Microsoft Targets SMBs with Data Protection Manager
by Alex Woodie
Windows shops looking to reduce the time it takes to complete backups and recoveries have a new solution available to them in Microsoft's System Center Data Protection Manager. DPM, which started shipping this week, implements a disk-based backup and disaster recovery system, and is designed to replace tape drives and libraries, which are significantly slower than disk. With a starting price of $950, Microsoft expects to have success pushing DPM into the small and mid size business market.
The rationales behind the adoption of disk-based backup are well documented and convincing. The rise of the Internet and global e-commerce has shrunk backup windows and planned downtime, while the amount of data requiring storage continues to grow by 30 percent per year or more. Traditional tape technology continues to struggle with reliability. Restoration failure rates are consistently running between 25 to 40 percent, according to analyst firms and software vendors. Meanwhile, new regulations like HIPAA and SOX are pushing companies to get a better handle on their data and processes through information lifecycle management (ILM) techniques, and the continued price reduction of ATA and SATA disk is providing an affordable platform on which to implement ILM. Add it all up, and you have a lot of market momentum behind disk-based backup, which can be seen in the dozens of new disk-based backup offerings unveiled over the past year.
While it may be too early to put hard numbers on this migration en masse from tape to disk, Microsoft is not late to the party with DPM. Released in beta form in April, and made generally available this week, DPM--with its hooks into Windows and Microsoft applications--appears destined to grab its share of the market, especially in the SMB space, which has been underserved by the early vendors of virtual tape libraries (VTLs) and disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) offerings.
DPM, which is called DPM 2006 in Microsoft's technical materials, runs on Windows Server 2003 with service pack 1 (SP1) or on a network attached storage (NAS) device running Windows Storage Server 2003, and uses the IIS Web server and the SQL Server 2000 database to perform its functions.
The software provides backup and recovery services for servers running Windows Server 2003, Windows Storage Server 2003, and Windows 2000 Server, as well as PCs running Windows XP and Office 2003. DPM agents deployed on the machine that is being backed up replicate byte-level changes made in the files and libraries slated for backup. These changes, which are transmitted over a LAN or WAN using TCP and DCOM protocols, are banked on the DPM server.
Administrators interact with the product through the DPM Management Console, which is used for a number of tasks, including: allocating storage; installing agents and discovering data; creating "protection groups," or collections of servers or volumes; creating a replication schedule, such as hourly or daily replication of change data; and dictating how many shadow copies to keep on tap. (The limit is 64 shadow copies per volume.) Support for Volume Shadow Services (VSS) technology is provided as a "second tier" option for enabling rapid recovery of files, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft has also built "network throttling" capabilities into DPM to enable administrators to restrict the bandwidth allocated for replication activities. The software also supports the movement of data off the DPM server (which should have RAID protection enabled) to a tape library for long-term storage and archiving. Administrators can also monitor the state, health, and performance of multiple DPM servers through Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 (MOM) thanks to a DPM Management Pack it has built.
DPM In Action
Microsoft sees DPM being used to protect information in centralized data centers, as well as data stored at branch offices. The software enables administrators to recover entire servers or just specific files. Microsoft also intends file recovery operations to be completed by help desk personnel and by end-users themselves. The latter is accomplished through plugs the company has developed for Office 2003 running Windows XP.
To put real numbers to the benefits of D2D2T, Microsoft commissioned a study from VeriTest that pitted DPM against standard tape backups and recoveries. According to Microsoft, the results of the report, which it announced this week, show that DPM provided 11.6 times faster file recovery with disk than file recovery from tape backup using the Veritas Backup Exec 10 software from Symantec.
Backup times were also faster with DPM, although by a slimmer margin. Microsoft says the study showed that DPM completed an incremental backup job 3.7 times faster with disk than tape using the Veritas software. In the real world, this number would be even higher because workers must first find the correct tapes to load, says Bob Muglia, vice president of Microsoft's Windows server business.
"We have seen customers reduce 48 hour backup windows down to 10 minutes with DPM," Muglia says. "With DPM, customers never have to do a full backup from the production server again; they only have to do incremental backups, which are much more efficient."
Microsoft, which is also deploying DPM at 130 offices around the world, says it will save at least $2.7 million over the next two years by eliminating tape drives and libraries. For example, the company found that the eight-hour backup required by its Portland, Oregon, office to protect 300GBof data to tape has been reduced to about 10 minutes using DPM. Des Moines Public Schools and the San Francisco Unified School District will also save more than $100,000 in the first year using DPM, Microsoft says.
This week's DPM announcement also includes Microsoft's hardware partners. Hewlett-Packard unveiled a new line of ProLiant Data Protection Storage Server appliances that include disk arrays and DPM. Estimated U.S. prices for these appliances begin at less than $6,000. Quantum is also getting into the act with the DPM5500, a rack-mounted appliance based on DPM and its own Optyon compression technology that will ship in December. CommVault, Computer Associates, Fujitsu Siemens, and Yosemite Technologies are also working on DPM-based solutions.
DPM 2006 is available now through Microsoft and its partners. A single DPM server license costs $950, which includes three DPM Licenses (DPMLs) for providing backup and recovery services for three servers. The software is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. For more information, go to www.microsoft.com/dataprotectionmanager.