Microsoft Remove Driver Extender from Windows Home Server Vail

There was a time when I thought Windows Home Server Vail would signal the next major change in my home setup, I expected built in Windows Media Center Extender Server, Media Streaming, being able to fill it up with drivers and have it the centre of my digital lifestyle. This was over 2 years ago and since that time I have increasing lost interest in WHS, the Media Center functions never surfaced and there felt a general dumming down of the product direction. Today Microsoft have announced they are pulling the drive extender technology that made Windows Home Server standout from the NAS crowd in the first place.

The idea behind the driver extender technology was that you were removed from having to worry about individual drives and drive letters and instead you just had a pool of storage that you could keep adding disks and increasing the available storage. There was also folder duplication so you knew that if you had a drive fail your precious data was on another disk and you could just replace the faulty drive with another (There are other benefits too, best to read Andrew Edney’s post to find out the details)

By remove Drive Extender WHS Vail becomes just another NAS solution with a bit of media streaming added on top, I find it hard to understand Microsoft’s reasons for this its almost like they are done with the product and are just getting the Vail version out of the door and focus on business products, I certainly can’t see that many compelling reasons to build a new Vail box.

I am sure we will be talking about this on the podcast next week, Andrew has all the details on and judging by the number of comments on his post and the number of tweets flying around there are some very upset WHS enthusiast around

This is what Microsoft said:

When we first started designing Windows Home Sever code name “Vail” one of our initial focuses was to continue to provide effortless support for multiple internal and external hard drives. Drive Extender provided the ability to take the small hard drives many small businesses and households may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume. During our current testing period for our Windows Home Server code name “Vail” product, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward. Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses.  Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutions from OEM’s will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality.

When weighing up the future direction storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs. Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” (and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials) which are currently in beta.

Is Windows Home Server Vail still an interesting product for you? I would be interested to know what readers thoughts are.



7 thoughts on “Microsoft Remove Driver Extender from Windows Home Server Vail

  1. I’m totally shocked.

    Microsoft have (had?) a chance with Vail to really help differentiate WHS from the other NAS devices available and more importantly, offer a central point in the home that could unify other Microsoft consumer products.

    I’ve been wondering recently why Apple doesn’t have its own version of WHS.

    For example a small embedded (A4/iOS) appliance-like device with a number of hard drives that offers:
    * Media/iTunes storage and streaming to network devices (iPod/iPhone/iPad/Apple TV/Macbook Air/Air Tunes etc)
    * Shared TimeMachine
    * Data sync between all network devices. Possibly even user profile sync on iPad.
    * Backup to the cloud
    * The ability to activate/sync iDevices over-the-air

    A device like this would actually allow for a desktop free home – and if you believe the tech pundits this is the direction we are heading.

    Microsoft *could* implement something similar (and IMO better) with integration between the Xbox/Zune Marketplace, WP7, Xbox, Media Center, Windows 7 Embedded, Windows Home Server and SkyDrive/Live Mesh. A WP7 slate would be the cherry on top (we can dream!)

    Microsoft have all of the pieces to the puzzle, they just need someone to put them together.

    I think that *eventually* most of these features will be shifted to the cloud and all of our data, purchased content and our digital life in general will be synchronized to the cloud and accessible from any device.

    Being realistic though, we might be 5 years or more away from having ubiquitous unlimited high-speed internet speeds that will allow hundreds of gigabytes (or even terabytes) of personal data to be hosted by the cloud and streamed to client devices.

    This kind of unifying hub in the home would help to fill the gap.

    I’m still allowing some amount of hope that Microsoft are actually working with partners to deliver a more appliance-like “mainstream” WHS device as described above… in which case a feature like Drive Extender wouldn’t really be needed.

    Something like this would be sad for the enthusiast community, but I think the net-gain would be worth it.

    However I can’t help the feeling that consumer features of WHS are slowly being crushed by the business requirements of the SBS team.

    I hope that Microsoft realise the potential for a consumer based Home Server product before some other company does and Microsoft end up playing catch-up again in a market they were once ruled.

  2. It’s the Vail Fail. Drive Extender is the best thing about home server. It’s just about the only thing that sets it apart from a good NAS. If that goes then what have you got left – an always on PC. Wow.

  3. Hey ho. I’d started decommissioning my existing Home Server set-up in favour of attached storage. I guess this announcement simply means that I can also stop my Vail evaluation and free up some more hardware for other purposes. A bit of a shame all told.

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