Q&A: Microsoft Introduces Microsoft Data Protection Server

CHICAGO, Sept. 20, 2004 — For most companies, data backup and recovery is a significantly more pressing issue now than it was just a few years ago. A challenging economic climate, new regulatory mandates, and a greater concern about risks from major disasters, among other factors, are fueling this concern. Fortunately, rapidly declining disk prices are allowing enterprises to augment their data-protection strategies using disk-based backup and recovery technologies, which enable a faster, more manageable and more reliable solution than traditional tape-backup technology. But most of the current disk-based solutions on the market are still cost-prohibitive for many companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses.

To address the growing need for businesses of all sizes to reduce the time it takes to back up and recover their data, Microsoft today announced Data Protection Server, a low-cost, continuous disk-based data-protection solution for the Microsoft Windows Server System. Representing Microsoft’s entrance into the disk-based backup and recovery space, Data Protection Server (DPS) is a standalone server designed to automate the backup and recovery process. In conjunction with today’s announcement, over 20 storage industry partners also announced their support for DPS and their intent to work with Microsoft to provide customers with a broad choice of Microsoft Windows-based storage solutions. DPS is expected to be available in the second half of 2005.

PressPass spoke with Yuval Neeman , corporate vice president of the Storage and Platform Solutions Group at Microsoft, to learn more about what’s driving the move to disk-based storage and what Microsoft Data Protection Server and Microsoft storage partners will bring to the table.

PressPass: Why is Microsoft entering the disk-based storage arena?

Neeman: We spend a significant amount of time with our customers to get a feeling for what their biggest pain points are. So we’re responding to our customers’ concerns about their current backup and recovery experiences by providing a rapid, easy-to-use and reliable disk-based data protection solution that businesses of all sizes can afford. Data Protection Server is a solution that is years in the making, and it ties directly into our overall storage strategy. With DPS, we’re aiming to give time back to the IT professional.

We’re also looking to increase our customers’ overall satisfaction with the Microsoft Windows Server System family. Data Protection Server will initially be able to protect files stored on Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Storage Server 2003 servers. Our long-term priority is for DPS is to provide the best data protection experience for the entire Windows Server System, including Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server and others.

Support for Windows Server now is critically important to ensure that DPS will create an experience and support scenarios for customers that make managing IT simpler, enable fast backup and recovery, and create the most productive information worker infrastructure. Windows Server 2003 is the foundation for Windows Server System, providing the underlying security model, directory services, and operations and management services.

We also believe this arena offers significant business opportunities for Microsoft and its broad ecosystem of partners. Last year alone, the backup and recovery market was worth US$1.5 billion, according to a Gartner report, “Forecast: Storage Management Software, Worldwide, 2001-2008,” published in April this year. With more than 20 Independent Software Vendor (ISV), Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and Independent Hardware Vendor (IHVs) partners promising their support today, customers will have a broad choice of comprehensive storage solutions to meet their data protection needs, and Microsoft and its partners together can create new possibilities for revenue.

PressPass: Can you elaborate on why backup and recovery are more top-of-mind now for businesses than they were just a few years ago?

Neeman: A number of factors have made our customers much more concerned about their backup and recovery strategies than they used to be. Business-critical data and information stored on Windows-based servers is growing — it is not uncommon for customers to tell me that data is growing at 30 percent, 40 percent or even 50 percent a year across all workloads. This growth means that more and more time is required to back up company data, which is already a labor-intensive exercise for the IT administrator.

At the same time the backup window , or the amount of time available when a server is not being heavily used and can be backed up, is shrinking, usually because companies are expanding their businesses and workers are accessing the server for many of the hours in a day. A lot of our customers are at a point where the time required to complete a backup is running beyond their backup window, which ultimately impedes worker productivity.

Moreover, most businesses only do their backups once per day, so they must assume data loss for the 24 hours between backups. In other words, if that backup window is in the middle of the night, all of the various versions of a file that were saved during the day can potentially be lost. So customers are clamoring for a way to have less potential data loss. They want to be protected continuously, or on an hourly basis, or on a two-hour basis at the least. And they want the flexibility to be able to decide how often to back up, versus having no choice but to schedule it at night.

Recovery is also a sticking point for several reasons, most of which have to do with the inadequacies of protecting data using tape. Searching for and finding the file from a tape backup is a slow and cumbersome process. Because many companies generally do full backups once a week and incremental backups every night, it can be very difficult to determine when a file was last backed up and ensure that the most recent version of it is recovered. It’s also very difficult to verify that a tape backup has been successful. Because it can’t be verified on the spot, companies often don’t find out that a backup wasn’t executed properly until they need a file and can’t recover it. This happens more often than you might think; nearly half of customers we have spoken with have experienced a failed backup in the last year.

Finally, U.S. government regulations that require businesses to retain their digital records for set periods of time, such as those defined by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) rules 17a-3 and 17a-4, are forcing companies to have not only backups of their records, but also the ability to recover the files quickly when they need them. Other factors, such as a greater concern about the risks of major disasters, natural or otherwise, and a tougher economic climate, also play a role.

PressPass: Can Microsoft Data Protection Server help to alleviate these pain points?

Neeman: Yes. Disk-based data protection technologies like Microsoft Data Protection Server offer tremendous potential for augmenting tape backup and recovery operations. What Microsoft is trying to do with Data Protection Server is provide a better data-protection experience. With DPS, businesses can recover from three of the most common scenarios that require backup and recovery: a deleted or overwritten file, a server failure or a downed data center.

DPS is a separate standalone server that combines the technologies of replication and point-in-time snapshot technology. Once the data is replicated to DPS, the server creates a series of snapshots that reflect how a server looks at a certain point in time. Unlike backing up from tape, these snapshots take only seconds and have no impact on the server that’s being protected. It moves only the bytes of the file that have changed versus the full file, which translates to faster incremental backups for big files.

Using DPS, IT administrators have full control over how frequently they replicate the data and how many snapshots they keep on hand for fast, easy recovery. For example, administrators can choose to maintain 30 days or 60 days of snapshots. In our research, maintaining 30 days of snapshots allows companies to recover approximately 90 percent of all files that would likely ever need to be recovered. And DPS can be configured to protect servers by taking snapshots on the hour, every two hours, every day, and so on. So businesses no longer need to rely on a full backup from a production server, which means they can avoid the shrinking backup window phenomenon.

However, one of the biggest advantages that sets DPS apart from other data protection solutions is that it enables companies to not only back up but also recover files in minutes rather than the hours it usually takes to do it from tape. For example, if an administrator sets up the software to take a snapshot of a file server every day, the daily snapshot actually represents the way that file system looks at that point in time. So if a file were accidentally deleted on Thursday, but the deletion weren’t discovered until the following Monday, you could easily go back to that point in time by simply browsing a file system.

Another benefit that sets DPS apart is that end users can do their own recoveries directly from the Windows XP client. By giving end users the capability to do their own recoveries, productivity is increased because users no longer need to wait for IT administrators to help them, and IT professionals can regain time back from their busy day.

PressPass: Do you think disk-based technologies like Data Protection Server will replace tape-backup solutions?

Neeman: Data protection is a significant trend–it’s one of the few technology shifts that have occurred in the storage industry in the last 20 years. It lets businesses easily access files, perform multiple restores at any one time and verify online that data has been backed up properly.

That said, DPS is not designed to replace tape backup solutions. Our partners’ solutions will be complementary to DPS, resulting in more choice for customers. We believe the ideal data-protection strategy is to keep 30 to 60 days of snapshots on disk for faster recovery, and to use tape backup for long-term archival and offsite storage. Businesses can keep tapes for many years, storing them offsite so that they can be useful for disaster recovery, such as in the event of a flood, hurricane and so on.

Solutions like this can help customers when an entire data center goes down: If the DPS data has been backed up to tape and moved offsite, businesses will be able to recover their mission-critical data faster and with less effort.

PressPass: In what other ways will partner support of DPS help customers?

Neeman: Because we have a broad ecosystem of over 20 ISVs, OEMs and IHV partners working to provide comprehensive Windows-based storage solutions for our mutual customers, together we can provide a broad and innovative choice of hardware, software and services vendors. This translates to lower costs and better support for customers.

PressPass: How does DPS stack up against competing products?

Neeman: Microsoft customers and our hardware partners have been telling us there’s a lack of an established industry-standard software product designed and optimized for disk-based data protection. We’re very excited about DPS–it’s not a legacy technology that we’re trying to retrofit to disk. We’ve been working on it for several years now, ensuring it is architected from the ground up with disk technology in mind.

We believe there are several factors that differentiate DPS from competing products. First, our focus has been 100-percent on rapid and reliable recovery of data, which means DPS is being built so that businesses can recover their data quickly–in minutes not hours, speeding recovery from network outages and increasing worker productivity. Other backup products on market are focused on how fast they can back up, but not as much on the recovery experience.

Second, DPS takes advantage of the manageability inherent in the Windows platform so that IT administrators can easily and affordably utilize existing Windows investments such as Active Directory, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003. For example, Active Directory provides proactive detection of new servers, immediately alerting IT administrators when a new server comes online so that they can ensure the protection of data before an outage occurs. These benefits, combined with automated protection scheduling, mean that IT administrators can spend more time aligning IT with their company’s business goals and less time recovering data.

PressPass: How does DPS’ being a part of the Windows Server System benefit customers?

Neeman: Eventual support for the Windows Server System means that DPS will simplify IT management for businesses, speed the backup and recovery of their applications and data, and help them increase the productivity of their workers.

One of our main goals will be that DPS will meet the Common Engineering Criteria at the time of launch. The Common Engineering Criteria (CEC) is the term Microsoft uses to describe its approach to creating a predictable and consistent experience across Windows Server System for its customers. It refers to the actual engineering and product design that takes place across the Windows Server System teams to ensure we deliver on the promises outlined by the CEC — simplified IT management, faster backup and recovery, and increased productivity.

PressPass: How does DPS integrate with Microsoft’s overall storage strategy?

Neeman: When we focused on storage two years ago, we outlined a three-prong strategy for Microsoft: To make Windows the best platform for storage, to grow the partner ecosystem so that it provides customers with a choice of solutions, and to bring new solutions to the table. We’ve made great progress with the introduction of Windows Server 2003 and all the enhancements made around the product’s API sets and storage management interfaces. Examples include Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS), Virtual Disk Service (VDS), the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator, Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO) and Storport. We wanted to build a broad ecosystem of partners, which meant working with storage leaders to ensure the platform is a good place to store data. And we introduced solutions that would help solve customers’ storage problems. Windows Storage Server 2003 is another great example of how Microsoft has listened to its customers by providing an easy to use, cost-efficient and dependable Networked Attached Storage (NAS) solution designed to reduce the complexity of their networked storage environments.

Our efforts around DPS align well with this strategy: We are helping to make Windows Server System a better platform and experience by taking advantage of platform storage innovations like VSS, VDS, iSCSI Initiator, MPIO and Storport. We’re working with a broad ecosystem of partners to ensure our customers have a broad choice. And finally, we’re introducing a new storage solution for addressing a big pain point that customers feel today, which is the need to more easily back up and recover data in the event of a problem.

Related Posts