Ballmer Set to “Look Into” Windows Home Server Drive Extender Fiasco

Tuesday’s announcement from Microsoft regarding the removal of Drive Extender from Windows Home Server has sent shock waves across the web. Whilst I thought the company would undoubtedly take a beating in the press for the decision, I’ve been amazed at the scale of the community response, on this site, on other sites and on Microsoft Connect. The response has been awesome – a true measure of the passion that exists in the community for this product. If you’ve not had the chance to comment, then please take a couple of minutes to share your thoughts with Microsoft. Connect is a great place to do so – all comments are registered in Microsoft’s product feedback/bug database and are visible throughout the organisation.

Inspired by the thousands of comments I’ve read over the last few days, I took the opportunity to write to Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, regarding the situation. As you may know, for the last three years Microsoft have invited me to be a part of their MVP Program, which tasks me and a number of other community representatives with representing the “voice of the community” specifically for Windows Home Server. Steve Ballmer has repeatedly asked for customer feedback from MVPs where they believe there is a serious issue concerning a Microsoft product. This is the first time I’ve been compelled to take up the offer – with confused messages coming from Microsoft regarding the thinking behind the decision, and little response coming from the company to the feedback that they’ve received from the community this week, I wanted to ensure your views (and mine!) were being heard by the right people at Microsoft.

Here’s my email to Steve:

From: Terry Walsh
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:21 AM
To: Steve Ballmer
Subject: MVP Feedback – Windows Home Server “Vail” Crisis
Importance: High

Dear Steve,

I’ve been a Windows Home Server MVP for the last three years, and I know you’re always keen to hear feedback about your organisation’s product and services from the MVP community.

There’s a significant storm brewing around Microsoft’s next-gen home server platform that I wanted to give you a heads up on and hopefully, inspire you to act. I’ll keep it as brief as possible (excuse the bullet points).

The Story So Far…

  • The decision has been taken to align the code across future versions of Windows Home Server, and two new business oriented releases – Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials.
  • A core component of the next –gen Windows Home Server (the storage subsystem) called Drive Extender has been found by your developers to create issues on the two small business SKUs with LOB applications.
  • As a result, the decision has been taken to remove the feature from all three SKUs (as the code is aligned). This is eight months into a public beta.
  • Drive Extender is widely regarded as one of the great Microsoft innovations over the last few years – it provides all of the benefits of RAID, with the ability to mix and match hard drives create a storage pool, protect files and folders and dies away with drive letters. It’s fantastically consumer focused and sits at the very heart of the home server proposition.
  • Culling the feature in the home server platform effectively removes the major differentiation vs a growing stable of cheaper and better featured Linux NAS boxes. It fundamentally cripples the consumer proposition.
  • The decision was announced two days ago – since then over 600 negative comments have been left by existing customers on Microsoft Connect, a further 300+ on the Windows Team Blog (here and here), and my own website has had around 200 comments (here and here) deriding the decision. 99% of them say the same three things:

    a. Why should an issue around LOB application support for small business impact a consumer targeted product which does not need LOB application support?

    b. There is little reason to upgrade to the new version of WHS as it now offers significantly less features than v1.

    c. The implication of aligning the code for home and small business products has effectively led to Microsoft losing sight of the consumer (and existing user base), in favour of the new small business customer.

What We Need From You

The development team have announced a planned RTM for all three SKUs by 1H 2011. There’s more than six months available to investigate, act and test. I’d be really grateful if you could:

  • Check out the feedback your customers are providing – they’re telling you clearly what they need from you.
  • Investigate the decision to remove Drive Extender from all three SKUs & the implicated lack of customer focus.
  • Invite the team to look at an alternative way forward for the home server SKU:E.g. Fork the code, pull Drive Extender v2 out of the Small Biz SKUs and reserve it for the consumer proposition.Or: Port Drive Extender v1 into Windows Home Server Vail

I understand Windows Home Server remains a niche product, and the small business server opportunity is compelling. My headline is that the next-generation of the product is currently on life support, but with improved consumer focus, clear thinking (and better consumer marketing, but that’s a different story) Microsoft has the opportunity now to save Windows Home Server before it flatlines.

Thanks for your time and best wishes,

Terry Walsh

Editor, We Got Served

In truth, I have little knowledge of how Steve Ballmer’s customer feedback loop works with regard to how emails are received, who reads them and how they’re responded to. However, this morning I received the following CEO-class succinct reply:

From: Steve Ballmer
Sent: 26 November 2010 05:30
To: Terry Walsh
Subject: RE: MVP Feedback – Windows Home Server “Vail” Crisis

Let’s look into it

So, clearly there’s never going to be any promises, but with hundreds of comments sent by you to Microsoft directly via the Connect website, and a heads up to the guy at the top of the tree, I trust Microsoft are now clearly aware of the passionate views of the community around this issue. There’s now awareness and commitment from the CEO to look into the issue, although what that really means remains to be seen. The fact that I received a personal reply on the evening of Thanksgiving is hopefully a sign that the company will take your feedback seriously. I guess we’ll find out in the coming weeks and months just how consumer focused the Microsoft organisation is in 2010/2011.

In the meantime, if you’ve not had the chance to comment, please take two minutes to add your thoughts on the removal of Drive Extender over at Microsoft Connect. Kudos to, and for their coverage and analysis this week of the issue.

As I discussed in my post this week, Microsoft have lost sight of the customer Windows Home Server was originally designed for – that’s perhaps understandable as the platform is being managed by a merged “Home and Small Business Server” team with few remaining original team members that created the vision and built WHS v1. The team bleeds small business, it’s in their DNA – they do an awesome job of delivering to that customer, and the thousands of small business partners that sell and support their platforms the world over. But through ignorance or convenience, they’ve done the home server customer and community a huge disservice this week. From the outside, their communication looks poor, their thinking muddled, their engineering sub-standard.

The question now is do they have the desire, the ability and the bravery to fix it?



  1. Terry, I hope this gets reversed, but I fear that MS sees more $$$ from the business market than the consumer market and unless they branch the code base, I sadly feel this is unlikely to happen. And if they do branch the code base, I fear that Vail will get delayed while the team re-engineers the business versions. IMO, the HOME server should have DE AND Media Center.

    1. Hey Barb,

      I agree with you fully. Branching the code seems like the most sensible option, and whilst it may well delay Vail, I think most WHS users would be comfortable with that. Certainly right now, it feels that Vail is too tightly coupled to Aurora & Breckenridge and as a result, investment in true consumer oriented features (like Media Center/TV Tuner/Live Mesh Support) would be extremely limited.

      I'm supportive of Microsoft's efforts in the small business space – Aurora's going to rock, but the current culture and project development structure is severely penalising the home user.

      1. … continuing.
        If Microsoft wants to kill it reputation for home / small business people and push them towards Apple… well, I don't know how well this news is going to play with the investment community.
        In a meantime I would suggest for all WHS fans to visit yahoo message investment board, and let other people know how unhappy we all are about this move.
        There is NOTHING worse that a bunch of negative feedbacks on financial users boards. This will make Steve Ballmer and other major shareholders VERY unhappy.
        I know what I am talking about…. Intuit already experience users backlash, which consequently turn into a major stock price pull back.;)

    2. Dear Barb,

      I am not as pessimistic as you are. I believe that Microsoft WILL reverse itself, as the top brass realizes that this move would be a total public humiliation of it's inability to: a) deliver on promisses, b) killing the facto its chance to do any inroads in home computing area, c) giving Steve Job a free marketing field trip for the upcoming Christams sale period (his guys are probably already busy working on a commercial).

      I just finished watching a weekly windows podcast with very well known Leo Laporte and Paul Thurrott, <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( where the news on MS killing the extender architecture was discussed. Both guys were very,very shocked and unhappy with the news, as they spend last few years being very strong promoters of WHS. Paul Thurrott stated that this move would effectively kill WHS, and I must agree with him.

  2. I wonder how many WHS OS's MS have sold and then calculated how many Vail's they would sell and then realised it was too niche………… but they are forgetting about all the brand loyalty that WHS has built and hence persuaded us all to buy Windows 7, Server etc for our homes, businesses, recommended to friends and colleagues. WHS users are not your normal pc users we enjoy learning, tinkering and helping family friend fix their pc'c ands they all end up owning /buying a version of Windows.

    Is MS happy to take this risk and make us all go Apple/Linux/UnRaid etc with all our pc's?

    1. well, just raw numbers of connect means now (with the 100$ licence cost of whs1) > 1/4th million in licensees lost. but indeed, together there are all the win7 licencees (multiple) in a typical whs setup.

      1. and I am just reading Paul Turrot's article "Microsoft Hobbles Next Windows Home Server" in Windows IT Pro and the replies bemoaning the loss of WHS are all from IT specialists who I believe are your typical WHS user.

        1. jup. and they are users that are expensive to loose.

          consider me dropping windows. that would be 100$ whs + around 500$ win7 + 150$ office + 500$ visual studio licenses. but THEN, imagine that i would try to get my parents to move with me (linux, apple, dunno), which would be another 500$ or so worth of licensees. then a friend with a small business. that's worth 1000$s of licensees there (winhomeserver, tons of win7 pc's, office licensees).
          then imagine all the people i got to actually buy/stay with windows..

          an individual it specialist, the kind that loves home server (and most do just because of the DE) is a very, very expensive client to loose. by far the most worthy home client that exists.

          and if those it specialists then work at some company, too, and start to drop windows where possible out of pure dissapointment over this behaviour, then it starts to get REALLY expensive.

          they don't know how much money is in WHS. very much.

          1. It's a fair point – WHS is used by a significant proportion of IT influencers. Indeed, in the early days of WHS, this segment of the IT community was actively targeted to adopt the product and then influence less knowledgable, but enthusiastic users to try out the product.

            Microsoft upsetting these users will have wider implications than WHS adoption for sure.

          2. I'm not in favor of removing DE but if you're saying that most WHS users are IT specialists, then that just supports the WHS Team's position to remove DE as even a basic IT person should know how to setup RAID.

            And as far as Linux/Apple in the workplace… I don't know about your business but 95% of our LOB apps do not run on those platforms so there's no way I can remove Windows from my business network. And to make a business decision because I was disappointed in a home based product is just ludicrous.

          3. The WHS enthusiasts who terry is referring to adopted whs because we don't like the complexity of RAID. I have recommended WHS to at least 20 people who have adopted it because of its simplicity once installed.

            Why not 'lend' the WHS code to the community as we are the IT specialists who cherish it and we will develop it into the product it should be.

          4. Sorry Scott, I should clarify – there's always been two distinct users in Microsoft's mind when it comes to WHS users. The more technical user who knows how to do stuff (niche) and their family/fiends/colleagues, the "digital enthusiasts" who are interested in trying stuff out, but basically don't want to tinker too much (much bigger market).

            Use smaller early adopter group "a" to reach larger enthusiast market "b". Most of today's users are in group a and love the convenience of DE, but the product is really intended for group "b" who really need that feature.

          5. Yes, CJW makes a good point. There is a growing demand for simple servers in the home to provide NAS, backup, and media streaming. MS runs the risk that this DE decision will drive early adopters and enthusiasts to Linux and other alternate OS solutions — putting quite a lot of camel's noses into tents (homes) that until now knew nothing but Windows.

          6. Well it's not only about whether RAID is easy enough to implement. The problem for me is that it's just not as good as DE. And the problem for Microsoft is that RAID is just as easy to set up on other platforms. Not sure why I'd purchase a RAID-based Vail when I can get any number of cheaper (often free) Linux based alternatives. Seriously, is there anything left in WHS that would be considered innovative or differentiating?

    2. I absolutely agree with CJW. I'm sitting here literally surrounded by boxes filled with tech stuff that i've bought to build a dream WMC + WHS Vail + Windows Phone 7 (Zune) + XBox 360 ecosystem. I'm serious. But right now, it's all just computer pieces that I can take anywhere. I have a Windows 7 system at home, but I'm in the process of building at least two computers with MS software, and buying two pieces of pure MS harddrive. But without DriveExtender…I mean, I could do something with Linux for free, and I could get an Android phone (I mean, I have Sprint, so I haven't jumped on the phone bandwagon yet), and I could just put an XBMC build on a flash drive and see what I can do. I literally don't know what I should do.

      Microsoft has the chance to literally lock me into a world that they dream about…and Apple-like world, and they are going to lose me.

  3. Terry, regarding your mention to Mr. Ballmer that DE be forked away from the SMB SKUs, I think we all need to be clearer on this:

    Getting DE back into the product doesn't help, seeing as DEv2 has all of the problems of any other RAID solution. We don't just need DE back, we need _DEv1_ back.

  4. Good news, let's keep fingers crossed that it wasn't a OutOfTheOffice auto reply and that they will indeed re-think this.

  5. Thanks! Great job Terry!
    At t the moment I wriite this, upcount on Connect is now at 2823 (and still rising!)
    Lets hope MS gets the message and 'fixes' this….

  6. I think the concentrating on business is also the reason there is no Media Center in Vail. My dream scenario is they get the hint that the Home product should be separate from the Business, reinstate DE V1 and add Media Center.

    Hopefully some senior intervention and the storm this has stirred up will at least convince the powers that be that there is demand there for a proper Home product separate from the business ones.

  7. I see lots of comments in the blogs from people thinking that the Drobo products are a replacement for WHS. As far as I can see, that is not so. Drobos are primarily intended as a data store, not as the complete systems store concept of WHS. Yes, they do give you the storage pool concept of WHS, but that’s the end of it.

    1. a drobo + a win7 client > whs (win7 client has media center in it)

      the pool storage IS the main feature of whs. all the rest is just nice to have. but easily all doable without whs.

  8. …carrying on from the above comment: As far as I'm aware, Drobos will not:

    ■back up only one copy of identical files from multiple PCs. Instead, you will end up with multiple copies of the same file, one for each PC.
    ■back up only those sectors that have changed in a file. Instead, even if only one bit has changed in the file, the whole file must be backed up. No intelligent storage here.
    ■be able to roll back to a complete backup snapshot taken earlier in time, without the need to take up additional storage space to actually hold all those multiple backups.
    ■be able to restore a PC with a working image with one click, if the PC has a failure.
    ■act as a DLNA media server out of the box. You have to add a third party application for this.

    I may be wrong, but I thought most of the above points (with the clear exception of the DLNA server) arise out of the DE technology itself. So if that's being pulled, don't these advantages also disappear?

    1. I agree, WHS users have all been searching for alternatives and at the moment there is not one that installs like XP and is easy to tweak. Think of all the add ons that have been developed by WHS users in theri own spare time. This product could be the springboard for something much better in the future. MAC users are also looking for a server like WHS so keep on developing and who knows what home consumer product might come out at the end.

      1. Sure, but as we exercise our right to publicly bust Steve Ballmer's balls we can continue using version 1 of WHS. I tell you some "genious" decided to piss people off, and it is NOT going to end pretty for him/her/it….B) Head(s) will roll.

        1. The economy situation should be in quite a decline as HDD space continues to grow at a rapid pace. I'm not too worried about having to backup multiple machines. That being said this is only 1 aspect where WHS has the uperhand it would be a tough call.

  9. Thanks Terry, Awesome letter to steve, I just hope he has the balls to actually do something about it! You effort on our behalf is greatly appreciated.

  10. Thanks Terry, I just sent an email to everyone that I have convinced to buy WHSv1 to give Microsoft the negative feedback on this foolish decision. Microsoft makes moves like this and wonders why Apple keeps gaining home user market share.

  11. Keeping my fingers crossed. At first it was going to be a no brainer to move to vail. Only complaint I had was no mkv streaming out the box on their new DLNA server. Now if DE doesn't go back in I'll stick with my trusty old ex470.

    Thanks for hiking it up the line Terry

  12. Good work Terry. Maybe this is a symptom of a deeper malaise within Microsoft, they seem to have lost their impetus to innovate. WHSv1 with DE was a true innovation, it works and works extremely well. From what I can gather the reasoning behind the decision to drop DE seems to centre on performance, compatibility and code base alignment. None of these are issues for me. I’ve been using WHSv1 on my home network since it’s launch and don’t know where I’d be without it. If they do drop DE from the next version I’ll stay with WHSv1. So come on Microsoft, innovation is difficult and hard work, but don’t give up on DE and WHS.

    1. they innovate very often, but most doesn't even get into a product. and if it does (not only whs), then it most likely gets dropped after a while. sadly.

      their research team developed an awesome way to do low-light photo-shots that are not blurry even with bad phone cameras. how about having this as an option in winphone7 ? (it works by taking two pics, one with short exposure, one with long exposure. then their special algorithm can estimate a sharp nonblurred high quality photo out of it).

      they're really scared somehow about pushing innovations. even while it would be awesome.

  13. As a VAR, we have installed and setup many WHS servers for our residential customer base and without exception, they are all extrememly pleased with the abililty to easily normalize their growing media collections. I run two myself, one as a media server and the other as a SageTV server. WAF is high, and that is what it is all about 🙂

  14. I'm ROFL with the response, succinct it is. I hope this is considered; It's amazing to me that this is the central feature of a "consumer product" and they would even consider doing away with it blows me away. Thanks for your hard work.

  15. I have to join the chorus saying great job Terry!

    I now just hope that Mr Ballmer does more than look into the issue and do a reset, if they have to like they did with WP7. Decouple WHS from the SBS offerings and take it back to its original mission. A server product for the home user and not a Frankenstein product trying to serve two masters but failing at both. By the way if you are interested, I covered the story on our site here
    and here

  16. Thanks Terry! You've done us all a great service in sending an alert to, probably, the one, and only, person that can change this badly-made decision. Let's hope it can be brought back! On a side note, if this does get changed, I would suggest that you maybe write Steve one more time and ask to get Media Center built in? 😉

    Thanks again!


  17. another consequence of WHS, though maybe of no significance to MS is all the extra hardware we have bought. For myself I am on my second dedicated WHS build; these computers weren't assembled from recycled bits but built from new components bought specifically for the WHS build.

  18. Thanks Terry. I've been reading your site for a long while now, especially for keeping up with and understanding all the news behind WHSv2. I'm running the beta right now and love it and the news of DE being dropped completely was devastating to my plans for building a system around the impending release of Vail. Let's hope you did convince Balmer to re-consider. Thanks for your efforts!

  19. Nice job, Terry – very well said. The WHS community is lucky to have you helping out. Looking forward to seeing what the future brings.

  20. Thanks Terry – you summed up thoughts exactly to Microsoft.

    It is really great that we can count on you to reflect our opinions!

  21. Thanks for all your hard work! I guess the question I don't know is IF the DE problems can be fixed. Is it a case of it costing too much money, time and resources to be done.

  22. It's a real shame that WHS isn't going to be the special product it could (and should) have been. The DE function is critical and a great function that MS pioneered – but it went astray instead of improving. IMO, the writing was on the wall in late April/early May when Mark Vayman talked about all the complex, compute intensive, and non-valuable (or even not-workable) additions he had put into the new DE. (See… ). This was the start (or end) of a failed development.. Give me a break – ECC today on 512b blocks while disks do enormous corrections themselves and mainstream MS OS's don't need any of this! DE was supposed to be all about manageing disk space and file redundency for the user, not second-guessing the drive manufacturers. Yet, IMO a good deal of the blame in this fiasco falls on the WHS community for (those with good technical knowledge) not objecting early to off-base developments and simply getting a simpler DE built on top of W2008 server. A real shame.

  23. Yea Terry,

    Good letter. I hope that Stevie baby has some more brain than the f$%^&$ simpletons working for him.

  24. As a "MAC" guy, MS really screwed up here! I convinced friends and family to buy WHS (home built and HP products) because I raved about the simplicity and ability for them (the computer challenged) to be able to have a simple to use and "upgradeable" HOME server solution!!! Now it looks like I sold them on a "Tucker". A really good idea shot down by the powers that be, not because of neccessity, but by ignorance and greed. Get back to the roots! Something that just works for the simple guy and does a job! Raid is great for those that are geeks and understand it and can implement it. The average joe can't afford to buy new matching drives, hire a computer wiz and needs a HOME solution! I BOUGHT INTO WHS BECAUSE OF DE!!! I bought WINDOWS 7 for all my computers in the house ( seven counting dual boot for my MACS) so I can use the server with Media Center networked to every room and outside. Not only do I have to explain this change to all my friends and family that trusted me but if they (microsoft) dont fix this, I am going to dump MS altogether!!!! Anyone need a Win 7 disc? I might be sellin mine!

    1. All that money spent to use something that MS is just now attempting to do? You realize dlna and storage pooling is available for free with things like Amahi and Drobo and NAS? I play movies with my xbox 360, off my storage pool using dlna, and I paid 0 dollars for the software to do it.

  25. Thank you, Terry, for sending an excellent and (in my opinion) accurate representation of consumer concerns to Mr. Ballmer. You are absolutely right that this is a test of Microsoft's commitment to the "Home" server market. I remain hopeful that Mr. Ballmer takes the appropriate actions to keep Charlie Kindel's consumer focus and "dream for a home server market" alive.

  26. Thanks Terry for your hard work. Not certain if this idea will help, maybe all the MVPs that you know can also submit another letter as a force of 1. The more pressure put on Mr. B. the better it is for consumer. JAT.

  27. I don't really understand all the craze over drive extender. I've been using Greypool for quite a while now, and it does even more and even a better job of doing the SAME exact thing, except it doesn't slow down my pc, and it doesn't just store everything on the first drive like DE. I've used Amahi for a long time now, and it's so superior to DE that I just don't understand why people are freaking out. Omg, MS is pulling a failed product, and forcing you to go to a better alternative like Amahi. Frankly, I hope microsoft's failure with DE brings more attention to amahi because I never liked anything about whs EXCEPT de, but when I saw how flawed it was while using it [like how it doesn't notice changes to files if the changes don't change the filesize) and how long it takes to remove a drive with DE is rediculous, it takes about 5% of the time with Greyhole. sigh… Your reaking out over nothing guys, MS is only forcing you to goto a better choice.

    1. Are you guys going to start complaining that microsoft pulled the plug on microsoft bob next? another good example of failed MS products, or how about Windows ME? or MS Comic Chat? DE had horrible performance and serious flaws.

    2. Amahi is interesting and my past experience is that one or two optional software packages did not install or work as expected. While I liked the vast amount of software that could easily be installed on it I also felt like it was trying to do too much. The support that I needed was forthcoming on their forums but I had to root around to see which software packages were supported on which version of Amahi. I am not 100% comfortable with the idea of trusting my data to Beta software (Greyhole) installed on a Linux distribution that I am not at all familiar with yet (Fedora).

      I do plan to test Amahi in a virtual machine to see what it is like though because on paper at least Greyhole does appear to have a good feature set.

      Let's not forget that WHS was not just about DE though – Amahi isn't going to backup my Windows PCs like WHS can so that I can restore a complete system in the event of a failure is it?

    3. Hi Terry C,
      I have just installed Amahi/Grayhole after reading this news Thanksgiving Day but I have to tell you as much of a great product it may or may not be command lines are NOT something I want to deal with in 2010, I feel like I am back in the DOS days, If the Amahi team really want to shine as the replacement to WHS v2 then we need more GUI for things like adding drives.

      What I do like very much outside of DE is the backup service. I have been looking for something that would backup all my computers in the same way that WHS Vail does it but cant find a good solution that works with Amahi/Grayhole, What are you using?

      Thank you,

  28. Wow and your a proponent of a Free BETA program Amahi. Like i trust that will be free until the beta expires. Also you recommend using limiting hardware, my server already has more space than a drobo can ever have, and i'm not willing to pay that much on machine raid solutions either. DE isn't a fail, it's a cornerstone.

  29. GREAT Thanks to Terry for going to the top of the chain of command at Microsoft.

    NOTHING is impossible!

    Computers are stupid machines that work with ones & zeros! THE REST IS HUMAN INTERPRETATION! So the developers at Microsoft need to interpret the data correctly.

    If they REALLY CAN'T find and fix the problem that they are having then they need to tell us EXACTLY which applications are NOT working and under which conditions. Then we as the paying customer can choose which underlying system we need DE or RAID.

    Forgive me for mentions this BUT Novell NetWare 3.x & 4.x had a disk duplexing technology that was FANTASTIC (Too bad that Novell is no longer what it once was). I never had a customer that had a data loss while using it. When all drives were working there was a 50% increase in server through put due to the fact that 80% of the requests to a server are to READ files and not write to them. If one of the duplexed drives was going or gone bad the server through put went back to the same as it was without duplexing, BUT you then had time to replace the bad drive before the other one failed. The re-duplexing of the replaced drive was done in the background and after completion the faster through put was BACK. One thing that DE can do that duplexing could not is to let us users add different sized drives to a pool that act as one. THAT is a GREAT help because by the time a drive goes bad those type of drives are near impossible to get again new and you would have to give up some of the usable space in order to have DATA SAFETY.

    To Microsoft:
    You should be able to fix ANY logic problem WHATEVER they are! YOU HAVE THE SOURCE CODE to ALL of the files systems that have ever been used under Windows and DOS OSes. Maybe you need to add some NEW, BETTER layers between the physical DISKs and whatever the other OS is on top of them.

    At the company where I work we could DEFINITELY use duplexed drives on some of our VERY IMPORTANT development work station machines. The ones that are SO UNIQUE that there are ON images of them OR have so many unique application on them that if they go down it takes weeks to get everything working as it was before, if ever. Sometimes it is impossible to get the systems exactly back to where they were at and we loose an unknown amount or productivity because there is NO WAY to measure what was lost. I am sure that we are NOT the only ones that are having or have have such problems.



  30. I can't understand people that say that DE is in the DNA of WHS, ok it may be an important feature for some users, but I don't see it as a key feature at all.

    For me the most important feature is local filesharing (ok every OS can do that, but WHS costs less than all other Windows [I don't like linux]), fileshsharing over the WHS website, Remote Desktop (OK there is a recent Microsoft Live service that allow that without WHS I think), and the best feature of all is PC BACKUP!

    I don't use DE on WHS v1, it's not to the software to manage file duplication, it should be done at a lower level, that means drivers.
    DE only waste power.

    I can't understand either people that use more than 2-4 HDDs, the more HDDs you have, the higher the risk of failure is.
    I wouldn't also reuse older HDDs on a Server, the risk of failure is higher with HDDs that are older than 3 years.
    Look at the high capacity HDD prices! You can have a 2TB drive for only 77€ !!
    I'd rather spent 150€ to buy two of those HDDs, than reuser a mix of older ones which differ in capacity, performance and which generate more noise and consume more power for the same capacity.

    Personaly I use 2x1TB HDDs in Raid 1, and if I need more space in the future I will have 2 choices:
    – I will add 2 1TB HDDs and dynamically, without losing data or moving data to an external HDD, transform my Raid 1 into a Raid 10 (Intel Raid driver allow it I thing, but I haven't tested yet).
    – Or buy 2 new high capacity 2TB HDD and use them again in Raid 1. I would use the 2 old 1TB HDDs as external backup drives.

    (Sorry for my bad english)

    1. The whole point of DE is so that you do not have to bother with RAID at all. DE in WHS means that users who do not know what RAID is can easily manage their home server and add and remove storage.

      DE for me is not about chucking any old disk into my storage pool but allowing me to grow it without hassle. With DE I can remove any drive from the pool and read data from it on another computer – I can't do that with a RAID system …

      With DE you could simply use your 2 x 1TB plus the new disks that you bought rather than have to fiddle with RAID to increase your storage …

      1. Ok, that's right 😉

        But if you have a single HDD volume (one HDD or HDDs in Raid), having DE or not, it's the same behaviour.

        Yes hardware or semi-hardware (Intel, AMD chipset) Raid are not easy to setup for users that don't know what it is.
        But I think MS should develop a solution based on the existing Windows software raid, with a user-friendly GUI it would be simple to manage for most of the user, even if it would have some limitations compared with the DE.

        Ok, in software raid mode every data would be duplicated, but I think it's already the case currently with the DE for most of the user. That's also one reason why it has no sens to develop a DE v2 that has a 14% data overhead. The space you win by selecting what should be duplicated or not would be partially or totally be lost by this 14% overhead in most cases.

        I think software raid is the way to go.

        1. You have 1TB of data with two 2 1TB disks in RAID-1. That works well for you, good.

          However, I have 5.5TB of data, others have more. Without spending large amounts of money upfront on expensive RAID controllers and full sets of identical hard disks how would you suggest we deal with this? How would the average home user add hard disks if they need to manually manage RAID configurations?

          I've used RAID before (both at work and at home) and in fact my OS drives for WHS are 320GB in RAID-1. DE however makes all the other drives much more manageable whilst also being easy to use.

          Vail = Fail

          All rather depressing as for me just keeping DE V1 and adding Media Center would have made WHS a truly amazing setup.

    2. My WHS currently has 12TB of storage, so from what you're suggesting I should just pop out and buy a couple of 12TB drives and raid them…. good plan! :/

      1. 5.5TB or 12TB I don't believe that most users need as much space. You are a minority.
        And since a OS is a compromise to satisfy as many people as possible, maybe WHS Vail is the wrong product for you, personaly I won't miss the DE.

        1. Say you do have two 1TB drives in RAID-1 and you want to add more storage. The average user then should be going out and buying 2 more disks rather than just 1? This would be for whether or not they want everything duplicated.

          With 1TB drives becoming fairly common on the desktop more and more storage is needed just for backups.

          As an example, my father has over 1TB of files on his PC – he uses it for editing home videos of the grandchildren. Trying to explain RAID to him and why he would need to add two disks rather than just 1 doesn't make sense.

        2. You might not miss DE Hulk but you are clearly in the minority.

          Recording an hour of .wtv from media center is over 6GB. Add to that DVDs or BluRay and footage from a HD camcorder plus photos and music and the TBs quickly add up …

          Remember this: "640K is more memory than anyone will ever need" – it is silly to predict how much storage the average user may or may not need …

          1. I reencode .wtv files with h.264 codec, it reduces file size by 5 without much lost of quality ;).

  31. Great job, Terry! Hopefully MS does something *positive* about this. My heart sank when I read they are removing DE from Vail. I really, really hope MS re-evaluates this decision, and I feel it is very short-sided.

  32. It seems to me that this rather like having the fox say he will "look into" disappearing chickens. The biggest problem MSFT has is Ballmer himself. He needs to be chucked and let some one who isn't living in the '80's have a crack at it.

  33. Excellent email.

    I hope this decision is reversed, I can't help but feel the end of DE = the end of WHS. I was tempted into Aurora for active directory, but it seems the chances of it having DE are very low.

  34. Might be good if he looks into it.. but I for myself have put WHS on the shelf until they FIX the issue with the code.. Take a driver CD from any vendor.. it has multiple folders deep and long file names..
    Copy it to the WHS server and you will lose the data.. it comes back and says it's not available.
    This is a serious Bug….
    That is a problem when W2k3 handles these types of files structures and install cd's just fine.

    There is no problem as along as file names are short and folder structures are shallow…

  35. I was thinking and maybe Microsoft killed it to get everyone into the Cloud. charge 20.00 a month 1 copie on your server another in the cloud??? When you restore your server, re-load, and click restore local copie! Sounds good! IDK

    But I will upagred to Vail untill I know what they are doing. DE is good and good for the home market.

  36. Wow, great letter. I have not seen one single person say. "Hey lets be happy they got rid of DE" I am like many others, I will just stick with WHS 1. I will not keep my fingers crossed, It seems that MS has made many mistakes lately and I don't see a change in the trend.

  37. Actually I've said for years that MS ought to offer cloud based upgrades of the homeserver. (who backs up the backups?), I'd pay for that if the price was low. Heck charge me a very small fee for the storage, and then a more substantial fee if you need to burn and send me dvd's

    but as to the DE issue. that's the heart and soul of WHS.. I know I won't be upgrading to vail without it, and unless I hear they've changed their mind, I'm no longer recommending WHS to anyone.

    1. I will NEVER EVER put ANY of my DATA ANYWHERE OUTSIDE THE FOUR WALLS OF MY HOUSE. Even if they were doing it for FREE.

      I do NOT think that you have a 1GB connection to ANY ISP. Even if you DID have fun when someone else distributes your data as they want. I don't trust ANY of them as far as I can spit.

  38. Terry…good for you in getting comment out of microsoft. am following this with interest, although it does look a lot like they've lost sight of the wood for the trees

  39. I've been holding out for Vail, I wrongly though that it would include Media Center, that I would be able to install tuners and use it as a tuner farm for central recording, this to me seemed a natural progression for WHS to take, after all most of it's all ready built into Windows for extenders, so it shouldn't have been that difficult to implement. That's been dropped, and now DE been dropped, MS have really loss sight of what could have been an excellent product and would have sold well, a lot of families have multiple computers, many with W7 or Vista media center adding a WHS with tuners would have made an excellent and easy to implement TV distribution system, not to mention the all important backup solution!

  40. Terry, I commend you on bringing the DE debacle to Ballmer's attention. But I think everyone needs to ramp down their expectations that DE will be in Vail. MS didn't make the drop DE decision on a whim – they're looking at their ENTIRE customer base. And as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, the influence of the WHS community is a drop in the bucket compared to number of business and mainstream consumer customers.

    1. business and mainstream customers they dont have yet.

      And with all the negative press on it, and without support from the community improving the product, I doubt it will have.

      Selling the "very nice WebSite and media streaming" from Vail into the business user sounds funny.

  41. @RicjP
    You know – you are right, but…
    I have seen so many SME's out there who have a zilch server/backup environment. It is sometimes money, sometimes 'all too hard'. WHS type products (with DE absolutely core to it )can do some much for these guys. After that they may migrate to a more enterprise like setup.

    I personally believe there could be millions of these kind of businesses worldwide, surely that is a big opportunity even for MS?

    1. Microsoft can't think that far.

      This is proof of that.

      Lets hope that they will wake up now before it is too late.

      I know that there are LOTs of unnumbered businesses that need something as simple and effective as the WHS solution.

      I was looking for a NAS when I stumbled across the WHS. After reading the manual that was included about what it could DO, before I bought it. Then I bought a machine with 2TB of storage for starters. I have since swapped two the the original 500GB drive for 2TB drives I now have 4.6TB of usable space. I have ALL folders duplexed/duplicated. I have already had to recover once BUT with DE, absolutely NO DATA LOSS. Just some time to do the recovery manually.

      I used to sell Novell Netware back in the 1990 and WHS is THE BEST THINK THAT I HAVE SEEN SINCE. Now MS is SO DUMB and trying to kill it.

  42. Wonderful response Terry. We as a community have invested a great deal into WHS. I would hate to lose all that has been put into it and the great features of it.

  43. Well done, Terry! Let's hope something comes of it. Otherwise, I know many people who will never even consider upgrading to Vail.

  44. Kudos boyo, thank you. im gonna be building my first home server soon, and well.. drive extender seems to be the biggest integral part of WHS.. so… nice job getting them to listen. ^^

  45. I find it interesting that Steve Ballmer was just quoted as saying "Cool starts at home". Which is now the new direction of the Windows 7 Phone. When MS focused their windows mobile platform pre-7 on just business it was a failure for years and was passed up by iphone and droid.

    Again, they are repeating the same behavior. They are removing the coolness factor of a product and in my opinion the end result will be a failure in both the home and business markets (again).

  46. I think if Microsoft only wants to pursue large market products they should not be creating products like Media Center and Home Server. Creating these products and then abandoning them or inadequately supporting customers does harm. Experiences like these make me hesitant to buy any future Microsoft home product, even if it seems great and fits my current needs, because experience is showing they are willing to pull the rug out from under customers and business partners in short order (i.e. HP Media Server, Linksys extenders) if their "vision" changes.

  47. I was on vacation and heard the news last night. This makes no sense to me. I'm running WHS since the original Beta. I love the product and recommend the present version love the product EXCEPT there is no easy way to easily back up the WHS . I spoke to the MS staff at CES last year and have been a Beta tester of Vail since initially availability. I really love this product because Vail is now functionally rich and simple solution for a household. You get:

    – Easy back ups for local PC system files and the Registry and now Macs (although Macs are easy to back up)
    – Make 2 copies of any folder (and subfolders) by clicking a check box.
    – Allows easy sharing of files including music, photos and video and others

    Everything without technical know how. No hassles it just works.

    Now Microsoft takes the heart out of Vail. It really does. Please do something right four your customers and put Drive Extender back in the product. It's really not a product without it.

  48. Hopefully SteveB would really look into this issue. But as I know, most of this kind of reply was not sent out by REAL SteveB. I also feel huge disappoint of the stupid decision as an employee/user…

  49. Thanks Terry for taking the time, effort and energy to contact Microsoft about this for all us. I have made my comments on Connect and hope that Steve and the rest of the Microsoft team listens to it's user base for a technology which is highly touted and useful. Thanks again!

  50. the spin about cheap large drives being available as an alternative to DE was pathetic the machine that i have WHS on has 8 1.5 tb drives and 4 2tb drives looks like i will have to go out and get a real NAS instead

  51. It's not just a simple port – it has to be recompiled as a 64-bit service in order to run smoothly or even have a possibility of being optimized.

    I hope they fix it one way or another, though…

  52. Nice job but you have one glaring error. Linux server, particularly Amahi, already have an equivalent of DE. My experience is that Greystone works as well as DE. And with utilities like Redo, backup works just great – even across platforms! Amahi was easier to install than WHS, runs faster on identical hardware, and has more features. Price – Free!

    Earlier this year I moved almost everything from Amahi to WHS. I've now made the decision to upgrade Amahi and get rid of WHS as a result of this fiasco. Also, the lack of support for Media Center from OEMs is causing me to reconsider and I'm looking at replacing the Windows 7 Media Center since it's not stable enough for prime time.

    My take is that just as the Linux community is getting things right Microsoft is retrenching and losing ground. This is a major faux pas that is already causing people to look elsewhere and a bunch of people with solutions have jumped on the situation. It may very well spell disaster for Microsoft.

    1. Hi gpmark,
      I am one of those people that has downloaded Amahi/Grayhole and have installed it on a test computer with only one hard drive for now. From the outside it looks pretty good however I am not liking the fact that their's NO GUI to add drives, I hear there something in the works to add the GUI for Grayhole but right now the team is trying to get Amahi ready for Fedora f14.

      Right now what I would miss with WHS v2 would be client backup in the way it handles it, its very very good, no wasted space cause it only backups one copy of each file no matter how many copy's their are, thats fantastic and the other thing I would miss is the ease of adding drives. Their is a huge community for Amahi with many applications but the thought of command line programing just hurts my head, I feel like I am back in the DOS days.

      And one more thing, their no windows library support. Microsoft really is jerks for giving us a taste of something only to wet are lips and then pull it.

  53. Thanks Terry! Too bad the same couldn't have been done for Windows SteadyState. There was a lot of protesting out there when that was officially killed, but Microsoft wasn't listening.

  54. Great email to Ballmer, Terry, thank you for all of the support you have given the WHS community. Not unlike most of the folks on this board, I have invested heavily in the "digital home"…. premium HTPC, home automation, DNLA devices, mobile connectivity to my media and home automation, desktop virtualization… and WHS (HP EX495) became the centerpiece, tying it all together. I was looking forward to new capabilities and speed with Vail and new hardware from HP. I was crushed by the near-simultaneous announcements by HP and Microsoft. Indeed, I began to feel something was very wrong when HP made the Drobo announcement. I feel there is incredible opportunity for the connected home… just don't understand why everyone seems to be abandoning it.

    Anyway, thanks again for your support, I do not anticipate a reversal from Microsoft, but I sincerely hope I am wrong. As a result, I will be purchasing an EX 495 as a spare/for parts, as it seems I will be using that solution for some time to come!


    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for the note. I don't think that *everyone* is abandoning the connected home – the interviews I've done with Drobo and Netgear recently have convinced me that there are a good number of businesses out there that get it. Unfortunately, Microsoft really seem to have an issue with consumer-oriented innovation right now. Enough people have told them what's needed here, but I have little hope for a positive result.

      Ignore your customers at your peril, the saying goes…


  55. Honestly, i do not understand.

    For years Microsoft as been pursuing the home consumer market living room with the idea of a centralized Media Center pc, it comes along with the Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, you could watch tv, videos, pictures and music on your lcd tv instead of watching it on your pc monitor, idea that i adopted from a very early stage, what unfortunatly brought to my living room a very bulky and noisy machine, due to the amount of hard disk drives i needed for the storage of my files and the backup of the whole system.

    1. It is because of the 'cloud'. Everyone knows that MS only really cares about their back office market and how their other products relate to the back office and MS is starting to realize that the whole server in the office or home idea may have it's days numbered so they are shifting their resources and their focus in that direction. They want everyone to run their programs off of Azure (including your 'home server' functionality) so that they can lease those resources to you.

      I for one am not buying into the Azure idea, I will use the Amazon cloud before I ever consider using Azure as a development platform because Amazon has more of a clue about the cloud and are substancially cheaper that MS but in any case my next home server will be running something where the vendor can't change partners on me like Apple and MS can do, something like Linux or BSD.

  56. Then Microsoft Windows Home Server cames along, another wonderfull idea (funny enough i have not adopted it yet, only test drived it and decided to wait for Vail, wich im currently beta testing), imagine you could have a machine somewhere in a cupboard, shelve, basement, atic, wherever you could run a Cat5 cable to, set it up, add your data to it and manage it remotely, oh god i want one of those, imagine reducing that bulky and noisy machine in my living room for a small, sleek and silent home theatre pc case with only one or two hard disk drives to run Microsoft Windows Operating System and to manage tv recordings, leaving WHS to store all my data, backup all my pc's, laptops and keeping my data safe by means of redundancy that Drive Extender will offer?

  57. Well not a wonderfull idea anymore as from what Microsoft announced, WHS Vail will not have the Drive Extender redundancy strategy out of the box.


    Solution 1:

    Use RAID array redundancy, if i have the time, the patience and the skill to set up, manage and recover a RAID array when it goes wrong, what unfortunatly i have a life and i like it to be simple.

    Solution 2:

    Use three WHS Vail servers, one for storage, one for backups, and one for redundancy.

    WHS Vail 1
    Centralized storage of all my pictures, videos, movies, recorded tv, high definition content, documents and software. Centralized streaming to all my Media Center pc's.
    Centralized backup of all my networked pc's, laptops and WHS Vail itself.

    WHS Vail 2
    Centralized backup of WHS Vail 1 every 24 hours.

    WHS Vail 3
    Centralized backup of WHS Vail 2 every 48 hours.

    Solution 3:

    Remove Drive Extender from:
    Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials
    Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials
    but leave the feature in Windows Home Server "Vail"

  58. Well but unfortunatly im not where to tell you how to do your job, but i can tell that i will not be a guinea pig to Microsoft no more, i will not be surprised if i see Drive Extender branded with another name and being sold in the future to 3rd party platform developers as a full proprietary application like Microsoft Mediaroom (which is a derived product of Windows Media Center).

    We as consumers are nothing more than a big networked test lab for Microsoft, for a few of you that are suprised that Microsoft as not made a comment yet, do not be.

    Let's not forget:

    Windows Vista Ultimate Extras fiasco
    Windows Vista Media Center TV Pack 2008 OEM fiasco

    If we look at it from my prespective, we buy the software (with bugs), we help Microsoft by reporting bugs and any problems (WHS v1 DE data corruption anyone? i bet alot of people lost lots of data to a finished product) Microsoft fixes it (PP1) we beta test it (WHS Vail public beta and WHS Vail public beta refreshed) it works and Microsoft decides to remove it because it does not work with their SMB's solutions?

    As i said at the begining,
    honestly, i do not understand.

  59. It is amazing that so many people don't recognize a 'the check is in the mail' response when they see one. Ballmer doesn't care otherwise we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. The sad part is that just like Windows Mobile which nearly went into exinction (and may still die) under Ballmer's watch this might come back to bite MS in the rear down the road. Without the drive extender it no longer makes any sense to purchase Windows home server, you might as well build your own Linux server and replace it; if I had not just replaced my original HP WHS with a new LX495 that is exactly what I would be doing.

  60. Very impressive Terry.

    I hope that those guys at MS do see how valuable WHS is in the future. I firmly believe that these kind of servers will be common in normal households in the coming years, and when that happens MS would have this great head start in this market.

    Many will try and introduce the cloud as a replacement, but I'm not so convinced on that, both on storage size issues and accessibility. Most cloud solutions offer you some limited space that you could easily fill up with photos from a single SD card, theyre offer would have to grove quite fast and quite steep to be able to act as this central safe storage for modern family's. The second issue is accessibility, Imagine what would happen if some good portion of ppl would move they're entire photocollection to this imagined unlimited storage cloud service. This would never be viable with todays internet connections. both on end user level and those central "hubs" of the world that connect us together would come overloaded quite fast, I belive that we are already seeing this with increased popularity of services like facebook and there you have you're photos is quite limited size/quality.

    I would love to see some through article comparing storage options for all of our modern family digital assets. With focus on self host vs. cloud services, including sync options which I believe are lacking in todays software offerings, and no dropbox is not the answere.

  61. Hey Terry…has there ever been any follow-up to this? The WHS team blog appears to be all but dead, with the last team post and comments coming on November 30.

    Seems Microsoft has just hung us out to dry completely. Such a disgrace.

  62. I don't relish FreeNAS and Drobo seems pretty limited and expensive. I don't care to store my stuff on Google servers. They are ready know too much about me as it is. We have many PCs in our home and have Tb of entertainment and memories we would like to never lose.

    If Microsoft blows this , it may just signal the start of a long road to their extinction? Its happend to many technical organizations. I know this sounds pretentious, however Microsoft seems like a very rich chicken with its head lopped off.

    Running around, making a lot of noise, but not getting anywhere except to the hereafter…

  63. Thanks to your mail Bob Muglia, President of Microsoft Server & Tool Division, has been fired. I doubt it will bring back DE, though…

  64. I also consider DE invaluable. I like the ability to add and remove different sized drives to my storage and to have automatic data duplication.

    However, tsandco's comment about not wanting to store data on the web and watching a house burning on the news this morning reminds me that having duplicated files on a server, protects against a HD failure, but it does not protect against loss of the whole server with fire or even with theft.

    It is important to consider off-site backup, too. I am not sure what approach is best here but I am thinking of a set of HDs that I would cycle making copies of recently changed files and then taking them off-site.

    (I bought an EX490 and planned to set it up for Chrismas. I then had an HD failure on a main PC that I had not copied in too many months. Ironic.)

  65. V1 with Draha version has made my home made server very reliable.

    If they are willing to continue sale and support for WHS v1 I am happy but I hope that in the future version they bring back the Drive Extender.

  66. IMHO – I see the reason being it all comes down to dollars. MS is very busy at the moment creating cloud computing data centers over the globe and my feeling is that they will very soon try to lure folks into utilizing the "cloud" for services we use today on our WHS boxes.

    Companies get into the recurring revenue (services) business for just that reason – it recurs.

    Why sell an OS to a niche market and provide free updates when you can offer some whiz-bang cloud service that has a recurring charge attached to it.

    I very much recognize that if I had to use my Comcast cable connection to stream a movie from my "cloud" storage it would fail miserably.

    I would gladly purchase a new copy of WHS if they keep in Drive extender – otherwise I will keep my WHS v.1 in place and milk it for the next decade.

  67. Whs v2 without DE is like a car without an engine. Just not to use for someone at home. WHS 1 did the job. I store 12 TB of data in it. Just copy to the right content directory and it was done. Now I am back to manage my movies and music directory. Thought we had WHS for this.

  68. So is there an outcome other than "lets look into it" ? I would say enough time has passed for Mr Bulmer or one of his colleagues to reply upon his behalf…

  69. I am with Ian. Has there been a response or has your comment been ignored?

    As someone who is about to make a purchase in the NAS market, WHSv1 was compelling but was waiting for Vail before this announcement removing Drive Extender. Now I am considering Synology as it seems more compelling than WHS if WHS does not have the drive extender feature. I don't need full RAID, only certain folders redundant.

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