While not exactly kept under the tightest of wraps as WinFS was until it was unveiled, to everyone’s surprise, on a previous Microsoft PDC (only to be axed from Windows Vista later on), the project known under the name “
So what is Windows Home Server, and is there really a need for a “server” for the home? Now that digital media has reached ubiquitous levels, and storage – be it in the form of expansion cards that come with almost every consumer device there is (cameras, digital audio players, even cell phones – who would’ve thought three years ago?), front-end solutions (Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 equipped with hard disk storage that slideshow photos and play video DVDs), we how have more-than-ever loaded operating systems that arguably pushed the digitization of the media we’ve previously enjoyed in other ways (Premium versions of Windows with Media Center functionality and Apple’s FrontRow front-end to iTunes, iPhoto and the rest). (I have not verified whether Windows Home Server actually supports operating systems other than Windows, but that’s just ludicrous.)
Windows Home Server is built on the same core as Windows Server 2003. Think of it as taking out unnecessary functionality and all other entry points into the operating system (no fancy Windows Media Player, or the outdated Address Book, heck, even Internet Explorer is nowhere to be found!). ALL, except one – a “website” (it’s really just running off the box where it is installed) that is accessed from one of the other computers in the network the Home Server appliance attaches to – where all activity central to maintaining available storage is performed.
Windows Home Server is meant to take as much storage as you can give it – RAID up all the hard drives you have from your retired home computers, plug in the external hard drive you forgot about since you got the laptop with a terabyte hard drive, and don’t forget the cheapo, standalone NAS box (network-attached storage) you bought and realized did not come with automation software – Windows Home Server pools it all: no drive letters to be concerned about, it’s all one huge container.
As a bonus, it is also from here you can monitor whether the rest of the computers in the network have the latest Windows updates, antivirus and malware signatures, disk fragmentation and file backup status; and automating the across-the-board updating process. Microsoft will also provide a means for the users to have access to their storage pool from across the globe via an interface in the WWW.
At this point I may be making it sound all too nice – and I can most definitely say it is. Once the idea is implemented effectively, and if the Home Server product works as you’d expect it to (read: without the security holes brought about by deep-level Internet Explorer integration). The idea of pooled storage alone even without the “control room” technology that’s only been seen in corporate setups until now is very enticing. If Windows Vista is any indication that Microsoft has had its act together, we’ll be in the lookout to get our hands wet on a final shipping product and give it a long, good review. Do watch out for a full run-down soon. #