Microsoft set to renew IT storage push

But will it boost the software giant's status among corporate storage administrators?

As Microsoft readies the launch of a second version of its Data Protection Manager storage technology, users disagree on whether it will boost the vendor's position among corporate storage administrators.

Microsoft is set to announce the general availability of DPM 2007 during its TechEd IT Forum next week in Barcelona, Spain.

DPM 2007, a component of Microsoft's System Center family of management products, provides disk-to-disk-to-tape backup and recovery in Microsoft environments. The new version has been in a beta-test phase since mid-2006.

Frank Mulligan, a systems engineer at Raymond James Financial, said the updated DPM software still isn't the best fit even for his business, which leans heavily on Microsoft's infrastructure software. "I don't think it's quite there yet as a fit in our environment," Mulligan remarked. "It didn't seem to be [strong enough to] qualify as a final solution."

The company's IT environment is "well over 95%" Windows-based, with 1,050 Windows-based servers, 50 to 60 Unix- and Sun Solaris-based servers, and a massive Microsoft SQL Server database, Mulligan said.

Microsoft recently demonstrated DPM 2007 to IT officials at the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based financial services firm, looking to convince them that it could replace the backup technology from CommVault that Raymond James has used for the past five years, he said.

However, the demonstration only served to convince Mulligan that the new version of the backup software is still not mature enough for large companies.

For example, he said that upgrades to tape backup features still fail to meet the requirements of a large company. "Where it seemed to fall short is if you're not backing up to disk. The recovery didn't look robust," said Mulligan.

In addition, he said, "the interface wasn't quite there and seemed not to be centrally managed."

The storage systems now in use at Raymond James include a Symmetrix DMX-3000 array, a Clariion CX700 array for network storage and a Clariion disk library, all from EMC, along with the CommVault software.

Mulligan said the company stores 600TB of data in multiple databases and backs up 80TB to 90TB of data per week to a virtual tape library and tape.

Ironically, he said that the CommVault software's ability early on to offer backup agents for SQL Server and Exchange helped it take root at the Raymond James.

Comm­Vault's software enabled the company's IT department to complete backups 25% faster and perform data recoveries 75% faster than the software it replaced, according to Raymond James officials. It also allowed the company's branch offices to back up information centrally, eliminating the need for remote tape drive backups, Mulligan said.

Because of the dominance of Microsoft software at Raymond James, IT officials will continue to monitor the progress of the DPM offering, he noted.

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