In conjunction with the beta release of Microsoft’s System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010, Seagate’s software company, i365, has entered into a partnership to provide cloud-based data protection for DPM 2010.

The companies are currently developing a combined offering that will integrate i365’s EVault data protection software and cloud-connected storage infrastructure with DPM 2010. The first configuration will include an appliance-based backup solution, which is scheduled for delivery in the first half of 2010 with the release to manufacturing of DPM 2010.

The joint products will offer SMBs data protection for Windows file servers and applications, and other platforms and applications, including UNIX, Linux, Novell Netware, VMware, IBM i and Oracle, according to George Hoenig, i365’s vice president of product operations..

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

Microsoft’s goal is to extend the applicability of DPM 2010 to non-Microsoft operating systems and applications, and to provide an offsite, cloud storage option for backup, recovery and disaster recovery. The benefit for i365 is access to new customers and a bigger piece of the cloud storage market.

Hoenig says heterogeneity is the key to addressing the $1.6 billion Windows data protection market. “Only 7% of users in the market run Windows and Microsoft-only applications and operating systems. This partnership and products are targeted at Microsoft-centric SMBs with other flavors of operating systems, hypervisors and applications in their environments.”

The combined solution will give customers the option of protecting DPM and non-Windows data in the cloud as a complement to onsite backup and recovery. i365’s cloud consists of a network of SAS 70 Type II certified, Tier 3 & 4 hosting facilities, WAN optimized backup and recovery, and disaster recovery experts and processes.

This isn’t Microsoft’s first foray into the cloud. The company announced a cloud storage deal with Iron Mountain Digital earlier this year. Iron Mountain already offers cloud-based data protection to DPM users. However, Karl Dittman, a business development manager at Microsoft, says the i365 partnership opens DPM up to new customers.

“We don’t do anything exclusively, but this partnership is unique at this point in time because of its heterogeneous nature. This will help Microsoft get into a lot of accounts where we have not been able to because they have heterogeneous environments,” says Dittman.

Microsoft also plans to connect DPM 2010 to its own Windows Azure cloud platform in the future.