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SD '04: Microsoft hops on D2D bandwagon

Microsoft has announced a disk-based backup and recovery server, but users won't get their hands on it for at least a year.

Storage Decisions 2004 conference -- Microsoft Corp. is developing a disk-based backup and recovery server for Windows Storage Server and Windows Server 2003 users, slated for general availability mid-2005.

The Redmond software giant announced its plans for Data Protection Server (DPS), at Storage Decisions in Chicago, where several hundred users are gathered to debate and learn about new products and trends in the storage industry.

"Microsoft is still a newcomer to the storage business, but this product will ruffle some feathers," said Arun Taneja, founder and senior analyst at The Taneja Group. According to Microsoft executives, DPS is designed to simplify the backup and recovery process by allowing end users instead of the IT department to recover lost files.

DPS is deployed between the file servers and whatever tape solution is being used and integrates with Microsoft Active Directory in the Windows operating system to deploy agents on file servers that require backup. These agents monitor changes and replicate only byte-level changes to DPS. Then VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service) in the Windows OS takes a snapshot, which in conjunction with software from Microsoft's partners, is then backed up to tape. Right now, the system can only take six snapshots a day, but this will be improved over time, according to Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager for data protection server at Microsoft. DPS itself can hold up to 2 months' worth of snapshots.

Microsoft was sketchy on the details of how quickly and frequently users will be able to recover data from DPS. "We are working on feedback from early adopters," said Narasimham. A beta version of the product is slated for availability in the first quarter next year.

Narasimham said the biggest opportunity for this product is among small and medium-sized businesses that don't have the budget or the expertise for the more sophisticated disk-based backup recovery products on the market, but want to get around the recoverability issues with tape. "Customers have too many tapes, they duplicate the same backup, the labor costs for managing tape are huge and massive data growth only increases this expense," he said. "Also you can't recover on a continuous basis with tape."

Taneja pointed out that Microsoft is stepping squarely onto Veritas' home turf, which will cause friction in their relationship. Today, Veritas Backup Exec for Windows is a big seller among small businesses looking to back up Windows file servers to tape. However, Taneja notes that Veritas is building disk recovery into its products while there is nothing to stop Microsoft also working with the tape players. "Increasingly, these companies are going to lock horns," he said. It's worth noting that DPS supports Windows only, while Veritas supports all operating systems

Future versions of DPS will support Microsoft Exchange, Sequel Server and Sharepoint, but no time line was given.


Partners announcing their support for Microsoft DPS included: Independent Software Vendors (ISVs): CommVault Systms Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Dantz Development Corp., EMC Legato., LiveVault Corp., NSI Software Inc., Quest Software Inc. and Yosemite Technologies Inc. OEMs: Dell Inc., Hitachi Data Systems Corp., HP, Iomega Corp., NEC Corp., Quantum Corp. and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek). Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs): Dot Hill Systems Corp., Engenio Information Technologies Inc., Intel Corporation, LeftHand Networks Inc., QLogic Corp., Seagate Technology Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

CommVault has developed software that will move data from DPS to optical, tape or DVD, depending on the users' backup media. "We extend it beyond D2D and we can restore the data to its original location without going back through the data protection server," said a CommVault spokesperson.

LiveVault has written a version of its AutoOffsite software for disk-based backup products to support DPS. It takes a copy of what's on the server and moves it off-site for disaster recovery purposes. Bob Cramer, CEO of LiveVault noted that users still have to install and configure DPS, which isn't available for a year. In the meantime he said LiveVault's electronic vaulting service for remote or local sites is available now.

Some of the other companies selling disk-based backup appliances include: Copan, Data Domain, Avamar, Xiotech, ADIC, Overland, Quantum, StorageTek, EMC, Network Appliaince and StorServer.

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