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Microsoft joins continuous data protection party

Microsoft has changed the name of Data Protection Server and is jumping on the continuous data protection bandwagon, but it still doesn't have a product.

If you're heading out to Storage Networking World (SNW) this week, get ready for another Microsoft PowerPoint Special -- a flashy presentation that will hit all the industry buzzwords, maybe even steal the show, but will unfortunately not amount to a product.

>At the Storage Decisions 2004 Conference in September, disk-based backup was the name of the game, and Microsoft announced Data Protection Server (DPS) to fit the bill. DPS, slated for general availability mid-2005, has been renamed Data Protection Manager for System Center (DPM), (don't ask) and is only just entering beta testing. General availability won't be until the next SNW in the fall, sources said.

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To recap: DPS is deployed between a company's file servers and whatever tape solution is being used. It integrates with Microsoft Active Directory in the Windows operating system to deploy agents on any file servers that require backup. These agents replicate only byte-level changes to DPS. Then Volume Shadow Copy Service in the Windows operating system takes a snapshot, which in conjunction with software from Microsoft's partners, is backed up to tape.

The hitch with DPS was that it could only take six snapshots a day. DPM aims to improve on this with a 64-snap limit and works more like a continuous data protection ( CDP) product. CDP combines backup, replication and snapshot capabilities in one. Typically, it creates one backup followed by replication of any changes that are made to the data. Since the updates are ongoing, CDP allows for faster data restore in the event of an outage, and it also makes it possible to go back to a specific point in the life of the data.

The difference between regular point-in-time copies, performed by a snapshot and any point-in-time copies performed by a CDP product, is the difference between a digital video recorder and a digital camera. Snapshots cannot provide the same level of granularity.

CDP is still a very new concept as far as storage users are concerned and could be overkill for many people. The few startups in this space, Alacritus Software Inc. (acquired by NetApp), InMage Systems Inc., Revivio Inc., XOsoft Inc. and TimeSpring Software Corp., are only just beginning to get traction.

Microsoft's entry into this market should at least raise the awareness of CDP, but until the company actually has a product, no one really cares, especially users, who need answers to their problems today.

Related articles:
The ABCs of CDP
SD '04: Microsoft hops on D2D bandwagon
Microsoft's backup software not a replacement for tape
Microsoft adds high-availability features to iSCSI

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