I'm seriously contemplating a Windows Home Server solution and am pretty much at a fork in the road. On the one side is the HP Media Smart Server (which includes hardware and the OS), while the other side is the option to buy an inexpensive machine (perhaps via Dell Outlet) and then buy the OS separately.
No decision yet, but the cost difference is negligible... so it boils down to "Do I want something that works out of the box, or is this something I'd enjoy setting up as a project of my own?" Who knows... I'm also considering just going with a more basic NAS style solution.
There are many things to like about Windows Home Server, but one feature that intrigues me is that it has an SDK for writing add-ins (via .NET). I can think of a few add-in projects that would be fun to build.
Unfortunately, the MSDN Subscriptions blog announced today that WHS will not be available to subscribers. They don't comment on why they opted not to make it available... but it's a disappointing decision regardless.
First of all, I should point out that I'm wearing two hats here... The first is as a consumer who will likely be purchasing a WHS license for use in my home (unless I go the pure-NAS route). Because MSDN makes licenses available for development purposes only, I'd be buying a WHS license either way (separately or with the HP server). The second hat is as a developer with an MSDN Subscription who appreciates that the subscription gives me access to the licenses I need to build solutions on Microsoft's platform.
I've seen arguments in MSDN forums that "home" products aren't available via MSDN Subscription. However, I can have a Vista Home or Home Premium install up and running in a couple hours or so using media and/or downloads from MSDN. So there are "home" products on MSDN.
Another argument might be that that it's not technically aimed at developers... sure, but neither is Office, Exchange, or Project -- and each of those is available because developers can build tools that supplement and enrich those products. Home Server doesn't seem any different in this regard with its much publicized add-in model.
Clearly, Microsoft's success over the years is based on the popularity of its platform with 3rd-party developers. Without a rich ecosystem of 3rd party applications and tools, particularly in the business world, would Windows have become the dominant desktop OS? With many agreeing that is the first product aimed at a potentially huge and largely untapped market (small, wireless home networks), why treat Home Server differently in this regard?
In some ways, Home Server is a solution to a problem that many of its target customers don't know they have -- lots of people have small networks at home but no idea that they should be looking into automated backups, remote access to their files, and shared storage for their growing libraries of music, photos, and other data. It's certainly possible that a 3rd-party add-in to Home Server could become the "killer app" that convinces people that it's a "must have" solution.
But if developers on the Microsoft platform don't have access to WHS in the same place they get their other development, testing, and deployment tools, why would they bother?
I must be missing something... what's the downside to Microsoft including Home Server in MSDN?