Recognizing that tape backups have fried many a storage administrator's nerves, giants Microsoft, Symantec - aka Veritas - and EMC have this week come rushing to market with a number of packages meant to make disk backups easy.
The squabble at hand is a busy one as Microsoft has traditionally left more complex storage software to its partners. Redmond's push deeper into the backup market with its introduction of System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) has Symantec and EMC begging for attention. True enough, Symantec and EMC have far more experience and better names in the storage game than Microsoft, but few companies - especially Microsoft partners - like to see the monopolist take aim at parts of their business.
In a shocking show of good form, Microsoft delivered DPM "in the second half of 2005" as promised. The software sells for $950 per server, including a management license to cover three file servers, and backs up and restores Windows files. Users can even restore their own files using DPM without nagging an administrator by performing a search via Windows Explorer.
“Backup has been the bane of IT professionals for decades,” said Bob Muglia, SVP of Windows Server at Microsoft. “Disk-based data protection provides a revolution in providing continuous backup and fast recovery of data. Data Protection Manager will help usher in this new era of disk-based data protection."
But while he says "continuous," he really means "near-continuous" or, dare we say it, "kinda continuous".
Like its partners/competitors, Microsoft relies on its own Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for data snapshots. So, customers can really only take eight snapshots a day and never more than one per hour.
Instead of grimacing over Microsoft's continuous claims, customers may want to focus on the more immediate benefits DPM shows. Microsoft reckons the software can help recover a file close to 12x faster than when using tape and related backup software and can run an incremental backup close to 4x faster than with tape.
AMD, CommVault, CA, Dell, EqualLogic, Fujitsu Siemens, HP, Intel, Quantum and Yosemite Technologies all lined up to voice their support for the new software. You'll notice the obvious, traditional storage allies missing from that list.
Veritas in disguise
Symantec would prefer that customers ignore DPM and have a look instead at its Backup Exec 10d - the "d" is for disk, don't you know. This iteration of one of Veritas' best-sellers includes Continuous Protection Server (CPS), which was once code-named "Panther."
Again, don't be fooled by the "continuous" pitch because Symantec is working off the same VSS limitations as Microsoft. But, hey, in most instances, users will be able to find the older version of a file they need.
Symantec keeps touting the "Google-like" nature of (CPS), which we assume means a clean web-based search GUI and not that your search results will be clouded by myriad blog entries. Customers can buy Backup Exec10d with CPS built in for $795, starting in October, or buy a CPS agent on its own for $295.
We'd provide a link to more information about CPS but can't find a product page for it on Symantec's website. Must be some merger-related integration issue. For the curious, here's the marketing material.
Joe's Bunch chimes in
EMC couldn't stand Microsoft and Symantec sucking up all the limelight, issuing a statement of its own this week, detailing a new version of RepliStor. Wouldn't you know it - the big addition to the software is support for Microsoft VSS.
"Using RepliStor, organizations can replicate critical Windows data in real-time for greater protection and availability; place data at multiple sites for ready access; and consolidate data from multiple servers in multiple sites for centralized backup, warehousing and analysis," EMC said.
Confirming that this was a "me too" release, EMC was forced to admit that the new version of RepliStor won't actually ship until the fourth quarter. It starts at $1,650 per server. EMC also reminded us that this is not its answer for continuous data protecting. The company, however, will have more to say on such a product in the coming weeks.
IBM, of course, has a continuous protection package as well.
Most of you looking out over the continuous protection landscape will probably be curious to see just how well Microsoft pulled off its latest storage foray. The company has made up huge ground in the storage market with a successful NAS operating system and now looks to take control of more and more management functions. These efforts will no doubt grow with the release of the various flavors of Longhorn.
Veritas, however, would really seem to own at least the marketing lead here. It's the Windows backup king and focuses solely on making tape and disk backups better for its customers.
All of the vendors will need to work on providing similar technology not just for Windows files but also for applications. And they've vowed to do so. Those future software packages will have to put the "continuous" back in continuous backups, if they're to be of real data center use. ®