Windows Server 2022 storage features address security, speed

Many businesses rely on an on-premises Windows server for its file server capabilities. Despite its constant push to the cloud, Microsoft recognizes this and has extended several storage features in Windows Server 2022 to help these organizations.

File servers did not migrate to the cloud as many expected. Some companies worry about security or uptime as the factors that keep data local, but for many it’s just too expensive to move a file server to the cloud. Clouds can support different levels of data retention and access, but setting them up still requires IT staff. Local disk is a cheaper alternative; When you factor in control and security, it’s easy to see why file servers stay in the data center. Microsoft released Windows Server 2022 with fanfare due to the company’s focus on Azure, but there are several storage features in the most recent server operating system that warrant upgrading to Windows Server 2022.

Server Message Block compression could be a boon for busy networks

Data is constantly moving from one place to another, and it just keeps growing. One way to speed up this process is to compress the file (s) into a .zip file to reduce the size, send the file to the destination, and then unzip it. One way to reduce transfer times is to increase bandwidth and make the network faster so that the wait time is shorter. There are limits to what can be done when cost is a factor, and this is especially true for organizations that rely on wireless networks.

Microsoft introduced Server Message Block (SMB) compression in version 3.1.1 of the Windows Server 2022 SMB protocol. This function compacts the data before it is on the network, then decompresses it at its destination. This is a new concept that could be a game changer for some organizations. As virtual machines and user data continue to grow, SMB compression presents enormous potential for already crowded networks.

Like any type of compression, this feature affects processor performance on server hardware. But the number of cores on server processors has grown to the point where the impact is minimal at best. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft extends this compression technology further to take advantage of SmartNICs and offload this workload from the processor.

The impact of this compression on system performance varies depending on the type of data and the type of processors present on the source and destination machines. Microsoft has demonstrated the technology, showing 20 GB data transfer going from 3 minutes to 30 seconds with SMB compression. As this is the first release of this feature, I think there is room for improvement with updates to tune the service based on hardware and usage patterns.

Storage bus cache optimizes performance of stand-alone servers

Microsoft is bringing the technology normally associated with larger storage arrays to the world of Single File Server with Storage Bus Cache for stand-alone servers.

Storage bus cache is a read and write caching technology that attempts to speed up transfers through a tiering system that uses faster disks, such as SSDs, on the server for caching. Storage bus caching can dramatically improve performance at minimal cost by breathing new life into a Windows file server by using existing hardware more efficiently.

Resilient file system gets file snapshots, encryption enhancement

Resilient File System (ReFS) is a single product from Microsoft. The company’s goal for ReFS was to eventually replace NTFS with a more reliable and scalable file system with better performance. Early versions lacked key features, such as backward compatibility and enterprise level encryption, but the main downside is that Windows cannot boot from a ReFS partition. While it may be lacking in some ways, ReFS is the obvious choice when it comes to scalability, being able to support 35PB file and volume size versus 256TB in NTFS.

New to ReFS in Windows Server 2022 are file snapshots, which are useful for backing up virtual hard disks. Microsoft said it updated ReFS to improve performance with block cloning and storage mapping.

ReFS in Windows Server 2022 also comes with enhanced security for SMB with 256-bit encryption while maintaining backward compatibility with legacy 128-bit encryption.

ReFS has its place in the data center, most likely for large virtual machines, but it is not ready to replace NTFS for everyday Windows Server workloads.

Microsoft Expands Storage Migration Service Capabilities

Not all data is created equal, so you have to think about where to put certain files. The Storage Migration Service attempts to make this process less painful by handling some of the troublesome aspects of data migration, such as transferring permissions and share names.

One of the biggest storage highlights Microsoft has updated for Windows 2022 Server is the Storage Migration Service. A new feature in the Storage Migration Service gives the administrator more ways to manage data and place it in various locations, for example by extracting data from old NetApp storage frames and placing it on run the latest version of OnTap 9 or even Azure cloud tiers. This migration feature helps administrators who want to take advantage of lower cost storage offerings or add additional protection against ransomware attacks.

In addition to NetApp and Azure migration capabilities, the Storage Migration Service also moves data from Linux servers using Samba to Windows file servers. The Storage Migration Service can be ideal for bringing together an enterprise’s distributed pockets of data while utilizing Azure’s tiering capability to preserve performance and capacity requirements.

The real benefit for many admins might be the Azure coin. A migration to the cloud normally requires careful planning and a generous budget. Migration from the file server to the cloud is a bit improper; data is copied, not moved, from the on-premises source. This makes a migration to the cloud less risky, as the on-premises file server decommissioning does not have to happen immediately. There are third-party tools to perform this type of migrationBut having the functionality built into Windows Server has some advantages, such as preserving access to the account as long as everything stays in the same domain.

Another new addition to the Storage Migration Service in Windows Server 2022 is the adjustable storage repair speed. A RAID rebuild is usually taxing on the hardware and causes major slowdowns on production systems until the repair is complete. Administrators now have the ability to move the system priority from the repair process to workloads running on the cluster to minimize the impact on the business, and then make priority adjustments to speed up the repair process outside of working hours.

This Windows Server 2022 storage feature may be worth upgrading

Windows Server 2022 has more than enough new or updated features in overall security, firmware protection, virtualization, performance, and Azure integration to be of interest to most admins in a Windows store.

But the biggest advancements in this version of Windows Server might well be in the storage area, especially SMB compression and how that will make an immediate difference to improve network speeds and overall bandwidth. This feature can help some organizations to break out of the usual network upgrade cycle and use existing infrastructure for longer. It also has the potential to offer wireless users much better levels of performance.

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