Microsoft Moves Deeper Into Storage

Looking to leverage the latest trend toward continuous, disk-based backup, Microsoft unveiled this week its Data Protection Manager (DPM) and said its solution was available in storage servers and appliances from Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu and others.

Microsoft touted a lower-cost backup and recovery capability that is also faster and “near continuous protection” with DPM, which departs from existing tape backup. The software giant also indicated integration with Windows servers, including the beta Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, would provide an integrated storage solution for customers.

However, DPM will be facing competition from entrenched storage players such as EMC, and the fact that the new Microsoft storage solution only works with Windows could be a limiting factor for it, industry analysts said.

Disk Backup Benefits

In announcing the availability of its new DPM storage software, described as “the next step in the company’s Universal Distributed Storage strategy,” Microsoft referred to a handful of customers that had achieved cost-savings by switching from tape backup to disk backup, including the San Francisco Unified School District, City of New York’s Department of Sanitation, and Nitor Global Solutions, a channel partner working with a global media company.

Disk-based backup can reduce the hardware and time required for backup and recovery, Microsoft indicated.

“Backup has been the bane of IT professionals for decades,” said Microsoft Windows Server Division senior vice president Bob Muglia in a statement. “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,” Muglia said.

Microsoft Diversifying

Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio told TechNewsWorld that the new DPM software was yet another example of Microsoft trying to diversify and become less reliant on its dominant Windows and Office software.

“Also, customers are looking for more functionality,” she added, observing that Microsoft’s biggest competition is often older versions of its own software.

While the storage space is not expected to be Microsoft’s main source of opportunity, it will be a challenge for the company as the Redmond, Wash.-based company will be facing off against serious heavyweights in the market.

“As we’ve seen over the last decade, Microsoft has been unable to thoroughly replicate the success, the sheer dominance, they’ve had with Windows and Office,” she said.

Tied to Windows

Nevertheless, DiDio said a company with Microsoft’s market share and resources must be taken seriously by competitors, which include EMC, Network Appliance, Symantec and others.

The analyst said DPM announcement is evidence that storage will be one of the linchpins for Microsoft’s Office suite and server software going forward.

“This is a must have,” she said.

While DiDio noted that the new backup and recovery software’s close ties to Windows will be a selling point for Microsoft, the new software may also be limited by the fact it only works on Windows.

“It’s an advantage because Microsoft has always touted close symbiosis and integration with other products,” she said. “The downside is, as we know from the Linux and open source debate, proprietary is not always viewed as good. The fact that it is Windows-only will be a cause for concern among some people in the IT constituency.”

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