Microsoft Unveils Public Beta of Data Protection Manager Software

The application, known as Data Protection Server when it went into private beta in September, is Microsoft's first entry into disk-based backup and recovery, said Microsoft general manager Rakesh Narasimhan.

DPM cuts the amount of time required for data backups by backing up changes to the data instead of the entire data set, said Narasimhan. It discovers servers through Active Directory, and watches for changes to the data. DPM also allows data snapshots to be taken in order to maintain point-in-time copies.

With customers wanting to backup as much data as possible, anything to speed up the process is welcome news, Knieriemen said. "If someone can provide an application to do this efficiently, customers will be happy," he said.

The biggest question is how Microsoft handles the incremental backups compared to other vendors, said Knieriemen. For instance, he pointed particularly to Melville, NY-based FalconStor, which uses a process called "microscanning" to back data up at the bit-level rather than the block level in order to eliminate bits that contain no data and therefore speed up the backup process and cut space.

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Narasimhan said that administrators can use DPM to set how often changes to data are backed up, how often those changes are tracked on the production server, and how often those changes are moved to a separate DPM server. The administrator can also throttle the movement of data so that it does not affect normal IT operations. He or she can also specify how many snapshots of a data set can be taken, he said.

To recover a file, whether to replace lost or corrupted data or to go back to a particular point in time, a user can browse the DPM server, which looks like any file server, said Narasimhan. Individual files or an entire volume can be recovered. DPM also allows a user to recover individual files directly from an application such as Microsoft Word, he said.

DPM also works on a WAN to allow servers from remote offices to be backed up to a DPM server in a centralized office, eliminating the need for a tape library in every remote office, Narasimhan said. "It gives customers a centralized place to protect and recover their data," he said.

For backing up data from the DPM server to tape, ISVs or OEMs can make use of Microsoft's new Volume Shadow Copy Services Writer software development kit. The DPM application can also be tied to Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 with a MOM pack, said Narasimhan.

Narasimhan acknowledged that DPM will compete against disk-to-disk and disk-to-disk-to-tape applications from storage software vendors. "Microsoft is trying to make sure the solution is affordable," he said. "There are other solutions. But look at their price point. They're expensive. Or they are often retrofit software with tape integration. We want a compelling solution for our platform."

Competition is good, said Narasimhan. "Whether a customer chooses DPM or not depends on whether it's compelling enough," he said. "It's up to us to execute and deliver."

DPM is expected to be available to OEMs for bundling and for retail packaging by year-end, Narasimhan said. Pricing has yet to be determined.

Microsoft is also planning to update its NAS operating system, Windows Storage Server 2003, with a number of enhancements during the fourth quarter of this year, said Narasimhan.

The first, improved cluster support, increases storage availability, he said. The company is also enhancing some management features with a simplified user interface to manage SANs, as well as quote management capabilities, he said.