Microsoft Pushes Public Beta of Data Protection Software

Microsoft yesterday released the public beta of its Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM). The application marks Microsoft’s first foray into disk-backed backup and recovery.

Formerly code named Data Protection Server, the software is designed to integrate disk-to-disk and near-continual data protection into its server platforms. Data protection refers to the process of backing up and archiving data for later recovery in the event of accidental deletion or a disaster.

“Our whole goal with DPM is to shrink the operational costs associated with IT professionals having to manually recover lost data and manage cumbersome backup and recovery processes,” said Ben Matheson, group product manager for DPM at Microsoft. “From what our early adopter customers are telling us, DPM is doing that very effectively.”

Next-Generation Data Protection

Currently, the most common way to protect servers from data loss is to back up server data to removable tapes. Disaster recovery plans consist mainly of manually transporting the tapes to an offsite storage facility. But tape has its drawbacks, according to Gartner Vice President Ray Paquet.

“Restoring data from tape can be expensive, unreliable and time consuming, often involving manual intervention by IT staff,” Paquet said. “Some organizations are finding that disk-based backup offers a much more rapid and reliable way to handle recoveries.”

Analysts said disk-based backup also provides a solution to a key challenge facing IT professionals — the so-called shrinking backup window that results from organizations’ need to back up and retain increasing quantities of data in less and less time.

The former stems largely from the relentless digitization of business documents and processes. The latter has to do with organizations’ growing need to maintain round-the-clock system availability.

Competing for Disk-Based Backup Dollars

The question is not whether there is a market for data protection software, but whether or not Microsoft can compete against Veritas, NSI Software and EMC Legato NetWorker. But Rob Enderle, principal analyst of The Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld that Microsoft has realized it has to make a push.

“The only way for Microsoft to compete with alternative platforms like Linux is to build up the infrastructure so they have a product portfolio that in sum total is vastly more robust than any single platform effort could be,” Enderle said.

Microsoft sees disk-based backup as a long-term strategic advantage in part of its move to build an overall infrastructure of products and tools that the software giant hopes will rival the comprehensive coverage IBM had in its heyday, Enderle said.

The Trust Factor

But analysts said Microsoft’s biggest hurdle is not software development — it’s consumer trust. Enderle said customers get very nervous about any single vendor owning too much of its infrastructure.

“Microsoft, strangely enough, not only ranks as one of the most trusted vendors in customer surveys but also tends to … rank as the least trusted vendor. This is a serious problem for them,” Enderle said. “Even if you have the best product, customers will try to hedge you with other vendors so that their commitment with you doesn’t become too large. In other words, you become your own worst enemy.”

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