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Microsoft launches mini-attack on data back-up market

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Storage Decisions Microsoft's storage ambitions are expanding with the vendor today announcing plans to release new data backup software.

Microsoft is looking to compete at the low-end of the data backup market by releasing a product dubbed Data Protection Server (DPS). The first iteration of this software will handle basic backup tasks for Windows file servers. Down the road, Microsoft also hopes to roll out similar technology for its Exchange, SQL Server and Sharepoint products. In each case, the idea is to let users, instead of administrators, easily recover past versions of their files or data.

"We are tying to introduce a product here that delivers the best disk-based data protection experience for the Windows server system," said Jeff Price, a senior director in Microsoft's storage group, during a press conference here at the Storage Decisions conference.

Microsoft was fairly thin on DPS details, as the product is not expected to enter beta until the early part of next year and not actually to ship until the second half of 2005. Anyone else thinking 2006?

Microsoft would say that DPS would give administrators a simple tool to govern when users could retrieve their own files.

"From the Windows desktop, users will be able to see any versions of a file DPS is protecting," Price said.

Admins could, for example, tell DPS to look for file changes every hour and then decide which versions of this file users can access. The need for this type of software comes as a result of the time admins have to spend recovering files and helping out users. Why not let the plebs help themselves?

A number of vendors in the Windows backup market clearly provide similar technology today. Microsoft will happily continue working with third party vendors but wants to make its software available - particularly for small and medium-sized businesses that might not be buying high-end backup software products. Software makers such as CA, LiveVault and Quest have all already pledged to work with Microsoft's DPS technology. Veritas was notably absent from Microsoft press materials, although Price says DPS discussions are currently underway between the two vendors.

DPS must run on a Windows 2003 Server system but can perform backup duties for Windows 2000 file servers as well. Microsoft rolled out file server support first as it said this is what customers were most interested in, and the company would not say when email and database backup support would arrive.

Overall, Microsoft has slowly but surely been increasing its position in the storage software market. With help from the likes of HP, Dell and EMC, Microsoft's network attached storage (NAS) operating system has made strong inroads in the market. Now it looks as if its is determined to bundle more storage tools into Windows and give partners a run for their money.

More information on the product is available here. ®

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