Wouldn’t it be great if you could use something as simple as a Windows file server to store and share something as complex as a server application like Hyper-V and SQL? Microsoft asked itself the same thing and made this possible with the release SMB 3.0 in Windows Server 2012 and Window 8.
Sharing resources on Microsoft networks is nothing new. Printers and folders have been shared using authenticated communication for a long time, thanks to the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. This simple method of sharing data was used to share files and now, with SMB 3.0, it can be used to store dynamic (live) data like virtual machines and databases.
What does SMB 3.0 do?
SMB 3.0 allows server applications like SQL and Hyper-V to be stored in a file share on a Windows 2012 file server – the same kind of file server you use to share your word documents.
Achieving this was not easy. Microsoft had to go to great lengths to develop the SMB protocol and the result was SMB 3.0 for Window Server 2012. This new SMB 3.0 protocol has a set of powerful features and optimizations. Two features in particular stand out.
Support for clustered storage
Making a Windows file server a viable storage solution for enterprise applications, means supporting the clustered storage that enterprise applications like Hyper-V and SQL use. Clusters provide high availability due to their failover ability. If a cluster’s node fails, another node will be mounted and continue to make the data available, while maintaining any locks an application has on that data.
If a failure occurs on a clustered file server, a SMB 3.0 file share can transparently reconnect to another cluster node without intervention.
Support for VSS
When you backup a Hyper-V or SQL application the data is always changing, meaning it is hard to get a consistent point-in-time backup. VSS makes this possible by using a snapshot of the data so that an application-consistent backup can be made, while the data is in use.
SMB 3.0 allows you to perform these application-consistent VSS backups on remote SMB 3.0 file shares. This is a significant feature because on application servers, VSS snapshots can only be maintained on the server’s local volume.
SMB 3.0 support for VSS
This support is a big deal because you can now use VSS to make application-consistent backups of server applications on remote file servers. For example, you could have a Hyper-V host’s guests (virtual machines) on remote files shares.
This is all made possible by a feature called “VSS for SMB File Shares” in Windows Server 2012,” which uses a set of behind the scenes technologies to run VSS seamlessly and transparently in both local and remote SMB 3.0 file server shares.
VSS for SMB File Shares is not just for server applications, but for general data as well. End user files can be stored on a remote file share and backed up consistently, while it is in use, using VSS.
Advantages of SMB 3.0 file shares
SMB 3.0 opens up a lot of possibilities for both application backups and general data backups on Windows Server 2012.
- Small to medium business can now use cheaper file servers for SQL and Hyper-V servers.
- Server applications are easier to manage and administer on file shares.
- It is easier for large businesses and service providers to move data workloads on file shares.
- Both server applications and data can be backed up using VSS on remote file server shares.
In our next article, we’ll look at how BackupAssist can backup data and server applications with VSS support on remote file shares.
To learn more about SMB 3.0, have a look at these great resources: