How to build your own storage subsystem in Windows Server 2012

Article Chris Evans Nov 18th 2012

Microsoft has introduced a host of new features in Windows Server 2012, here's how to make the most of them

Extending the data centre 
All of the features discussed so far relate to storage management within a single environment.  However, WS2012 can be used to support a more dispersed organisation to cater for storage in branch locations. 

Branch Cache for NFS is a feature of WS2012 that enables the local caching of NFS data from central NFS deployments.  Where storage traffic travels over a wide area network (WAN), performance and bandwidth usage can be a problem.  Branch Cache enables both of these issues to be reduced by storing a copy of data on a WS2012 server local to the accessing resources.   

DFS (Distributed File System) Replication provides a level of resiliency to file servers (and typically SMB) by enabling replication of data updates across connected WS2012 servers.  This means data can be moved from one site to another based on timed replication schedules in order to facilitate recovery should a site or server be lost due to a catastrophic failure.  DFS replications can be bi-directional and when used in conjunction with DNS, can create a single shared generic “namespace” to access data, rather than depending on individual server names for access. 

Other considerations 
While not directly connected to creating a storage appliance, there are other features of WS2012 that should be considered as part of a resilient design. 

Bitlocker is a WS2012 feature that encrypts all data written to physical disk.  Although probably seen more usefully as a desktop or laptop feature, Bitlocker is useful in server environments as it guarantees any disks removed from an encrypted system will be inaccessible.  This removes the need to have a data destruction plan in place and means hardware vendors could be used to manage disk failures in a large or distributed environment. 

Backup is an important consideration for any storage environment.  We have discussed failure protection using DFS, however this feature only covers primary data.  Backup enables historical recovery of files from data corruption or user error.  WS2012 supports integrated backup and this can be used as one solution.  As discussed already, integration of VSS enables local snapshots of data to provide part of an overall data protection strategy. 

Putting it all together 
In summary, Windows Server 2012 provides all the features for implementing a storage array, meeting the needs of availability, scalability and resilience.  With heterogeneous support, distributed data capabilities and data security, many organisations will see the use of WS2012 as an attractive proposition and an easier option than deploying dedicated storage infrastructure.