Windows Server 2012 Storage Spaces

What are Storage Spaces and when would I want to use them?

Storage Spaces are all about provisioning storage based on a pooled model … while making management of some types of storage easier.

Perhaps you have:
• Storage you’re not using yet and plan to use later
• Storage you’re using now and may later need to expand
• Storage that you want to be able to provide some resiliency for through parity or mirroring.

You may combine various types of storage for a single use.   In fact, you may use individual disks for Storage Spaces … even if the disks are of different capacity.  For instance, have you ever had a need for storage where you didn’t have a drive available that was large enough but you had a few others around of different sizes that when put together could address the need?  Storage Spaces can help with these situations also.

How does Storage Spaces work?

The volumes you create within a storage pool are basically virtual disks located on the storage pool that you may then partition, format, and assign drive letters as applicable.  Storage Spaces maintains the health of these drives and any redundancy selected.  Storage Spaces stores metadata on every volume within the storage pool that defines how data will be stored within the pool.

Windows Server 2012-Storage Spaces (Screencast)

Storage Spaces: Benefits

Some of the goals of Storage Spaces include the ability to:
• Obtain and easily manage reliable and scalable storage with reduced cost
• Aggregate individual drives into storage pools that are managed as a single entity
• Utilize simple inexpensive storage with or without external storage
• Provision storage as needed from pools of storage you’ve created
• Grow storage pools on demand
• Use PowerShell to manage Storage Spaces for Windows 8 clients or Windows Server 2012
• Delegate administration by specific pool
• Use diverse types of storage in the same pool: SATA, SAS, USB, SCSI
• Use existing tools for backup/restore as well as VSS for snapshots
• Designate specific drives as hot spares
• Automatic repair for pools containing hot spares with sufficient storage capacity to cover what was lost
• Management can be local, remote, through MMC, or PowerShell

It is also possible to utilize Storage Spaces with Failover Clusters.  However, with clusters you are limited to Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) as a storage medium.  Failover clustering does not support Storage Spaces using other storage technologies.  Just because the list above mentions USB as a capability doesn’t mean use of USB storage on a server with other faster storage in the same pool is a good idea.  Use of USB in a pool may be more practical on a Windows 8 client or while developing a proof of concept.  Performance of this technology depends also on the performance capabilities of the storage you choose to pool together.

Storage Spaces: Limitations

• Not supported on boot, system, or CSV volumes
• Drives must be 10GB or larger
• When you introduce a drive into a storage pool, the contents of the drive being added will be lost.
• Add only un-formatted/un-partitioned drives
• A simple storage pool must consist of at least one drive
• A mirrored pool must have at least 2 drives.  For 3-way mirroring there is an obvious need for more
• Three drive minimum for using Parity
• All drives in a pool must use the same sector size
• Fibre-channel and iSCSI are not supported
• Storage must be storport.sys compatible
• Virtual disks to be used with a failover cluster that emanate from a storage pool must use the NTFS file system.  ReFS or third-party file systems may be used for other purposes

Creation of Storage Spaces is easy via the UI in File and Storage Services.  Very simply choose to create the storage pool, select the disks and you’re done.   After that, you may create volumes based on that pool.  The UI can show you for each selected storage pool what virtual drives it provides and what physical drives provide the storage of the selected pool.


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