Microsoft Betas Backup and Recovery Product

Microsoft on Wednesday released a public beta of Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, a new disk-based backup and recovery server for Windows file servers that was previously called Data Protection Server.

Microsoft unveiled the new member of its server family in September. The company intends the product to fill what it says is a gap in disk-to-disk backup products left by technologies based on a disk-to-tape legacy.

"We want to be able to recover files in minutes, not hours. We want to enable administrators to spend less time doing recoveries. We want to make sure there are fewer failed recoveries," Ben Matheson, group product manager for Data Protection Manager (DPM), said Wednesday.

Disk-to-disk software ported from disk-to-tape products tends to leave files hidden in large blobs of data and can take a long time for individual files to be recovered, Matheson said. Microsoft's DPM recreates the file structure of the original Windows server on the DPM server -- generally a NAS device or a server directly attached to a disk array.

Administrators can navigate to damaged files through Windows Explorer or search the server for quick recovery. If administrators enable another feature, users with Windows XP Service Pack 2 will also be able to recover their own files directly the DPM system from new menu options in Windows Explorer. Another end-user recovery option will be self-recovery of previously saved file versions.

Even as Microsoft decries the limitations of existing disk-to-disk technologies, a simultaneous release of a new Software Developer Kit for ISVs is intended to create third-party opportunities. Plugging into new APIs allows for disk-to-disk-to-tape solutions with third-parties providing the disk-to-tape end. An early partner is Yosemite Software, which has a proof-of-concept plug-in that will be available to users of the DPM public beta. Microsoft's rule of thumb is to store backups on disk for 30 days then move them to tape.

A private beta test program for the Microsoft backup and recovery server begun last year included about 30 early adopter customers ranging from small shops to Fortune 500 companies. Some 5,000 customers already pre-registered for the public beta, although anyone can download it now. The public beta is available in English, German and Japanese.

Release of the public beta missed Microsoft's stated target of the first quarter by a few weeks. Microsoft shifted the delivery schedule for the final version from the second half of this year to late in the second half. Matheson is confident the product will ship this year, however. "At this point we're code and feature complete. There's nothing that we're going to add to the product between this public beta and RTM. We are doing a lot of testing," he said.

Matheson said he expects the most popular usage scenarios will be in mid-size enterprises with five to 100 servers and in large enterprises with dozens of branch offices. Microsoft's over-arching storage infrastructure design goal of making storage simple enough for an IT generalist to manage targets mid-size organizations. "In general, they don't have a dedicated backup specialist or storage specialist," he said.

Microsoft IT is using the DPM beta to eliminate tape backup of file servers in 132 branch offices. Instead, DPM will install agents on the remote file servers and branch-office backup will be centralized on DPM servers. "We're saving $800,000 in hard costs alone over two years by removing tape drives and tapes," Matheson said.

Early adopters have been able to handle up to 40 file servers on a single DPM server, although mileage varies. "It depends on the amount of data you're protecting and the frequency of churn of that data," Matheson said.

Also Wednesday, Microsoft released a Microsoft Operations Manager Management Pack for DPM.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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