Windows on a USB stick and Microsoft storage unification

Microsoft hinted at two interesting storage developments this week, reports Mary Jo Foley in her blog. According to

unnamed sources, Foley says Microsoft is working on a product called 'StartKey' that functions as a Windows companion. The concept of StartKey should strike terror in the hearts of enterprise security professionals as it would allow users to carry their Windows and Windows Live settings on USB sticks or other flash storage devices (like SD memory cards).

The availability of a "StartKey" beta is expected by the end of this year. The StartKey is said to allow users to store settings from wallpaper to desktop icons, contact lists and even data. Given the difficulty so many companies have in protecting themselves from data leakage, StartKey may not be the kind of device that an IT departments relishes. Perhaps the bright spot is that StartKey is expected to be marketed toward users in developing nations. The thought is, it could be useful in places where people have access to PCs at school or through shared public kiosks but do not have computers at home.

In the meantime, at the SharePoint conference that began Monday, Foley also reported that Microsoft once again broached the subject of developing a unified storage scheme across products such as SQL Server and SharePoint. The question of when unified storage would be available was asked of Bill Gates during a Q&A session. Foley points out that unified storage is something Microsoft has been promising for years with no specifics disclosed about when that might happen.

Gates, however, did say that Microsoft knows that a unified storage scheme would greatly simplify management of its enterprise products. He promised that Microsoft is working on aligning SQL Servers' tables and SharePoint's lists for the next versions of each product. Gates said that the plan is to make Active Directory a meta-directory based on SQL Server. This would, theoretically, be good for the products built on SQL Server including SharePoint, and Dynamics CRM. It won't lead to unification for products that have their own database schemes like Exchange. Gates promised that eventually, sometime in the future, Exchange would be built on SQL Server, too. One can only hope that at that point, storage schemes would be unified across enterprise products. Until then, all an IT department can do is ask and ask again.

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