Microsoft taps Iron Mountain for cloud services

By Kevin Komiega

-- Microsoft's release of Service Pack 1 for System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2007 is, by itself, a minor announcement. The SP1 release includes bug fixes, increased support for Microsoft applications and support for Hyper-V virtual server platforms. However, couple the SP1 release with a new relationship with Iron Mountain for cloud storage services and DPM takes on a completely new shape.

Today Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Iron Mountain Digital, a Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider and the technology arm of Iron Mountain, to provide cloud-based data protection to DPM users.

As a result of the deal, DPM 2007 customers with Service Pack 1 are able to automatically back up their data to Iron Mountain Digital's new CloudRecovery backup and recovery service for off-site storage.

Data Protection Manager protects Windows application and file server data by continuously capturing data changes with byte-level and block-level agents, providing disk and/or tape-based data protection and application recovery.

With SP1, the Iron Mountain Digital CloudRecovery service option is now integrated with the DPM user interface. End users click on the CloudRecovery option and are stepped through an enrollment process. Once completed, DPM works with CloudRecovery to automatically back up and archive DPM-protected data online.

DPM customers can select data retention policies ranging from 30 days to 7 years. The CloudRecovery option will be available to all DPM customers, and companies that contract for the service by April 15th will receive 60 days of free service.

Bala Kasiviswanathan, Microsoft's director of storage solutions marketing, says the partnership is symbiotic. "Users can now choose to deploy DPM in a number of scenarios for disaster recovery. DPM protects and recovers Microsoft applications, and we're partnered with Iron Mountain to provide a simple way to back up data to the cloud," he says.

Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), says Microsoft's partnership with Iron Mountain creates a win-win scenario.

"With its long-standing tenure as a SaaS provider and in the physical storage and records management business, Iron Mountain is a brand that Microsoft customers can trust.  In fact, it's likely that many of Microsoft DPM customers already do," says Whitehouse. "Iron Mountain can leverage its worldwide infrastructure and expertise to collect a ‘toll' into its digital storage repository, not unlike its business model for physical tape media today."

Whitehouse believes today's economy makes cloud-based storage more attractive to mid-market companies as cloud storage subscription fees are typically paid for out of operational budgets.

"Given the current economic climate, building out the infrastructure, hiring staff and investing in more sophisticated processes is probably not feasible for many companies. With Microsoft providing a cloud alternative, its customers can provide a higher level of service and protection without the capital investment," says Whitehouse.

Along with support for third-party vaulting services via the cloud, SP1 brings a range of enhancements to DPM, such as support for protection of Hyper-V virtualization platforms, including both Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V and the Microsoft Hyper-V Server.

The software now also features enhanced SQL Server 2008 protection, including the addition of new protection capabilities for mirrored databases, support for parallel backups of databases within a single instance, and the ability to move data from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008 for migration scenarios.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 now have index protection, catalog optimization and support for mirrored content databases. In addition, SP1 features added protection for Exchange Server 2007 Standby Cluster Replication (SCR), enabling a disaster recovery solution that uses SCR failover alongside DPM point-in-time restores.

A DPM 2007 server license for application and file server management costs $579. As for the cloud services, Microsoft's Kasiviswanathan says that pricing will be set by Iron Mountain Digital.

Related articles:
Microsoft aims higher with DPM 2007
What is cloud-based storage?
Online backup services gain traction

This article was originally published on January 13, 2009