Announcement: SBS 2011 Essentials Release Candidate Now Available – The Official SBS Blog – Site Home – TechNet Blogs:

Wanna know something funny… the better comments are in some of the other blog posts around… mostly hints about future features of the product which as a beta tester you won’t see in the beta.

Windows Home Server ‘Vail’ Release Candidate (minus Drive Extender) goes to testers | ZDNet:

“Wait. I will need time to more thoroughly evaluate the storage changes in the Colorado servers to determine if Move a Folder is really all that compelling compared to the stunning features that were lost with Drive Extender. Unfortunately, Microsoft only provided me with the code for the Small Business Server 2011 Essentials RC, and then only a day before the public release. I won’t get access to the public RC version of WHS 2011 until the public. So I’ll need to wait myself.”

“Microsoft showed reviewers some very interesting add-ins that were only hinted at in the past. An Office 365 add-in will allow an employee to manage the company’s Office 365-based infrastructure directly from the management console, and will enable single sign-on capabilities between the local domain and the Office 365 services. A Windows 7 Professional Pack add-in will automatically configure Offline Files and Folder Redirection on connected clients and provide checkbox security templates for all PCs in the domain. A separate Windows Phone 7 add-in for each server, each customized to the server tasks specific to each product, will allow users to view alerts, trigger PC backups, reboot the server, and perform other actions from their phone. And Microsoft also showed off other add-ins, created by third parties, related to power management and cloud backup.”

A reminder:

Please note use of this build:  This build is for evaluation purposes only.  You should not install this in a production or regular home environment. Microsoft does not license you for, nor support installing in these environments. Your license to preview this product expires June 30, 2011 or upon commercial release of the software, whichever occurs first.  The software has an internal expiration to stop functioning on Aug 1, 2011.  We will remove the Connect offering for this release upon commercial release of the software.

And remember ..Essentials has client backup included in the product.  You’ll need to wait for Breckinridge/Storage Server for the server that will be the client backup server for a SBS network.

How to Extend the Vail Expiry Date:

As we informed you last week, today is the day when the Windows Home Server Vail beta expires, and moves into Windows Server 2008 R2 Expiry mode where the server reboots hourly.  No data will be lost during an expiry, and users will still be able to access the server if needed to.

Since the beta is built on an evaluation copy of Windows Server 2008 R2  the eval expiry is hard coded during beta development and so cannot be easily changed.  However the Windows Home Server engineering team have up with a workaround today using a copy of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RC which will extend the expiry to mid-March.

To extend the expiry:

  1. Install WS08 R2 SP1 RC on the server from
  2. Logon on with your connect credentials
  3. Click on Product keys (in the left hand side column)
  4. Click on Request a new product key
  5. Click on Get Key
  6. In Windows Home Server, open a command prompt
  7. Type “slmgr.vbs -ipk ABCDE-FGHIJ-KLMNO-PQRST-UVWXY” (where ABCDE.. is your new key as requested above)
  8. Type “slmgr.vbs –ato”
  9. Reboot the server, and your beta timeframe has been extended.  You can check this by opening up a command prompt and typing winver

Same rules should apply for Aurora as well.  Thank you Microsoft for providing this way to extend these betas until the next beta refresh is out.

This is one of those times I’d love to have parallel universes.  I’d love to see with and without the DE decision.
From a thread in the Vail forums… a reminder that DE2 wasn’t the perfection it is thought to be… A poster in the forum recapped how DE2 had issues:

“Why was DEv2 fundamentally flawed? Its been reiterated on these forums numerous times, but to recap.

DEv2 had massive overhead. Data protection required a 60% decrease in total storage space. That was simply unacceptable to anyone with a large storage library. Yes, 2TB drives are cheap, but that still doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice 14.5TB of my 24TB array for data protection. Even someone with a modest 4 drive, 8TB config would be making large sacrifices here…

DEv2 was unsafe without data protection. Yes, it had additional ECC. But the 1GB “chunking” mechanism essentially turned your storage into a giant RAID0 array, where any SINGLE drive failure would result in data loss.

DEv2 had appcompat issues. These were being chased down all the time. Everyone remembers the nightmare that was V1 appcompat, with certain applications being deemed “unsafe” and people loosing email and photo libraries.

Bottom line. The primary goal of any storage system is to prevent data corruption, and keep your data safe. RAID has been doing this for decades, and is now easier to use than ever. I strongly suspect OEMs are simply going to sell servers with RAID protected storage, configured out of the box, and be done with it.”

The decision to nuke DE, while not a KIN, Response Point, Microsoft accounting or any of the other nuked projects of late, still feels like it’s impacting the passion of Home Server big time.  Understandably so.  Folks who build add ins on Home Server are already indicating that they aren’t sure they will build an add in for Vail as a result of the DE pull. 

I see folks say that small firms will be sunk without DE, but with DE2, I see them with risk of data loss as well.

Bottom line I don’t think DE2 was as wonderful as people think it was.  It still sucks that it was pulled, but I don’t think DE2 was perfect.

I have this saying, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade.  I’m still hoping that there’s some lemonade in our future.  Time will tell.

I was chatting with someone over the DE announcement and he said that main thing that was handled wrong was the line about how Microsoft had listened to customer feedback.  He said it was a BS line. 

I said, actually yes they did talk to customers. 

Dell and HP.

In the grand scheme of the world, there’s customers and then there are customers.  And while I can say in this bully pulpit of a blog that I can help people with the current versions of SBS, many time when it comes to betas, I’m not, and you’re not, the customer they listen to all the time.  Yeah, I can point to some connect bug wins, but I can also state without a doubt that if I was in charge of the Universe, SBS 2011, SBS 2011 essentials and Windows Home server next wouldn’t look the way they look.    To start with I wouldn’t have called Essential Business Server that, when it wasnt’, and I wouldn’t call “Aurora” Small Business Server Essentials.  Mark my word the naming of Aurora is going to lead to people getting confused between it and SBSv7 (SBS 2011 standard).  Lousy naming.

Then I’d have then more in virtualized pools then they are now.  I’d have a hyperV base and parts would be in virtualized sections.  But obviously, I’m not THE customer they are listening to, nor does my plan meet with their sales goals as while I’d want a virtualized/modularized platform, I sure wouldn’t be willing to pay for the licensing of it as it stands now.  I’d want it cheap.  But I’m always reminded by Mark Minasi’s quote that Microsoft builds software for the Fortune 499 (everyone but Apple).  While they have strong solutions for SMB, the base code that they build from is not built with SMB in mind (just look at Exchange 2010 as an example).  The SBS team doesn’t have the fortunes (and budget) to build a custom solution of specifically designed products for SMB.

When you look at the connect bug asking for DE back (nearly 1,900 and counting at the time of this blog post), it’s pretty obvious that Microsoft didn’t ask the constituency of their current Home Server customers what they thought of this ahead of time.  Nor did they ask SBS MVPs or WHS MVPs about their decision.  By the time the announcement got to us it was a done deal decision:

“Here is is, this is what we’re going to do.” 

So what happened to DE?  My take, it started to try to fit into a three headed beast.   In Paul Thurrott’s post  you can see the reality.  We know the history of DE.  That data corruption bug in v1 was a reputation breaking event.  v2 had to be perfect.  No runs, no drips, no errors.  Read again the part where it’s quoted “we discovered some application compatibility and disk tool problems related to its ability to correct data errors on the fly“. 

Bottom line, Aurora happened to DE.  The future customers of Aurora killed DE.  Home Server customers unfortunately got broadsided in the process.  As one of the Home Server MVPs said “at the end of the day, this was a business-orientated decision”.

P.S.  got word from several WHS MVPs that they don’t hate me.  They know that neither I nor they (nor any MVP, honestly) had any input into this decision.  It was a business decision by Microsoft on this one.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Technology: RIP, Drive Extender – SuperSite Blog:

Normally Paul Thurrot’s posts annoy me.  He has this friend of his that runs a small business (a realtor) and he bases all of his “small businesses must want this” posts based on a firm that by design is a bunch of 1099 contractors working with their own equipment.  Of course, then again I blog from the viewpoint of the data must be under my paranoia umbrella at all times, so between the two of us we represent the spectrum of small businesses from cloud to premise.

Go read his post and I honestly think it’s the post that Microsoft should have written if they could have written it that way.

“In a briefing last month, I was told that Microsoft and its partners discovered problems with Drive Extender once they began typical server loads (i.e. server applications) on the system. This came about because Drive Extender was being moved from a simple system, WHS, to a more complex, server-like OS )(SBS “Aurora”) that would in fact be used to run true server applications. And these applications were causing problems.

“Drive Extender was a neat feature, but the implementation was off, and we discovered some application compatibility and disk tool problems related to its ability to correct data errors on the fly,” Microsoft general manager Kevin Kean told me. “We don’t want to give customers problems; we want to give them solutions. So ultimately, we decided that we needed to cut out Drive Extender. Removing Drive Extender will make file shares easy, and it’s possible to accomplish most of its features otherwise. For example, you use the server’s centralized backup or even RAID as an alternative to data duplication.””

Another good blog post here: Microsoft Abandons Development of Windows Home Server Drive Extender | We Got Served:

Windows Home Server code name “Vail”– Update:

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials – Update – The Official SBS Blog – Site Home – TechNet Blogs:

Bottom line?  Microsoft just ripped out Drive Extender from Vail, Aurora and Breckinridge.

My thoughts?  Thank goodness.

“But Susan, that’s a big hunky hairy deal for Home Server”.  Yup, oh yeah, I think it is a big hunky hairy deal right now for Home Server.  It’s the reason I think the Home Server MVPs are going to hate the guts of SBS MVPs for a while.  Because while that’s not so good news for Home server, it’s WONDERFUL good news for SBS Essentials/Aurora and Breckinridge/Storage Server.  Why do I say that?  Because it means that Intuit (Quickbooks) and any other line of business application that you want to stick on Aurora will have no reason at all to not support that platform.  It’s now Windows 2008 R2.  No DE stuff to allow any vendor to push back on support.  You call up tech support, you tell them it’s Win2k8 r2, as that’s what it is.

I was honestly really really really concerned that  vendors like Intuit wouldn’t support Aurora.  They’d have an out with that DE on there.  They certainly did with home server.  Past issues of data corruption meant that they pushed back and would not support Quickbooks on that platform.  We have the battle scars of putting Quicken and Quickbooks on DE to know that it didn’t like it AT ALL.  Best we could do is to put another drive in and put any LOB app on there and then lie to them if we needed support and tell them it was Server 2003.  It wasn’t the best of support stories at all if you wanted the Home server in a small business setting.  But now that roadblock is taken away.

Granted it also means a little bit of my deep deep fear for putting client backup onto SBSv7 is gone as well.  I didn’t want drive extender technology comingled with my SBS 2011.  So all of you who want SBS 2011 and client backup and disagree with my stance of not putting it on the same box just got another argument against my stance, but I’ll still put my line in the sand still that I don’t want client backup going on at the same time as an already very busy box.  That’s what Breckinridge is for. And now that DE is not there, if you need a member file server (not a Domain Controller as it can’t do that) in a remote location) Breck may be the perfect solution for that too.  More on that in a later post.

Bottom line, the Home Server MVPs are going to hate me, because while I’m totally wincing at this decision for what it means for Vail, I’m totally cheering this decision for what it means for Breck and Aurora.

Take that Intuit!

When looking at what’s coming down the path for SBS 2011 Essentials … watch also the requirements for Office 365.

Note that Outlook 2003 will not be supported, so the use of Outlook Web Access may be able to fit the bill.

Making the transition from BPOS to Office 365 – Welcome to the US SMB&D TS2 Team Blog – Site Home – TechNet Blogs:

Operating System Requirements

o   Windows XP SP3

o   Windows XP Home is supported but will not support federated identity

o   Windows Media Center edition is supported but will not support federated identity

o   Windows Vista SP2

o   Windows 7

o   Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), 10.6 (Snow Leopard)

Office Client Requirements

o   Office 2007 SP2 or Office 2010

o   Office 2008 for Mac & Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition

o   Office 2011 for Mac and Outlook 2011 for Mac

o   .NET 2.0 or later

o   Lync 2010

o   Communicator for Mac

If you want to see a bit of a sneak peak as to the integration of cloud into Aurora/SBS Essentials

Cloud Enabling your Small Business with Windows Small Business Server Code Name “Aurora” :: 2010 :: Europe :: Microsoft Tech·Ed:

In-depth with Windows Server for the Small and Medium Business :: 2010 :: Europe :: Microsoft Tech·Ed:

You can even see a hint of the console integration with BPOS/Office 365

This week in Aurora beta testing….

Several posters have noted that when you install the Beta and chose the “install updates” option that the DCpromo process fails.  While apparently this is an issue that has a known bug for the beta, I’m not a fan of enabling auto updates during the install of ANY software.

Remember that if you do like I want you to do and say “no” to update during the install of Aurora, you also turn off updates entirely.  So just make sure you go back and adjust the MU settings as to what you want.

And remember tomorrow for SBSv7 we get to test .net updates and SharePoint 2010 updates.  What fun!

Want to know a bit more about Aurora?  Check out this video and info on how to customize an email alert – Home, Small Business Server and Related Technology: Windows Server Codename Aurora–Demo: – Home, Small Business Server and Related Technology: Customizing what is an e-mail alert on Aurora and Vail: