Microsoft's dropped feature is Linux's gain

HP drops Windows Home Server in favor of WebOS

Tux the Windows Killer
Companies usually spend time and money developing new and interesting features to drive upgrades, but Microsoft is taking a different approach with the "Vail" release of Windows Home Server (WHS): It's dropping the popular Drive Extender feature that lets users "pool" hard drives to increase storage. In response HP is kicking WHS to the curb and using WebOS for its MediaSmart systems.

One of the reasons I'm such a fan of Linux, and FOSS in general, is that no one company is in charge of product direction for the platform. If a Linux vendor or project decides to drop a feature or turn off support for something (for example, Red Hat dropping Xen support) other vendors can pick it up or continue to offer support.

Lack of unified product development and control has its negatives too — it's something that's hindering efforts to produce a decent competitor to the iPad, for example — but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

To be fair, Microsoft has its reasons for killing Drive Extender. Basically, it doesn't work so well at scale and tends to introduce data errors. Oops. So much for the advantages of proprietary, in-house development. What's odd is that Microsoft isn't willing to do the development to fix the problems, and instead is just dropping what looks to be one of the best features of the product. So much the better for Linux.

HP is doing the smart thing here — turning to Linux, in the form of its WebOS. Linux already has support for pooling drives (such as LVM2) that is known to scale, and certainly can handle the workloads that home users and small businesses are going to want.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that HP owns WebOS and is probably looking for every opportunity to maximize its investment in WebOS. But if it's not broken, don't fix it: The company would be foolish to swap out WHS in favor of WebOS if WHS did what the company needed. HP has already invested time and R&D money into the product line around WHS, so it's unlikely to swap it out for WebOS casually.

This isn't a major loss for Microsoft, but it might be a bigger win for Linux. More SMB-focused products like this with a Linux OS can help Linux make inroads where it might not have before.

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