Microsoft disc-to-disc back-up targets storage market

Microsoft has set out plans to sell a disc-to-disc backup application designed to consolidate Windows server backups and cut the...

Microsoft has set out plans to sell a disc-to-disc backup application designed to consolidate Windows server backups and cut the time needed to recover data when a server goes down, positioning it against industry stalwarts such as Veritas and EMC.

At the Storage Decisions conference Microsoft said its new Data Protection Server will be in beta testing with customers in the first quarter of 2005 and generally available in the second half of the year.

Microsoft has already signed up more than 20 storage partners, including EMC, IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard to resell the application.

"About 70% of backup cost is labour. 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, 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 disc for faster recovery. But he said that if he were already using EMC's Legato or Veritas for that function, he probably wouldn't switch.

Other users gave the product mixed reviews. Some said they would consider a disc-to-disc back-up 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, said he has a strict data recovery time and recovery point objective that tape cannot meet.

He said he would like a disc-to-disc 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 back-up suppliers such as Network Appliance have far more mature products so something new, even from Microsoft, could be a hard sell.

Data Protection Server is built on top of Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2004 and Active Directory service, which automatically discovers file servers and then places agents on them that kick off back-ups to disc on preset policies.

Nancy Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said Microsoft is late to the table for enterprise class disc-to-disc back-up, but he said Data Protection Server has value as a lower-end product for remote workgroups as a way of consolidating back-ups to a single disc 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."

Lucas Mearian writes for Computerworld

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