Historically, businesses have used RAID technologies to avoid data loss when disks fail. However, Windows Server offers a pure software-based alternative for resilient storage called Storage Spaces. It combines internal and attached drives to a single storage pool, where you can create virtual volumes. This feature supports multiple options for data redundancy.

Storage Spaces also makes scaling easier than traditional technologies. For example, if more capacity is needed, additional hard disks can be added to the storage pool.

Storage Spaces requirements

The requirements for Storage Spaces are relatively basic.

  • First, you must ensure that your hardware, including hard disks, is certified for Windows Server, which covers most hard disks on the market
  • For clustered Storage Spaces, you need a minimum of 2 servers, with a maximum of 16 servers
  • Microsoft recommends 4 GB of memory per 1 TB of data

You can find the requirements for deploying Storage Spaces on a standalone Windows Server here.

Setting up resilient storage with Storage Spaces

First, let's ensure we have File and Storage Services installed in Windows Server. Note that you will not see a distinct entry under File and Storage Services for Storage Spaces. It is part of the primary File and Storage Services role capabilities. Below, I have pulled up Server Manager in Windows Server 2022. File and Storage Services are installed.

Verifying File and Storage Services in Windows Server

Verifying File and Storage Services in Windows Server

Now you can begin creating Storage Spaces. An overview of the process includes the following steps:

  1. Create a Storage Spaces storage pool
  2. Create a virtual disk
  3. Create a volume

Create a storage pool

Launch Server Manager and navigate to the File and Storage Services dashboard.

Launching File and Storage Services management

Launching File and Storage Services management

Click the Storage Pools menu. I have added three additional hard disks to the Windows Server 2022 server. Select the physical disks you want to add to the storage pool. From the Tasks dropdown list, select New Storage Pool.

Beginning the process of creating a new storage pool

Beginning the process of creating a new storage pool

The New Storage Pool Wizard launches. Assign a storage pool name. Next, select the physical disks you want to add to the storage pool.

Assigning physical disks to the storage pool

Assigning physical disks to the storage pool

By default, the Allocation is configured to Automatic. However, you can click the dropdown list for each disk and set the allocation for each physical disk. Hot spares can be used to replace failed disks automatically in a storage pool.

On the confirmation screen, confirm the settings, and click Create.

Confirming the storage pool configuration and settings

Confirming the storage pool configuration and settings

The results page will progress through the tasks and create the new storage pool. You can select the Create a virtual disk when this wizard closes option to launch the virtual disk creation wizard automatically after creating the storage pool.

The View results page displays the results of the storage pool creation

The View results page displays the results of the storage pool creation

Create a virtual disk

The New Virtual Disk Wizard launches. Configure a virtual disk name. If you want to configure storage tiers, you can also do that with Storage Spaces. This feature allows automatic movement of frequently accessed files to faster storage.

Name the virtual disk

Name the virtual disk

Storage Spaces supports an interesting feature that enables awareness of storage enclosures. So, if you want to ensure that additional copies of data are spread across different physical storage enclosures, Storage Spaces has that capability.

Enclosure awareness settings

Enclosure awareness settings

On the Storage Layout screen, the Simple option offers no protection. Mirror protects against a failure of one or more disks and has the most impact on capacity but better performance. Parity has less impact on capacity, but a bit more performance impact.

Storage layout configuration

Storage layout configuration

The Provisioning screen allows you to select whether you want to provision the storage as thick or thin provisioning, i.e., if the space should be allocated immediately or on demand.

Setting the provisioning type

Setting the provisioning type

As you can see below, the mirror option drastically impacts capacity, as we only have roughly half of the raw storage capacity available.

Configuring the size of the new virtual disk

Configuring the size of the new virtual disk

On the Confirmation screen below, you see the settings for mirroring. Start the creation of the virtual disk.

On the View results screen, we can select the Create a volume when this wizard closes option. This will launch the New Volume Wizard automatically after the New Virtual Disk wizard completes.

Results of the new virtual disk creation wizard

Results of the new virtual disk creation wizard

Create a volume

The final part of the process is to create usable storage with a new volume. On the New Volume Wizard screen, select the Server and Disk listed. Now we see the new virtual disk created in the preceding steps. You don't see the underlying three physical disks that back the storage.

Selecting the server and disk

Selecting the server and disk

The size of the virtual disk is displayed on the Size screen.

Specify the size of the volume

Specify the size of the volume

We assign a drive letter to the new storage volume on the following screen. It will allow the volume to be presented in Windows Explorer as a regular storage location.

Assign to a drive letter or folder

Assign to a drive letter or folder

On the Select file system settings screen, add a volume label to the new storage volume.

Select file system settings

Select file system settings

On the Completion screen, review the configuration, and click Create. The Results screen displays the results of the task operations.

Results page for the new volume wizard

Results page for the new volume wizard

Reviewing the new Storage Spaces configuration

After going through the creation process of the storage pool, virtual disk, and new storage volume, you will see the new virtual disk listed on the File and Storage Services page.

Returning to the File and Storage Services dashboard

Returning to the File and Storage Services dashboard

Also, you will see the new Storage Spaces volume listed in Windows Explorer.

Viewing the new storage in Windows Explorer

Viewing the new storage in Windows Explorer

Testing your resilient storage

Below, I have removed the virtual hard drive from the virtual machine running the Windows Server 2022 server with Storage Spaces. As you can see below, Windows has lost communication with one of the backing hard drives.

Removing a hard disk to test failures

Removing a hard disk to test failures

However, we still have access to the files located on the Storage Spaces volume.

Subscribe to 4sysops newsletter!

Wrapping up

Storage Spaces is a great way to build resilient storage for critical data without using traditional RAID technologies. Instead, it can be configured and managed directly from Windows Server using the built-in File and Storage Services role. It is easily configured, and in just a few minutes, you can have a storage location for critical data able to withstand the failure of physical hard disks.

avataravatar
2 Comments
  1. Alice 4 months ago

    You don’t discuss performance, which is rumored to be terrible.

    • Write performance is terrible with parity layout as per my experience. People looking for a higher write performance can choose mirror layout.

      avatar

Leave a reply

Please enclose code in pre tags

Your email address will not be published.

*

© 4sysops 2006 - 2023

CONTACT US

Please ask IT administration questions in the forums. Any other messages are welcome.

Sending

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account