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Microsoft Developing Backup and Recovery Server

Microsoft on Monday unveiled backup and recovery software for Windows file servers that will provide continuous backup of incremental changes to files and rapid recovery from disk-based storage.

Microsoft Data Protection Server is being tested by about 20 early adopters ranging from smaller organizations with about 20 servers up to Fortune 500 customers. The current plan calls for a public beta in the first quarter of 2005 and general availability in the second half of 2005.

"It is really something that is focused on providing the best recovery experience for the Windows Server System," Rakesh Narasimhan, general manager, Microsoft Enterprise Storage Division, said Monday.

According to Narasimhan, Microsoft is trying to address three customer problems with file server backup -- that recovery is unreliable and painful; that backup is too complex and slow; and that costs are too high.

Microsoft's Target Scenarios for Data Protection Server
  • Full server recovery by IT server administrators
  • File recovery by IT server administrators
  • File recovery by help desk
  • "Self-service" file recovery by end users
  • Microsoft's answer is the Data Protection Server software that will run on top of Windows Server 2003, most commonly on a server that is itself a multi-terabyte storage device or that is attached to an independent storage device. The other part of the DPS solution is agents that will install on file servers throughout the organization running Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Storage Server 2003.

    The agents will feed incremental file changes across the network to the Data Protection Server, which allows both file replication and snapshots using Windows Server 2003's Volume Shadow Copy Service infrastructure. If necessary, tape backups can then be made from the Data Protection Server, eliminating backup windows for production servers.

    One of Microsoft's biggest selling points for the server is the ease with which it can be used to allow end users to restore their own files, taking IT administrators out of the process. "An end user can point to a file on the Data Protection Server and get the archival version themselves. We think it's a compelling feature," Narasimhan said.

    Ray Paquet, an analyst at Gartner, said disk-to-disk backup is not a new idea but falling disk prices mean it's an idea whose time has come. "Anytime Microsoft announces a new product in a new area, it can accelerate things. Even though [the storage software market] is highly saturated, Microsoft still can have an impact," Paquet said.

    Data Protection Server Roadmap
  • Now -- 20 early adopters from SMBs with 20 servers to Fortune 500 companies are testing
  • Q1 2005 -- Public beta
  • H2 2005 -- General availability
  • Future version -- Support for backing up and recovering other products in the Windows Server System (SQL, Exchange)
  • Microsoft is also one of the first big-name vendors to announce a continuous backup solution, Paquet said. "Right now, the true disk-to-disk vendors with continuous backup ideas or plans are predominantly small vendors. Backup is not something that you want to go to an unestablished vendor with. People certainly presume that it's safer to go with Microsoft than Joe Bag of Donuts' software products," Paquet said.

    After the 1.0 version is released, Microsoft plans to focus future versions on extending support beyond file servers to some of the other components of the Windows Server System, such as SQL Server or Exchange Server, Narasimhan said. The company will also seek to extend APIs to other vendors to allow their software applications to plug into DPS.

    The Microsoft effort got immediate support from about 20 vendors. They included CommVault Systems, Computer Associates, Dell, Dot Hill Systems, EMC, HP, Hitachi Data Systems, Intel, Iomega, LiveVault, NEC, NSI Software, QLogic, Quantum, Quest Software, Seagate Technology, StorageTek and Sun Microsystems.

    About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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