Windows Home Server kills “Drive Extender” for Vail: users not happy

windows-home-serverWindows Home Server has been a much appreciated but perhaps under-used product, and its fans have been anxiously awaiting Version 2 of the product, code-named “Vail”.  Well, maybe now not so much.  A blog post this morning on the Windows Home Server blog made a somewhat stunning announcement:  Windows Home Server Drive Extender technology is being dropped:

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.

Judging by the comments on the blog post, and at least one graphically titled post from our friend Rafael Rivera, at least a segment of the WHS user base is not happy.  Here’s a sampling of comments:

    I’m upset, the WHS team has not delivered what the Windows Home Server community has wanted from the beginning…enhanced support/integration/port of Media Center and SkyDrive.

    You have now made my decision between Vail and a Drobo easy.  Since you removed probably the best feature of Windows Home Server, Drobo is an easy win.

    Good job, MS- you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.  DE was one of the reasons I got the thing for my father: easy to add storage as needed.  This decision is just plain stupid.

    I’m sorry, but at the moment this strikes me as a slap in the face as a longterm WHS user. And the stretching of the facts is just breathtaking and worthy of spin doctors at their finest

To be fair, the ability to add/remove drives may be most appealing for enthusiasts who build their own WHSs, cobbling a WHS out of older (and smaller) drives leftover from “last year’s model” computer (*ahem*, guilty as charged here).  Microsoft promises to work with OEMs and partners to continue to provide storage management solutions:

While this removes the integrated ability for storage pooling of multiple hard drives and automated data duplication, we are continuing to work closely with our OEM partners to implement storage management and protection solutions, as well as other software solutions. This will provide customers greater choice as well as a seamless experience that will meet their storage needs. Customers will also have access to the in-built storage solutions Windows Server 2008 R2 provides for data protection. We are also still delivering core features such as automated Server and PC backup, easy sharing of folders and files, Remote Web Access and simplified management without any expected changes.

Microsoft is promising delivery of Windows Home Server “Vail” (and “Aurora”, a SMB version of Windows Home Server) in the first half of 2011.  In a lunchtime session at TechEd Europe, Microsoft revealed plans for Windows Phone 7 integration of some type for Vail, with details to come at CES 2011 in January.