The Server Message Block (SMB) protocol is the access protocol for file shares Storage Spaces first received attention as a new feature in Windows 8. Yes, it is there, but Storage Spaces benefits are best seen in Windows Server 2012. Storage Spaces allows us to aggregate individual non-RAID disks (there must be no hardware RAID) and slice them up into multiple logical units (LUNs or LUs) known as virtual disks. A storage space allows us to group many disks into a single administrative unit. These could be just a bunch of USB drives in the back of a PC, or they could be just a bunch of disks (JBOD), a tray of disks with no hardware RAID that is attached to the back of a server with a SAS connection. Such a tray can cost just a few thousand dollars. Just like with a RAID array, We can define hot spare disks in a storage space that will be engaged should an active disk be lost. At this point we have enough technology to build a very economic and highly performing storage system. Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V supports using SMB 3.0 to store virtual machines on Windows Server 2012 file servers.
Cluster-in-a-Box (CiB) A new form of pre-built cluster has started to come onto the market in recent times called a cluster-in-a-box (CiB). The CiB is a chassis that contains (usually) two blade servers, with their own independent power and networking, and a JBOD that supports Windows Server 2012 shared Storage Spaces.
Illustration of a Cluster-in-a-Box
The primary purpose of the CiB is to provide a SOFS in a box, possibly even configured by a vendor-supplied wizard. This could provide businesses with a modular SOFS deployment. However, when you inspect the CiB you will find two or more servers with expandable processor and memory capacity. You’ll also find shared storage that is supported by clustering. That means that a single CiB chassis by itself (with possible processor/RAM upgrades) is enough to build a 2-node Hyper-V cluster for the branch office or small/medium enterprise without any other servers (Windows Server 2012 clusters don’t require physical domain controllers) or storage.
Summary Windows Server 2012 has changed storage in the data center (or cloud) forever. File-based storage, specifically SMB 3.0 file shares and Storage Spaces, can offer almost all of the features of a SAN and beat the performance of a SAN at a fraction of the cost. There are valid reasons to favor placing some data on a SAN, including LUN replication for disaster recovery and tiered storage.