In Data Protection, Round One: Microsoft vs. Symantec

The gloves are off. Microsoft and Symantec have simultaneously launched their assault against each other in the potentially lucrative market for advanced backup and recovery of Windows desktops and servers.

The stakes are high for partners of both companies. Microsoft's entree into the data-protection market comes less than three months after Symantec absorbed Veritas, which owns more than half of the Windows backup and recovery market with its flagship Backup Exec product.

On Tuesday, Microsoft launched its long-awaited Data Protection Manager (DPM), saying it can complete an incremental backup to disk 3.7 times faster than equivalent incremental backup on tape using Backup Exec 10. But at the launch event in New York, Symantec officials argued that incremental backups are going to become a thing of the past, thanks to the new continuous data protection (CDP) functionality in its new Backup Exec 10d.

In addition, Symantec officials argued that customers will not want to use one vendor for disk backup and another vendor for tape backup, even though several vendors, including Symantec, Computer Associates, CommVault, Yosemite Software and Hewlett-Packard, all support the DPM API.

Sponsored post

"From a business standpoint, DPM will grow the overall market while capturing market-share," said Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Enterprise Management Division. Gary Bloom, the former chairman and CEO of Veritas and now Symantec's president and vice chairman, said Microsoft's entrée will certainly validate the market for data protection and recovery.

But, he said, that will embolden former Veritas and now Symantec partners.

"The capabilities we are showing today includes technology far beyond what Microsoft can do," Bloom said in an interview following the launch. Bloom admitted that Backup Exec customers have lacked a compelling reason to upgrade in some time, but that should change with the release of Backup Exec 10d.

The CDP functionality in Backup Exec 10d is architected specifically for disk-to-disk backup, though it supports tape as well. Data from a desktop can be updated in real time, and with a "Google-like" Web interface, individuals can search for and retrieve their own files on the backup server.

"There really hasn't been that compelling a reason to go to the next version of Backup Exec, but I think there is now," said David Tan, CTO of Chips Computer Consulting, based in Lake Success, N.Y. Tan, who also looked at Microsoft's Data Protection Manager, believes it will more likely compete against Veritas NetBackup, a high-end data-center replication product, than Backup Exec.

"The product looks nice, but I don't know where it will be in five years. I am looking for them to integrate more components," Tan said.

"I don't like the scope of [DPM]," said Greg Barry, business development manager of New York-based Power Consulting, a Symantec partner who has evaluated beta versions of DPM. Among other things, Barry said, DPM doesn't handle native SQL Server and Exchange backups--a function Microsoft said it will add in the future. It also doesn't perform complete system restores, and lacks the usability of Backup Exec, he said.

Symantec is offering Backup Exec 10d upgrades free to existing Backup Exec 10 customers. For customers of earlier versions, the company is offering upgrades for $795. For new users, the server costs $995. Agent servers are priced at $295 each. Microsoft's DPM costs $950 and protects up to three servers.