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Partners May Find Big Bucks in Disk-Based Backup

Microsoft to announce pricing, availability for Systems Center Data Protection Manager at Partner confab in early July.

At its Worldwide Partner Conference early this month, Microsoft will announce pricing and availability for Systems Center Data Protection Manager (DPM), disk-based backup software that the company expects will provide a lucrative new revenue stream for partners.

Microsoft will charge $999 for DPM server software capable of backing up three file servers. “High-end disk-based vendors sell that equivalent function for about $25,000,” says Ben Matheson, Microsoft group product manager for DPM. Matheson says the product, which has been in beta test since April, will release to manufacturing this summer and be generally available in the fall.

DPM is Microsoft’s attempt to take advantage of a shift from tape- to disk-based backups, a market that Matheson says amounts to $2.8 billion in software alone. For Microsoft Partners, the revenue opportunities also include hardware sales and services, including pre-deployment assessments of storage requirements, deployment and monitoring.

The company will also announce it is integrating DPM with the Microsoft Competency program, where it will fall under the Advanced Infrastructure umbrella. That means there will be training available for partners, who can attain a sub-competency in backup and recovery.

Many companies are shifting to disk-based backup because of numerous problems with tape. For one, file recovery is difficult, if not impossible, should the tape be damaged or lost. A March 2004 Yankee Group report said 41 percent of companies during the previous year were unable to get a file back when they wanted it.

Tape backups can also be painfully slow, which is often unacceptable given the combination of data volumes increasing at 30 percent per year and shrinking backup windows. One of Microsoft’s DPM beta customers, the New York City Department of Sanitation, typically needed about 48 hours—or an entire weekend—to back up its 23GB of data. With DPM, the job takes only 10 minutes, according to a Microsoft case study, because DPM only backs up file changes, not the entire file contents.

Cost is another issue. This includes both the high price of tape-based systems and the labor required to operate them, which Microsoft research shows accounts for 70 percent of total tape backup costs. Alternatively, high-end disk-based backup products go for around $50,000, Matheson says.

“We’re trying to drive disk-based backup into mainstream companies,” he says, noting the target market is companies with fewer than 100 servers. “Less than 10 percent of all servers today use disk-based backup. Over the next five to 10 years, the majority will.”

Per Werngren, CEO of IDE, a systems integrator and managed services company in Stockholm, Sweden, has already been talking up DPM with customers and expects to begin some installations of the beta software this summer. He says a typical customer has about 50 branch offices, representing about $50,000 in service revenue for IDE.

“The opportunity is even better in terms of customer satisfaction, because this is taking care of the pain that they have,” says Werngren, who is also president of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners. “They can reduce or eliminate the need for tape drives in those branch offices, and the IT department can sleep better at night because they know their data is being synchronized to another site.”

The Yankee Group study points out some potential downsides to DPM, including its Microsoft focus—it works only with Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Storage Server 2003. It also backs up only files, although Matheson says application support will be in a future version.

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at paul@pdedit.com.

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