High availability, recovery and storage management features of the new Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems

Posted By Partha Srinivasan
Product Manager, Windows Embedded Server and SQL Products

The following is the fourth in a series of posts on Windows Server 2012 for Embedded Systems written by the team at Microsoft Windows Embedded.

As indicated in the previous blogs, customers of Embedded OEMs can now start testing the new Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems (binary identical to Windows Server 2012 R2) that provides improved performance, hybrid cloud-service capabilities and innovative storage options for building robust, industry-class server appliances. Today, I am going to focus on some of the advantages the new product offers in terms of high availability, recovery and storage management features.

Continuous application availability and robust recovery

Hardware fails, hardware needs to be replaced as it approaches its end of life, and software requires patches and updates--most organizations are used to this cycle. What doesn’t change is the SLA they have with their internal and external customers, as application owners still require uninterrupted access to their resources or services. Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems reduces server appliance downtime and application disruption by letting you store server application data on file shares and obtain a similar level of reliability, availability, manageability and high performance that would typically be expected from a high-end Storage Area Network (SAN).

New in Windows Server 2012 for Embedded Systems, SMB Transparent Failover allows you to transparently move SMB file shares between the file server cluster nodes, without noticeable interruption of service for the SMB client. This is useful for planned events (for example, when you need to perform maintenance on a node) or surprise events (for example, when a hardware failure causes a node to fail). This is achieved regardless of the kind of operation that was underway when the failure occurred.

One the main advantages of file storage over block storage is the ease of configuration, paired with the ability to configure folders that can be shared by multiple clients. Windows Server 2012 for Embedded Systems has taken file-based storage one step further by introducing the SMB Scale-Out feature, which provides the ability to share the same folders from multiple nodes of the same cluster. This is made possible by the use of Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV), which, since Windows Server 2012 supports file sharing. New in Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems, SMB sessions can now also be managed per share (not just per file server), increasing flexibility. And SMB Scale-Out now also offers finer-grained load distribution by distributing workloads from a single client across many nodes of a scale-out file server.

Comprehensive storage management and backup

When you build purpose-built server appliances, efficient use and management of your valuable storage resources is critical. It’s therefore not surprising that one of the most important focal areas is around managing the storage infrastructure, both from a capacity and data protection perspective. Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems provides great management and backup capabilities that help you better manage your storage capacity, whether you have a single server or multiple server appliances, whether you have one class of storage or a variety of storage solutions.

Storage QoS is a new feature in Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems that allows you to restrict disk throughput for overactive or disruptive virtual machines and can be configured dynamically while the virtual machine is running. For maximum bandwidth applications, it provides strict policies to throttle IO to a given virtual machine to a maximum IO threshold. For minimum bandwidth applications, it provides policies for threshold warnings that alert of an IO starved VM when the bandwidth does not meet the minimum threshold.

Also, to help improve storage management efficiency and offset that cost, Windows Server 2012 R2 for Embedded Systems comes with a set of storage management APIs and provider interfaces that enables administrators to centrally manage disparate storage resources and solutions, such as SANs and storage arrays, from a centralized “single pane of glass” interface. Manageable resources can include SANs that are SMI-S compliant, storage devices with proprietary hardware that has compatible third-party storage management providers, or storage devices that are already being allocated through the use of Storage Spaces. This storage management capability will allow administrators to configure and manage all of the storage devices throughout their organization or management sphere through an easy-to-use management interface.

New in Windows Server 2012 R2, storage de-duplication for VDI now supports live VHDs, which means that data de-duplication can now be performed on open VHD/VHDX files on remote VDI storage with cluster-shared-volume (CSV) support. This allows for faster read/write times of optimized files, increased VDI storage density, and hence reduced storage cost.

Thus, OEMs can benefit using all the above mentioned storage efficiency improvements when building their server appliances. Server appliances play as a critical component for enterprises to rapidly build their intelligent system solutions and improve operational efficiency, providing a competitive advantage to their customers.

You can read more about Windows Server 2012 for Embedded Systems here and check out the R2 preview download, and check out my previous posts in this series.

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