A First Look at Windows Server 2012 R2 Storage (Part 1)

by [Published on 17 Sept. 2013 / Last Updated on 14 Nov. 2013]

Microsoft has introduced many new storage related features in Windows Server 2012 R2. This article series takes an early look at some of the new storage related features as they appear in the Windows Server 2012 Preview Release.

If you would like to read the other parts of this article series please go to:

Introduction

The preview release of Windows Server 2012 R2 contains a surprising number of new features considering how little time Microsoft has had to develop the new operating system. Many of these new features are storage related. In this article, I want to take a look at some of the new storage related features and capabilities.

Changes to Storage Pool Versions

When I was first preparing to write this article, I performed a clean installation of Windows Server 2012 R2 onto an old lab server that I hadn’t used in quite some time. Since this isn’t a server that I use very often, I couldn’t remember exactly what hardware the server was equipped with. That being the case, the first thing that I did after the installation process completed was to review the server’s hardware.

While I was checking out the server hardware, I opened the Disk Management Console. Although Microsoft prefers that you use the Server Manager to manage storage now, I was curious to see whether or not the Disk Management Console still existed.

When the Disk Management Console opened, I noticed that it was only displaying a single hard disk and a DVD drive, as shown in Figure A.

Image
Figure A: The Disk Management Console only displayed a single hard disk on my lab server.

The reason why this caught my attention was because I was relatively sure that the server was equipped with multiple hard disks. A quick glance at the physical server confirmed that multiple hard disks were indeed present. Still unsure of the hardware’s health, I opened the Server Manager console, and clicked on File and Storage Services and clicked on Disks. Again, only a single hard disk was displayed, as shown in Figure B.

Image
Figure B: Even the Server Manager only displayed a single disk.

Although the Disks container will show physical hard disks in certain situations, Microsoft expects you to create storage pools and then create virtual disks on top of those storage pools. If my missing physical disks were going to be exposed anywhere in the operating system, it was going to be in the Storage Pools container.

When I clicked on the Storage Pools container, my missing disks immediately appeared as a part of a storage pool. Apparently I had at one time installed Windows Server 2012 onto the server and created a storage pool. Even though I had performed a clean install of Windows Server 2012, the previously existing storage pool was still being recognized. Well, sort of. If you look at Figure C, you can see that there is a warning icon next to the storage pool.

Image
Figure C: A warning icon appeared next to the storage pool.

Initially I couldn’t find any information about the reason for this warning icon, but obviously something was wrong. However, right clicking on the storage pool revealed something interesting. The shortcut menu contained an option to upgrade the storage pool version, as shown in Figure D.

Image
Figure D: The shortcut menu contains an option to upgrade the storage pool version.

Up to this point I had not heard anyone mention anything about storage pool version specific changes being made to the operating system. I searched the Internet, but could not find any mention of the differences. It is likely however, that Microsoft will document the differences closer to the release date.

Since I couldn’t find any definitive information on storage pool versions, I decided to choose the Properties option from the menu shown in the previous figure, just to see what would happen. As you can see in Figure E, the properties sheet reported the storage pool version as Windows Server 2012.

Image
Figure E: Windows reported the storage pool version as Windows Server 2012.

While I had the properties sheet open, I took a look at the Health tab. Both the Health Status and the Operational Status were listed as Unknown, as shown in Figure F. I am not sure if this happened because I was looking at a legacy storage pool or if it was caused by a bug in the operating system.

Image
Figure F: The Health Status and Operational Status were both listed as Unknown.

Since Windows Server 2012 R2 seems to only like native storage pools, I decided to attempt a storage pool upgrade. Upon doing so, I received a message stating: Upgrading the storage pool enables new functionality, but prevents earlier versions of Windows Server from managing the pool. You can’t reverse the upgrade. Do you want to continue?

You can see this message in Figure G.

Image
Figure G: Windows cautions you before a storage pool version upgrade.

Tossing caution to the wind, I clicked Yes to upgrade the storage pool. Unfortunately, the upgrade failed. What really surprised me was the reason for the failure. As you can see in Figure H, Windows indicated that the storage pool was read only.

Image
Figure H: The upgrade failed because the storage pool is read only.

I can’t ever seem to recall seeing an option to make a storage pool read only. It’s possible that Windows Server 2012 automatically makes storage pools that were created by another operating system read only as a way of protecting the contents.

If you look back at Figure D, you will notice that there is a menu option to set Read / Write access. Upon doing so, I was presented with a screen that asked me to pick a server that is allowed to read and write to the storage pool. I chose the listing for the local server, as shown in Figure I. and clicked OK. There were no visible indications that anything happened, so I attempted the storage pool upgrade again. This time the upgrade succeeded. The warning icon went away and the Available to and Read-Write Server columns now reflected the name of the local server, as shown in Figure J.

Image
Figure I: I chose to give read / write access to my local operating system.

Image
Figure J: The warning icon went away after the storage pool was upgraded.

Once I was able to successfully upgrade the storage pool, I was able to use the New Virtual Disk Wizard to create a virtual disk on top of the newly upgraded storage pool.

Conclusion

There is a lot more to Windows Server 2012 R2’s storage improvements than merely a new storage pool version. Some of the most useful new features include three way mirroring, tiered storage, and enhancements to the native storage deduplication feature. I will show you these and other new features later on as this series progresses. It is worth noting however, that because I am currently dealing with preview software there is a chance that some of what I will be showing you could potentially change slightly by the time that Windows Server 2012 R2 is ultimately released.

If you would like to read the other parts of this article series please go to:

Advertisement

Featured Links