Disk Before Tape For Microsoft


UPDATED: Microsoft has released a beta of new disk-data protection software that provides near continuous data protection (CDP).

The Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) is designed to help corporations trim operational costs associated with the manual recovery of lost data, chores that can be onerous for IT workers.

The software, which runs on top of a Windows Server 2003, is being released with a software development kit and a Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 Pack, said Ben Matheson, group product manager of DPM for Microsoft.

Matheson said Volume Shadow Copy Services Writer SDK 1.0 for DPM contains bits of code that model how data managers can restore DPM replicas using VSS, which makes point-in-time copies of data.

He said Microsoft hopes its storage software partners Yosemite Technologies, Computer Associates and Legato Systems will use the SDK to write VSS-based software that can be used to archive data from DPM.

Microsoft DPM 2006 Management Pack helps administrators monitor data protection, as well as analyze data protection failures from multiple DPM computers through one console in MOM.

There have been allusions to DPM as a product for CDP, an emerging technology which allows stored data to be backed up whenever any change is made. Matheson said DMP is more of a hybrid of disk backup because it only recovers from snapshots.

CDP, which allows stored data to be backed up whenever any change is made, is a hot topic at a time when the government has cracked down on corporations with several compliance and record retention policies.

Regardless, Microsoft and startups like Revivio, XOsoft and others are working hard to solve the inconsistency of data storage at a time when the government has ordered corporations to save their data for specific lengths of time.

In many cases, Matheson said, Microsoft intends DPM to be an alternative to tape-based storage, which has to be physically transported and is less reliable than disk-based products. The company said tape should complement disk storage, and be archived to back up rarely accessed storage. Disk storage is also faster and requires less human intervention.

"We believe a disk-to-disk-to-tape scenario is the best way to deploy our product," Matheson said.

One early customer adopter of the beta, Des Moines Public Schools, employs IT administrators to do full backups of files each weekend. Normally, the process of backing up data for 16 schools running Windows Server 2003 takes about 36 hours. But when those servers are protected by DPM, the same task takes just two hours, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft attributes the speedy backup to the fact that DPM moves only byte-level changes of files on servers instead of doing a full backup. For example, the company said, if a user has a 10MB Microsoft PowerPoint file and changes only one slide, the tape backup software backs up the entire document with every change.

While Microsoft is touting the product for its quality, speed and ability to lower ownership costs by automating backups, it is practicing what it preaches in its own house, the executive said.

Microsoft said it expects to save an estimated $800,000 over two years by centralizing the backup of more than 130 branch offices over the wide-area network to Microsoft headquarters.

Microsoft is working with hardware vendors on how to distribute DPM in an appliance format. When it first appears in late 2005, it will be sold as a licensed software package. At that time, DPM will back up only Windows file servers. Future releases of DPM will support the entire Windows Server System, including Microsoft Exchange Server and SQL Server.


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