Microsoft’s Windows Home Server was supposed to revolutionize the digital household when it was introduced back in 2007, providing centralized access to digital media throughout a home and centralized backup without all the headaches and technical expertise normally required to run a server setup. Although the product has never really caught on with mainstream computer users, it nonetheless earned an enthusiast following amongst those who were technical enough to understand how to take advantage of the server’s features and appreciate that they didn’t have to be any more technical to use them.
Now, however, the Windows Home Server ecosystem may have been dealt a serious blow: Hewlett-Packard is discontinuing its MediaSmart Server line and will not be introducing any future models. HP will continue to sell its existing MediaSmart Server products through the end of 2010 and will honor existing support and service agreements. The news first broke on the MediaSmartServer.net blog, which includes a statement from HP indicating the company is shifting its focus to webOS-based solutions. Microsoft later confirmed HP will be discontinuing MediaSmart servers, but added that vendors like Acer and and Tranquil are still partners on the platform.
Microsoft is also quick to point out that HP’s announcement is not related to feature changes in the forthcoming update to Windows Home Server, codenamed “Vail.” Microsoft recently announced that Vail will not include support for Drive Extender technology, a file-based replication system that enabled easy storage expansion on Home Server devices—literally as simple as plugging in a new drive and having the system automatically utilize the newly available storage. Many Home Server users leveraged Drive Extender to pool a collection of relatively low-capacity drives together into a single logical volume for use with Home Server. Microsoft argued that the growing availability of terabyte-sized drives makes Drive Extender unnecessary, and Drive Extender “was not meeting customer needs;” however, Windows Home Server fans are raising a ruckus to see the feature preserved, and are hoping Microsoft re-examines their decision.