REDMOND, Wash., July 8, 2005 — At some point, it’s happened to just about everyone who works with electronic information. An important file gets lost. Important changes to a document get saved over. With one click of a button, an entire day or week’s worth of work vanishes into the ether. As such, the ability to recover lost files and other data is an important part of an organization’s IT infrastructure.
Generally speaking, however, methods used to backup and recover data can be cumbersome and expensive, and overall expenditures of time and money can be too much for smaller organizations, or public agencies with smaller budgets. (See related story, Microsoft Releases Public Beta of Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager)
“It’s expensive to back up everything on tape, and even more expensive when you’re trying to find what you’ve stored,” says Per Werngren of Stockholm-based IDE, a 70-person IT outsourcing firm. “It takes time, and in the IT world, managing cost is all about managing time.”
To help fill this hole in the technology market, Microsoft today announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis that it will within 30 days release to manufacturing its first disk-based software solution designed to help companies reduce the time spent on data backup and recovery. Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) allows organizations to back up their business-critical information onto hard disks, as opposed to expensive and difficult to manage tape systems. DPM also allows end users to retrieve files on their own, right from the desktop, without the involvement of IT staff, leading to significant time and cost savings from the IT perspective, and increased control for users.
In the presence of over 6,500 partners from around the world, Microsoft also formally announced pricing and licensing for DPM. At an estimated retail price of US$950, which includes one server license and the management licenses to protect 3 file servers, DPM helps make enterprise-quality technology affordable to a wider range of businesses.
Fitting well with this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference theme of “velocity,” DPM is designed to allow partners to deliver a solution to their customers that is a fraction of the cost of other proprietary disk-based data backup and recovery solutions, opening up opportunities to help partners achieve the next level of business success.
“We think this is an exciting shift in the market, away from tapes and toward disk-based backup,” says Microsoft’s Ben Matheson, group product manager in the Management Division. “There are two catalysts for this. First, the declining cost of disks makes disk- based backup a much more affordable option. The second is Data Protection Manager, the new software technology we’re developing, is designed from the ground up to take advantage of the benefits of disk for backup & recovery.”
New Revenue Opportunities for Partners
Apart from the dramatically lower initial cost, DPM results in a much more affordable long-term data recovery solution, which will allow companies of all sizes to implement, deploy and use disk-based backup systems — especially those small and medium-sized businesses that consider tape backups too expensive, too complex to use or unaffordable. Because those businesses have typically not had access to a solution to address their specific needs, another benefit will go to Microsoft’s sales channel partners, who will have the opportunity to deliver this enterprise-level solution to a broader array of customers.
“This is a great opportunity, not only for smaller companies to get real protection for their valuable business data, but for the resellers out there as well,” says Matheson. “This shift is going to happen, and we are seeing tremendous demand for it already.”
Indeed, in the first two months of the public beta program, DPM has already been distributed to more than 100,000 customers worldwide, including over 50,000 downloads. To help partners deal with this potential new market and take advantage of new revenue opportunities with DPM, Microsoft has also announced that Data Protection Manager will be integrated into the Advanced Infrastructure competency, Systems Management specialization — one of 11 specializations available through the Microsoft Partner Program. As a result, partners will have access to online training, testing and certification, and materials to help them effectively market the solution to their customers.
According to Bill Breslin of Houston-based IT services firm Insource Technology Corp. — who also serves as president of the U.S. board of directors of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners — resellers and channel partners will have a real opportunity to expand their own businesses and increase service-level agreements, while at the same time helping customers to cut costs.
“When it comes to the channel partner business, you can scale up or scale out,” says Breslin. “This gives us a chance to do both. We can offer new value to existing customers, and also provide something unique in the marketplace where now there really is nothing. In the past when we’ve talked about data storage products, it’s been the real high end of the business world, giant data centers for the oil and gas industry for example. DPM will give resellers the opportunity to bring true data protection down to the ma and pa shops that just haven’t been able to get that before.”
Customer Cite Significant Increases in Efficiency, Cost Reduction
One of the early adopter organizations for DPM, the Des Moines Public Schools system in Des Moines, Iowa, provides just such an example. Although anything but a “ma and pa shop,” as a public school system, Des Moines has seen its budgets slashed in recent years. After three straight years of budget cuts, with an aging technology infrastructure, Des Moines Public Schools became involved in the DPM beta program last fall. According to Dan Warren, Network Specialist for Des Moines Public Schools, DPM was the perfect solution — affordable and effective enough to dramatically lower the time spent recovering files.
“We don’t really have the resources for a SAN, and we don’t have staff resources to go restoring files all the time,” says Warren. “When you have 5,000 users, there will always be a percentage each day who have lost something. One of our network specialists was spending as much as two hours per day restoring grade books and things like that for teachers. With DPM, once you show the user how it works, they can do all that themselves. We’re expecting a 90 percent reduction in that kind of support.”
That reduction in end-user support is only part of the equation, says Matheson. DPM also allows IT staff to save time by eliminating much of the work required in backing up valuable files in the first place. “DPM actually works at the byte level, as opposed to the file level where most tape-based software systems operate,” says Matheson. “With tapes, you’re moving the entire file every time you do a backup, and that’s very slow because you have massive files such as Access databases, Microsoft PowerPoint files and Outlook .pst files. Some customers have told us that their backup process has gone from two days with tape to 10 minutes with DPM.”
According to Warren, the district has moved to an electronic grading system. So it’s not just lost term papers the district is dealing with, it’s important public records. And DPM has also allowed the district to begin implementing a comprehensive disaster-recovery system where before they had none.
“We were in file recovery mode before and never really had a disaster plan,” he says. “We had 40 tape devices that were not being regularly maintained offsite. With DPM, we can back our files up to our main server farm, and use our existing tape devices to facilitate offsite disaster recovery.
“DPM was a perfect fit for us. It’s very affordable and easy to use. DPM will allow us to do everything we’ve been trying to do the past two or three years, within our budget and with the equipment we already have.”
According to IDE’s Werngren, the concept of centralizing data storage for large, distributed networks as the district has done is a key idea that should make DPM a hit for many types of organizations, such as those with franchises and dispersed branch offices. These companies may spend a great deal of money on tapes and tape devices to back up data at each branch location. Because IT support may or may not exist in a certain branch office, maintenance and troubleshooting for tape devices can be spotty at best. DPM allows the organization to deploy the solution at headquarters and back up the entire corporate network.
“DPM automatically locates all servers and allows the administrator to easily install the DPM agent on every server in the network,” says Werngren. “So when you have those big data centers, it makes it much easier not only to back up the data, but to set up the solution initially. It is so easy to install the agents, so easy to feel secure that you have all your data backed up. This is that rare solution that actually brings peace of mind to the IT department.”
According to Matheson, when you add it all up, DPM is a compelling, valuable solution for companies of all sizes, and customer interest in the product already indicates for strong adoption upon the product’s general availability, sometime in the second half of 2005.
“Apart from the business and IT value of the solution, allowing users to do their own recoveries is just a huge benefit for any organization. Now any average guy in marketing like myself can recover any file from any point in time. I can do a recovery in less than a minute, where it previously may have taken a day to get that file back.”