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Windows 8 : Introducing Storage Spaces - Creating storage spaces

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10/11/2014 9:05:26 PM

What is Storage Spaces?

Storage Spaces is the new storage virtualization and management technology Microsoft has developed. The concept of Storage Spaces has been around for quite some time; Windows Home Server used Drive Extender to make external storage manageable within Windows Home Server, and Storage Spaces takes a cue from this technology.

The idea behind Storage Spaces is to allow nonidentical disks to be managed as a single array by Windows. This reduces the need for companies to purchase traditional and expensive storage arrays to grow their storage infrastructure or add extra storage for a project. Instead, an organization can purchase a set of disks in an enclosure, referred to as just a bunch of disks, or JBOD, and connect them to Windows. When connected, a storage pool can be created to work with all those disks. From the pool of disks, volumes are created and mounted by the operating system. Windows then manages the disk pool and volumes created from it as a traditional storage system might, removing some of the overhead and complexity from enterprise-grade storage.

In Windows 8, a storage space can be created from a collection of removable USB disks. When created, new disks can be added to the disk pool at any time, allowing the space to grow as needed. When data is saved to a volume that exists in a storage space, the information is spread across all the disks within the pool to ensure redundancy.

Creating storage spaces

To create a storage space, you first must define a disk pool. A disk pool is a collection of disks that belong to the storage space. In the disk pool, you create a storage space and volumes Windows uses. To create a disk pool and storage space, complete the following steps:

  1. Search for Storage Spaces, tap or click Settings, and then tap or click Storage Spaces. Alternatively, access Control Panel, tap or click System And Security, and then tap or click Storage Spaces.

  2. Tap or click Create A New Pool And Storage Space. At the User Account Control prompt, tap or click Allow.

  3. Select the drives to use as part of this storage space; options can include the following:

    • Virtual Hard Disks

    • Removable USB Storage

    • Additional Internal Storage

  4. After all the disks have been selected, tap or click Create Pool.

  5. Enter a name for your storage space (see Figure 1).

    The Create A Storage Space window, in which the details of the storage space are configured

    Figure 1. The Create A Storage Space window, in which the details of the storage space are configured

  6. Select a drive letter to assign.

  7. Select the Resiliency type. Options include:

    • Simple Requires only one drive and does not protect from any failure.

    • Two-Way Mirror Requires at least two disks because it stores two copies of your data to protect it from a single-drive failure.

    • Three-Way Mirror Writes three copies of your data across five or more drives. This type can survive a two-disk failure.

    • Parity Requires three or more drives and writes data with parity information across these drives. This type protects your data from a single-drive failure.

    Depending on the Resiliency type you select, the total pool capacity changes to accommodate your choice.

  8. Enter the maximum size for the storage space.

    Windows calculates the maximum based on the number of disks in the pool, the available size of the disks, and the resiliency selected.

    Note

    MAXIMUM SIZE OF A STORAGE SPACE

    A storage space is a virtual representation of available space. A storage space can be thinly provisioned, which allows for additional storage to be added as needed to accommodate the growth of a storage space.

  9. Tap or click Create Storage Space to apply your choices and create the space.

During the creation process, the wizard will format your storage space and attach it to Windows. After this completes, you see your storage pool and statistics about the storage spaces it contains under the Manage Storage Spaces heading in Control Panel, as shown in Figure 2.

Manage Storage Spaces window

Figure 2. Manage Storage Spaces window

Storage virtualization makes this work

The storage presented to Windows as part of a storage space is a virtual representation of physical disks. This can be confusing, but it works similarly to logical disks and partitions within a disk. The biggest difference is that Windows virtualizes the disk itself, so one pool of storage can contain several physical disks.

When disks are added to a pool, Windows considers these disks to be a single storage entity. The entire amount of space across all physical disks becomes available, minus any space needed to accommodate the resiliency settings chosen. Storage spaces are created on top of that pool of aggregated storage. Because they are created across multiple disks, they can provide improved performance and recoverability by adding more disks to the pool.

When a space is created and a drive letter assigned, Windows 8 sees this drive as one volume and writes data to it as though it was one disk. The work is done behind the scenes to manage the logical disk pool and physical disks included in it.

Benefits of Storage Spaces

The biggest benefit of Storage Spaces is data recoverability and the ability of a properly configured storage space to survive disk failure within the pool. Cost and affordability are also big benefits for those intending to increase the capacity of their storage without buying expensive and specialized equipment.

An additional benefit of this configuration is metadata recording. When a disk pool is created across disks and a storage space built on that pool, metadata about the disk pool and the storage space are written to all member disks. In this way, the storage space can survive a system failure.

For example, suppose you have configured a storage space by using a disk pool of two USB removable drives. After the space has been in use for some time, you get a new laptop because there is money in the budget for one. When Windows 8 is configured on the new laptop, you can connect the USB disks to the computer, and the storage space you created earlier, along with the disk pool configuration and any data stored on the space, is ready to use very quickly. This is possible because of the metadata written to any disks used in creating a storage space.

Storage Spaces is an affordable method for enabling both organizations and individuals to increase their capacity as needed for a relatively small price tag. Keep in mind that this feature is not a replacement for good backup and recovery solutions. No matter where your data is stored, it should be backed up as frequently as necessary to meet your company’s requirements.

 
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