Microsoft offers beefed-up backup beta

Christina Torode, Editorial Director

Windows shops can expect bulked-up backup capabilities that extend beyond file protection in the next version of one of Microsoft's real-time backup tools.

Released Wednesday, System Center Data Protection Manager 2006 version 2 now covers several Windows server workloads including Exchange 2000 Server, Exchange Server 2003, SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005.

Another public beta, due out this spring, will include continuous data protection (CDP) for system state, SharePoint Portal Server and bare metal recovery. The RTM (release to manufacturing) is due out this summer with a price tag of $950 for a Data Protection Manager server license and three agents. Broken out, the sever license will be about $500 and a software agent costs about $180.

Protection for such systems was lacking in the prior version of Data Protection Manager (DPM), which did not help the case for adopting the technology, said Peter Pawlak, senior analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a consulting firm in Kirkland, Wash.

"To get broad acceptance, it is critical for DPM to not only recover single files, but recover databases or whole systems," Pawlak said.

The current beta also eliminates the need for third-party tape backup products, said Jason Buffington, senior product manager with Microsoft's Windows enterprise management division. "Instead of being just a disk-based solution, we can now do online disk and offline tape within our own product," he said.

Data Protection Manager

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is best suited for pure Microsoft environments, although APIs are available to tie into other vendors' backup and recovery solutions, Buffington said. "It can also co-exist with other [storage vendor] products in heterogeneous environments," he said.

Still, Pawlak said some vendor partners are sure to feel a sting from Microsoft's entrance into the CDP market. "They have some great partners -- a key one being Symantec-Veritas -- that will definitely be affected by DPM," Pawlak said.

To get broad acceptance, it is critical for DPM to not only recover single files, but
to recover databases or whole systems.

Peter Pawlak, Directions on Microsoft,

Marc Williams, supervisor of network operations for the New York Department of Sanitation's Bureau of Motor Equipment, is using Data Protection Manager and Veritas for disaster recovery. He said he can now do disk-to-disk to tape backup under one program using Data Protection Manager but would like to see Microsoft stretch the backup boundaries to more media formats such as DVDs.

"Let's face it, DVDs are pretty cheap, cheaper than tapes, and you don't have oxidization problems like you do with tape," Williams said. "With a jukebox, you're capable of writing dual side [on DVDs] and can get up to 9 gigs [of backed-up data] and slide 500 of them into a case. That's what I'd like to see."

In comparing Data Protection Manager to the storage capabilities available in Windows Server 2003 R2, Buffington said R2 has DFS replication, which simply replicates files and is not a data-protection product.

Among other features in DPM version 2 are its backup times, which reportedly have been cut down to 15 minutes from one hour. In addition, this version has the ability to create up to 256 shadow copies, versus 64 in the earlier version.

File-restoration capabilities have also become more granular, down to the ability to restore an individual mailbox rather than having to recover the entire Exchange Server, for example.

And although end users can recover files themselves using familiar interfaces, now IT managers also have a single-user interface to manage all of their backup processes and policies, said Buffington.

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