||No||Yes, 2 VMs|
|Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)||No||Yes|
|Windows Internet Name Service (WINS)||No||Yes|
|Windows Deployment Server (WDS)||No||No|
|Hardware feature||Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Workgroup||Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Standard|
|CPU Sockets||1||2 per license|
|Random access memory (RAM)||32 gigabytes||Unlimited (2 TB on Windows Storage Server 2012 Standard)|
|Disks (number / interfaces / RAID type)||6/Non-external SAS/Any||Any/Any/Any|
|Concurrent Server Message Block (SMB) connections||250||Unlimited|
|Maximum number of users||50||Unlimited|
Additionally, licenses can be stacked. If you wanted to create a four socket system and wanted to have four virtual machine licenses you can stack two Standard licenses on the solution.
Key enhancements for Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 over is older brothers (2008/R2 and 2012):
iSCSI Target Server –Improvements to iSCSI Target Server include support for VHDx (VHD 2.0) virtual hard disks for capacities of up to 64 TB. iSCSI Target Server also now supports SMI-S, enabling end-to-end provisioning using System Center Virtual Machine Manager.
SMB – Improvements to the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol include better SMB Direct performance, automatic rebalancing for Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) on scale-out file servers, shared VHDx files, Hyper-V Live Migration over SMB, SMB bandwidth management, detailed event messages, and more.
Work Folders – a new feature that facilitates the BYOD (bring-your-own-device) scenario by enabling users to access work files from their personal computers and devices. Organizations retain centralized control over their data and can specify device policies such as encryption and lock screen password.
DFS Replication – Enhancements include increases in scalability, the ability to do database cloning and corruption recovery, a Windows PowerShell module, a new WMI provider, faster replication on high bandwidth connections, and recovery tools for conflicts.
Failover Clustering – Enhancements include improvements to virtual machine availability, Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV), dynamic cluster quorums, cluster node health detection, deployment, updating and monitoring.
Hyper-V – Enhancements include shared virtual hard disks, resizing of virtual hard disks while a VM is running, storage quality of service (QoS), improved performance for live migrations, cross-version live migrations, and several more new or improved capabilities.
Storage Spaces – Enhancements include storage tiering, SSD write-back caches for storage spaces, parity storage spaces on failover clusters, dual parity storage spaces, and faster rebuilding of storage spaces after disk failures.
Data Deduplication – Enhancements include support for Cluster Shared Volumes and deduplication of live Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) VMs that reside on a file server connected via SMB.
OEM Appliance OOBE (out-of-the-box experience) – Enhancements include added support for four-node cluster deployments and a wizard for creating a domain controller within a Hyper-V VM that can be used to deploy a turnkey cluster-in-a-box.
Storage Management API – Enhancements include an improved Storage Management API enables 10x faster enumerations, added cluster-awareness, and remote management for Storage Spaces new features.
All versions of Windows Storage server can be added to an Active Directory domain, but it cannot function as a domain controller.