Microsoft Enters Backup, Recovery Field with DPM Beta

The disk-based Data Protection Manager, integrating with Active Directory, allows faster recovery and can function with many tape systems.

In its first foray into backup and recovery, Microsoft announced Wednesday that its long-awaited data protection product is now in beta release.

The product, formerly code-named Data Protection Manager and now called Microsoft System Center DPM (Data Protection Manager), is a disk-based backup and recovery product for Microsoft-based environments.

The product integrates with Active Directory to discover all of the servers on a network that an organization wants to protect. The administrator then deploys agents to those servers, which track any changes being made.

The administrator also can schedule when snapshots are taken and applied to DPM to ensure that changes have been recorded. Snapshots can be kept on disk as long as necessary in the event that a disk-based recovery is needed.

The development of DPM is the result of years of analysis by Microsoft Corp., which reportedly interviewed numerous internal and external customers to determine their backup and recovery concerns. The main areas of concern were painful and unreliable recovery, unnecessarily complex backup and high cost.

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"On the recovery side, they would say they could always guarantee a backup but could never guarantee a recovery. We heard anecdotally that 42 percent of companies have had failed recoveries in the past year, and about half the customers we talked to said they backed up but didnt have a way to verify whether the recovery was successful," said Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager of Data Protection Manager.

Most users will benefit from using both disk-based DPM and tape technology in a disk-to-disk scenario, where replicated data is stored to disk for about 30 days and then backed up to tape for longer-term archiving and disaster recovery, Narasimhan said. DPM works well with many tape systems, he said.

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The disk-based nature of Microsofts offering makes it unlike other backup and recovery products geared to the Microsoft environment, said Raymond Paquet, a vice president at Gartner of Stamford, Conn. Primary competitors, including Veritas Software Corp., Computer Associates International Inc. and CommVault Systems Inc., all rely on tape for their backup and recovery offerings, he said.

The fact that the product is disk-based naturally boosts backup and recovery speeds—because the system moves only byte-level changes of the files on production servers instead of doing a full backup of any file that is changed. To recover data, users browse a set of folders on a file share and copy them directly from the server running DPM to the production server.

Eventually, Paquet said, other backup and recovery vendors will move to disk, but for now, Microsoft has leaped ahead technologically. In the meantime, Microsoft could grab some market share because of its approach, he said.

Along with the beta release of DPM, Microsoft announced the Volume Shadow Copy Services Writer Software Development Kit 1.0 for DPM, which enables the industry to back up DPM to tape, and the Microsoft Operations Manager 2005, which allows users to manage multiple DPM servers from one console.

In the long term, Microsofts goal in the backup and recovery market is fairly straightforward.

"We would like to take high-end niche technology and drive it into every customer segment," Narasimhan said. "And we want to make sure our solution fits in with the existing infrastructure and integrates with other tape software customers already have."

Next up for Microsoft, Narasimhan said, is an expansion of DPM from protection of file servers to other data sources, including Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint.

Microsoft plans to release DPM to the public this summer.

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