Microsoft sets sights on disk-to-disk backup

Users offered mixed reviews on the Data Protection Server

CHICAGO -- Microsoft Corp. yesterday detailed its plans to sell a disk-to-disk backup application designed to consolidate Windows server backups and cut the time needed to recover data when a server goes down. The move positions it against industry stalwarts such as Veritas Software Corp. and EMC Corp.'s Legato division.

At the Storage Decisions conference here, Microsoft said its new Data Protection Server will be in beta test with customers in the first quarter of 2005 and generally available in the second half of the year (see story). Microsoft has already signed up more than 20 storage partners, including EMC, IBM, Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., to resell the new backup application.

"About 70% of backup cost is labor. That's what we're addressing," said Jeff Price, a senior director at Microsoft. "Data Protection Server looks the same as any Windows server."

Matt Senken, a storage architect with The Bank of New York Co., currently uses IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager to back up to tape, and he said he sees merit in using the Microsoft product to back up low-end servers to disk for faster recovery. But he noted that if he were already using Legato or Veritas for that function, he probably wouldn't switch.

Other users gave the product mixed reviews. Some said they would consider a disk-to-disk backup product from Microsoft because it would be easier to integrate with their existing Microsoft server platforms and would require little or no training to use and because they want to migrate away from tape-based backups in general.

Jim Grisham, a chief IT architect at Northrop Grumman Corp., said he has a strict data recovery time and recovery point objective that tape can't meet. But he also would like a disk-to-disk product that requires as little training as possible for administrators.

"Sometimes if a product makes their lives easier, it's worth it," Grisham said.

But John Blackman, a systems architect at a West Coast-based Fortune 500 bank, said proven storage backup vendors such as Network Appliance Inc. have far more mature products. Therefore something new, even from Microsoft, could be a hard sell.

Data Protection Server is built on top of Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 and Active Directory service, which automatically discovers file servers and then places agents on them that kick off backups to disk based on preset policies.

Nancy Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said Microsoft is late to the table for enterprise class disk-to-disk backup, but said Data Protection Server has value as a lower-end product for remote workgroups as a way of consolidating backups to a single disk appliance.

"They say they're not competing with Legato or Veritas, but they are," Hurley said. "They want to make Windows the platform for storage."

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