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Microsoft continues to look more and more like a mature storage player with the release this week of new tools for SANs (storage area networks) and better support for its own Exchange Server 2003 software.

Microsoft has already claimed a nice chunk of the NAS (network attached storage) market and has even been a firm backer of the emerging iSCSI protocol. However, the engineers in Redmond have tended to balk when higher-end Fibre Channel-based SANs come up.

But Microsoft has now released a new Fibre Channel Information Tool, designed to let customers see SAN systems from a server running Windows Server 2003. The tool basically looks out over a SAN and gathers relevant hardware configuration information. It will ship as a free download in May with companies such as Emulex, LSI Logic and QLogic lining up behind it.

Customers will also find new Windows Server 2003 software for "tracing" communications between storage and server systems in a SAN. This tool will arrive with Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003.

Exchange customers should be pleased by the latest upgrade to Windows Storage Server 2003. Microsoft's storage OS can now store data from Exchange Server 2003. The usual suspects such as Dell and HP will likely provide support for this software in the coming months.

Lastly, Microsoft has now included iSCSI support with Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition - the last version of Microsoft's new server operating system to receive such support.

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