Microsoft enters D2D backup market

By Ann Silverthorn

This month, Microsoft released to manufacturing its first disk-to-disk (D2D) backup/recovery software, Data Protection Manager, designed to help companies reduce the time spent on data backup and recovery. General availability is expected in 60 to 90 days through the channel. Microsoft also announced the rollout of related channel training programs and marketing tools.

Microsoft is expected to compete with a variety of backup software vendors-most notably, perhaps, Veritas.

Ray Paquet, vice president and research director at the Gartner Inc. IT consulting firm, says, “Microsoft will most frequently run into Veritas in the backup arena, because Veritas is the market leader with its Backup Exec product.”

Veritas recently announced its “Panther” continuous data protection, or CDP, software, which is integrated with Veritas’ Backup Exec and will compete with Microsoft’s DPM. Panther is due later this year.

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Paquet also cited the other big backup vendors as Microsoft competitors, including EMC with its Retrospect product from Dantz, IBM’s Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), and Computer Associates’ ARCServ.

Although Microsoft’s DPM provides “near continuous data protection” rather than CDP, Brad O’Neill, senior analyst and consultant with the Taneja Group, says that Microsoft will theoretically compete against a number of emerging CDP software vendors, including Mendocino and Revivio. However, he says, “in reality, the high-end multi-platform database deployment scenarios for these advanced CDP applications are dramatically different from where you’re going to see Microsoft’s DPM. They simply solve different recovery challenges.”

O’Neill says the more interesting near-term competitive scenario for Microsoft will be with early CDP players that staked their turf on the Microsoft platform. This category includes vendors such as Mimosa Systems, Storactive, TimeSpring, XOSoft, and newcomer Lasso Logic (see “Lasso CDP targets SMBs,” p. 24). However, O’Neill notes that “these vendors can read market signals as well as anyone. You can expect to see them continue to add high-value functionality for specific applications, such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server, and to reach out to address life-cycle issues like archiving and disaster recovery, and/or to focus on the needs of particular market segments.”

Currently, DPM (officially known as System Center Data Protection Manager) works only with Microsoft’s Windows Server System. For this reason, Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with the Data Mobility Group consulting firm, thinks that CDP vendors such as Kashya (see “Kashya adds CDP to DR,” p. 25), Mimosa, Revivio, and Lasso Logic won’t be threatened initially. “If you’re running Unix, Linux, and other operating systems and you’re looking for a CDP engine that’s going to talk to all these different platforms, DPM isn’t for you,” says McAdam.

“Originally we thought DPM was going to be like the CDP technology that a lot of vendors are coming out with,” she adds. “But if you look at the latest Microsoft announcement, they say this isn’t really CDP technology, which tracks every single block or update that occurs. It’s really the ability to take up to 64 snapshots. So, they’ve backed off on what they were going to deliver. Therefore, while a lot of people are saying Microsoft’s DPM is a threat to the CDP vendors, I don’t view it that way. They have yet to deliver CDP.”

Impressive user interest

After the April announcement of free beta versions of DPM, more than 100,000 copies of the software were distributed in the first two months, including more than 50,000 customer-initiated downloads, according to Microsoft officials.

The estimated retail price for DPM is $950, which includes one server license and a management license to protect three file servers. Customers can also buy incremental DPM licenses, which are needed for every server to be protected.

“The pricing is in line with Microsoft’s general mission-software for the masses,” says Ben Matheson, group product manager at Microsoft. “We’re trying to create a cost-effective price point and drive DPM and disk-based backup to mainstream customers.”

“If you look at the future of advanced disk-based recovery, the existence of a $950-per-server solution from Microsoft is going to be a juggernaut,” says Taneja Group’s O’Neill. Although O’Neill doesn’t think DPM will blow the lid off all its competitors in its first release, “within three years a mature and feature-rich DPM platform will change the data-protection software landscape in significant ways. More than 50,000 downloads of the beta indicates more than a trivial level of market interest in this product.”

However, DPM will not be the dominant data-protection tool for the enterprise, according to Gartner’s Paquet, in part because it’s not heterogeneous.

“And some of the other vendors might support Exchange and SQL Server, for example, which the initial version of DPM does not support,” he adds.

Eliminating the backup window

An early DPM adopter was Des Moines Public Schools (with 5,000 employees and 32,000 students), which had been facing severe budget cuts for the past three years. Having run Windows Server System for seven years, Dan Warren, one of the school district’s network specialists, heard about the beta version of DPM in the fall of 2004. Des Moines Public Schools now backs up 40 of its 100 servers to a DPM server-a Dell 4600 with 700GB. “The initial setup of the DPM server was time-consuming because we had to do a full replication. Now, only the byte-level changes of the files are replicated,” says Warren. Backing up each of the school district’s servers to digital audio tape (DAT) drives used to take 36 hours during weekend backups. Now it takes three hours, since they back up only the DPM server to tape for off-site disaster recovery. “The DAT drives have been dying for a couple of years now. We’re going to phase them out completely,” says Warren.

Restores are much quicker now, too. Restoring grade books that were written over or deleted by mistake used to require an administrator to search for a backup tape and then locate the particular file that teachers might be looking for. Now the teachers can simply right click and restore the data themselves.

With its “near continuous data protection,” DPM shrinks the potential data loss down to one hour and eliminates the backup window. An agent is deployed to branch office servers, and the agent captures data and replicates it to a DPM server. DPM takes snapshots to enable recovery at multiple points in time.

After the first full replication, data is then captured at the byte level rather than creating a full replication at each snapshot.

DPM uses the Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) feature of Windows Server 2003 and a mechanism to create consistent point-in-time copies of data called shadow copies. New shadow copies can be made up to a total of 64 copies per volume. Old shadow copies are purged when the size of all copies reaches a configurable maximum or 64 shadow copies, whichever comes first.

Practice what you preach

Microsoft’s own IT Data Protection Services Group anticipates saving $2.7 million over the next two years by deploying DPM to centralize the backup-and-restore services protecting 130 branch offices (for details, visit www.microsoft.com/dpm). The total backup volume for Microsoft, including its 130 branch offices, is estimated at 1,800TB per month, and it’s growing at a rate of 30% per year.

Microsoft anticipates the hard-dollar savings by removing tape-based hardware and software from the branch offices. Microsoft found a 17% annual failure rate for the tape drives. Now, DPM servers in three regional data centers around the world provide centrally administered backup-and-restore services. The IT group will also see savings from reducing the personnel assigned to supporting tape-based backups by as much as 40%.

Microsoft uses HP ProLiant GL380 G4 servers with 3.6GHz processors and 4GB of RAM for its DPM servers, as well as ATA-based EMC Clariion disk arrays in SANs, at its regional data centers.

After data is backed up on a DPM server, it can then be backed up to tape, eliminating the backup window. DPM requires third-party software to offload the data to tape. Bare-metal restores can be accomplished with Windows Backup or a third-party tool that supports creating system state backup.

Although DPM is designed to overcome the deficiencies and cost of tape-based backup systems, Microsoft doesn’t recommend eliminating tape completely. While tape can be inefficient and unreliable for short-term storage, it is efficient for long-term storage. Microsoft recommends disk-to-disk-tape configurations. For example, data is backed up to disk and resides there for, say, 30 days, after which it is offloaded to tape. Microsoft will still rely on independent software vendors, such as Veritas, to back up DPM to tape.

Lasso CDP targets SMBs

By Ann Silverthorn

Last month, start-up Lasso Logic unveiled its Lasso CDP appliance, which is designed to provide real-time continuous data protection for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The PC-based appliance includes user-level data recovery, central administration, and “hands-free” local and off-site data protection, eliminating the need for data to be manually transported to remote locations.

In addition to addressing the problems associated with tape-based backup, the disk-to-disk (D2D) backup appliance is designed to solve problems associated with remote backups. In the case of laptops, for example, a software agent “sniffs” the laptop and when data is created or changed it’s automatically replicated to a local CDP appliance and then to an off-site appliance. Remote access features are included for mobile users, providing access to data through any Internet-enabled device. This same scenario applies to workstations.

The Lasso software runs at the kernel level and intercepts data and sends it to the CDP appliance. The CDP appliance can back up open files and databases using File System Filter Driver software that’s installed on each backup client.

In the event of a lost file or a file that was accidentally written over, users can recover data instantly. From the installed agent, an icon appears on the user’s screen. Clicking on the icon reveals a log of every time the user saved documents.

Lasso CDP can be used for local and remote sites, which can then back up to the company’s data center or to a service provider’s data center. An adaptive backup engine detects usage patterns of the network and individual users. Throughout the day it backs up bits and pieces. “We back up at the binary level,” says Anna Yen, Lasso’s general manager, “so if you have a 100K file and changes increase it to 140K, Lasso CDP only backs up the additional 40K the second time around. It also features 3:1 compression.” (Lasso was founded in 2004 by Yen and CEO Steve Goodman.)

Yen sees Lasso’s main competitors as Veritas and Computer Associates. “Most of the markets we go after have Veritas or CA software backing up to tape. We’re out to replace tape,” says Yen. “And Veritas’ new product, Panther, doesn’t have the [level of] CDP we have. They’re still doing snapshots,” she claims. Lasso CDP will also compete with Microsoft’s Data Protection Manager, but Yen notes that “Microsoft acknowledges that DPM is not CDP, and you have to install it on Windows Server System.”

Lasso CDP supports applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, ACT!, Goldmine, Quickbooks, Peachtree, Outlook, and Outlook Express, as well as databases such as Microsoft Access, DBASE, and MYSQL. Pricing starts at $1,449.

Kashya adds CDP to DR

By Ann Silverthorn

Kashya recently announced the addition of a continuous data protection (CDP) module to its KBX5000 disaster-recovery and remote replication appliance. Kashya claims that it’s the only CDP solution to use intelligent fabric and policy-based protection to guard against any type of failure, including a complete site disaster. The company also claims that the KBX5000 can deliver up to 25:1 compression.

The KBX5000 CDP backs up data at the block level rather than the file level.

Kashya also added application integration, backup integration, and retention policies to the appliance.

The device allows users to recover to a certain point in time or to a specific “bookmark.” “The product addresses the issue of application consistency,” says Mehran Hadipour, Kashya’s vice president of business development and OEM sales. “We’ve done some integration with databases in the application environment that allows intelligent bookmarks, which are metadata flags in the write CDP journal that identify a certain point in time when all the databases were completely consistent.”

The product also creates another kind of bookmark through I/O analysis that looks at database transactions. At any point in a transaction, the KBX5000 CDP can trigger a commit and issue a bookmark at that instant. “As the appliance receives the data, it looks at the pattern of transactions based on the I/O pattern,” Hadipour explains.

“It has to know how the database writes, and then it can decide where to issue a bookmark.”

Kasyha linked some of the policy-based infrastructure from the remote application to CDP as well. Administrators can set a recovery policy or recovery time objective (RTO) to a specific application. They can protect locally and/or remotely and can decide which application gets protected without having to do any programming.

Like most products in the CDP space, the KBX5000 can be integrated with standard backup software.

Kashya competes with other block-level CDP vendors such as Mendocino, Revivio, and TimeSpring.

The KBX5000, which was introduced two years ago, can capture data from heterogeneous storage devices and replicate it over any distance. In May, Kashya introduced support for Cisco’s SANTap Service for fabric-based replication.

Kashya’s OEM customers usually provide their own hardware. For direct sales, the company uses an IBM X Series server with dual Xeon processors, 2GB of cache, and QLogic host bus adapters.

Pricing is based on the number of terabytes protected.

This article was originally published on August 01, 2005