Microsoft eyes data-protection market

By Sonia R. Lelii

Microsoft has signaled its intent to jump further into the storage market with the announcement of a continuous disk-based replication and recovery product. However, its Data Protection Server (DPS) will not be available until at least the second half of 2005.

The DPS application will work only on Windows servers and will take advantage of features such as Active Directory service, Windows Storage Server 2003, and the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) API to enable continuous snapshots of data on open files while storing data on disk-most likely, Serial ATA (SATA) disks.

Microsoft officials claim that DPS provides rapid recovery via disk-based backup/recovery; continuous data protection, without impacting applications; and integration with tape through an interface that is based on the VSS API.

More than 20 vendors announced support for DPS when Microsoft made the announcement in September. But, conspicuously absent from the list was Veritas Software-the leader in the B/R market.

During a separate media briefing, held after Microsoft's announcement, Veritas executives said they were invited to be part of the announcement but they had declined. "Our decision was based on the reality that this is not so much a product announcement but a product direction. Clearly, this [will be] an entry into a space we are a leader in," said Bob Maness, senior director of product marketing at Veritas. "We didn't feel, at this time, we wanted to participate in something that won't be available for another year."

Nancy Hurley, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, says the DPS product does full replication of data when it is initially installed, through agents that are sent out to each Windows server to be protected. Thereafter, the software does continuous snapshot replications of only the bytes that have changed. Hurley describes DPS as more of a data-replication product than a backup tool in the traditional sense. For instance, she points out that traditional backups are all done under the control of a single file system.

But other analysts say the distinction between traditional backup and replication is eroding. Arun Taneja, founder of the Taneja Group consulting firm, says that three years from now most environments will have a disk-based data-protection solution that fits between the primary disk subsystem and tape archiving. "People are not going to be saying, 'This is backup and this is replication.' They are just going to be talking about data protection. As we go further in the network, the line between replication and backup will blur even further."

DPS will let users directly recover data themselves instead of relying on storage administrators. "There will be a level of transparency, so administrators could allow end users to do their own recovery," Hurley explains.

DPS supporters

Vendors that have announced support for Microsoft's DPS include the following:
CommVault LeftHand Networks
Computer Associates LiveVault
Dantz Development NEC
Dell NSI Software
Dot Hill QLogic
EMC Quantum
Engenio Quest Software
Hewlett-Packard Seagate
Hitachi Data Systems StorageTek
Intel Sun
Iomega Yosemite Technologies

This article was originally published on November 01, 2004