Storage pools are not a new concept they have existed in the Unix/Linux world for a long time but finally entered the Windows world in Windows 8, and Server 2012 (I don’t think Server 2008 had them). In the past the size of a physical drive in turn translated into the drive letter. In the olden days people would even split drives into different drive letters, but this is a maintenance nightmare leading to space on one drive letter and none on the other. The idea of storage pools for the most part is convenience. To remove the limitations imposed by the physical size of the drive an thus on a given drive letter. You simply add drives into a pool and let the operating system manage what physical drive it’s on. Need more space, add another drive and increase the pool size. Gone are the days of shuffling around files between drives to balance or free space. You can also decide on a smaller size than that of the physical drive, to have redundancy (RAID). So for example on 2TB drives you could decide only 100G of that needs to be mirrored. All this is then managed by the volume manager. There are a couple of gotchas you need to be aware of with storage pools.
- if you think your drive size could exceed 2TB (and is not starting above 2TB) be sure the partition table you choose is GPT not GUID or you will not be able to grow beyond it.
- if you choose to use thin provisioning (allowing logical partitions to allocate space only as needed) be aware that if you end up running out of space this is REALLY not handled elegantly at all. Here’s an example. Windows thinks 10G is available but tells you it can not copy 1G. That would confuse most people:
- there is no way to change the RAID level of an existing partition. This one is a particularly HUGE issue. It means you basically need to start from a blank system with blank drives. Existing partitions/drives can NOT be added to a storage pool either. So you basically need to start green field, embrace storage pools, copy your stuff onto it and stay there until time ends.
- logical drive sizes can be increased, but shrinking is dicey
- performance is likely NOT going to be your motivator
- performance of a RAID 5 stripe (done in software) on Windows is bad, I mean REALLY bad, I mean so bad don’t even think about it. Read is fine, writing is super slow.
Storage pools a super convenience that would take a HUGE leap of faith and cash to jump into, but once your there, the days of running out of space on this drive or the other would be long gone!
So where to get started? In Windows 8 in control panel search for Storage (it’s called Spaces in Windows 8, Windows Server calls it pools).
As you can see only unformatted blank disks can be entered into a new storage pool. Once the pool is created your now ready to create a storage space. A space in windows terms is a virtual drive. Here you specify if your looking for any redundancy, referred to as resiliency. This would allow you to tolerate a full drive failure (in the case of a mirror), but at the cost of space. Everything is written twice thus halving the space available.
You now have a shiny new drive letter. It’s worth noting if you choose simple (re resiliency) it’s even worse than that. Because your drive is actually stored across two drives (or more) potentially, you could loose everything if one drive failed. Not just what was on one drive. Now amplify this out and say you did simple over 5 drives (as an example). If any one of the 5 drives failed you could loose everything. This is a VERY bad choice, one that Windows sadly does not warn you about.
So that’s about it, a little sneak peek into Storage pools/Spaces in Windows.
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