Storage Spaces is a new virtual storage feature in Windows Server 8. I have the developer preview installed, but it took me a while to get Storage Spaces working – you need one or more unused hard drives. I finally managed to find a spare 150GB Sata drive and tried it out. Note that I am going to create a 1.5TB drive on this using the magic of thin provisioning, with data deduplication thrown in for good measure.
Step 1 is to go into the file services section of server manager and create a pool. A pool is a collection of one or more disks which you will use in aggregate.
Here I specify the pool name and the subsystem where it will find its disks. In my case it is the RAID controller built into the motherboard.
Next task is to create a new volume. I’ve selected thin provisioning as I want a drive larger than the available space. If it runs out of real space, I will have to add another drive to the pool. I have also selected Simple layout, which means no resiliency. I am doing this for the demo as I only have one drive, but in reality I would always use one of the resilient options. They are apparently not RAID, even though they are like RAID.
Next I assign the new drive to a virtual folder, as I am bored with Windows drive letters.
I turn on data deduplication. This means that I can have several copies of the same file, but it will only occupy the space of one. If a file is mostly the same as another file, I will also save space.
Success again. Note that Windows formatted the new drive for me in a matter of minutes. It may help that most of the space does not really exist.
Here is my drive ready for use, with 1,572,730,876 KB free. Handy.
I am impressed with how easy Storage Spaces are to use, and that it works with cheap Sata drives.
Now, I remember that Windows Home Server had an easy to use storage system called Drive Extender. You could just add and remove drives. Is Storage Spaces a kind of grown up version of Drive Extender? I asked the Windows storage team and got a snooty reply. “We do not contrast our upcoming capabilities with those that might have been offered in the past as part of other Microsoft products.” However, the spokesperson did add:
Storage Spaces delivers a rich storage virtualization capability directly from within Windows. Two powerful new abstractions (Pools and Spaces) deliver multiple benefits including seamless and easy capacity aggregation and expansion ("just add drives to a pool"), optimal just-in-time allocation (via Thin Provisioning), resiliency to physical drive failures (via mirrored or parity spaces), continuous availability (via integration with failover clustering and cluster shared volumes), ease-of-management via integration with the rich new Windows Storage Management API (with WMI interfaces and associated PowerShell cmdlets), and "pay-for-play" via support for pools comprising heterogeneous media (e.g. SSDs and HDDs). Obviously, these are just a subset of features.
Obviously. I like Storage Spaces so far though, and the feature seems to bring some similar benefits to Windows Server users.