Remember my previous post about Microsoft Data Protection Server? Now I can talk about it a bit more in-depth. Heck, even The Register is talking about it. Microsoft has changed the name of the product; it’s now Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM). Because I’ve been working on a DPM project, I’ve known about the name change for a while. Now that DPM has gone beta, Microsoft updated the site with the new name. This is the first application, to my knowledge, that requires Windows Server 2003 SP1.
Paul wrote the overview paper that’s on the DPM site. I worked with Paul and the incomparable Jim Boyce to produce the papers that explain how to integrate DPM with assorted backup systems. As usual, we got to work with the talented and dedicated folks at Microsoft; they gave us excellent support, technical expertise, and feedback all through the project. I worked primarily on the DPM and Veritas BackupExec paper and the DPM with Yosemite Backup paper. Although I helped with some minor touch-ups, Jim wrote theDPM and Windows Backup paper.
I found an unexpected but welcome perk with this project: getting to work with the fine folks at Yosemite Technology (hello Daniel, Alan, and Ken!). I’d never used their Yosemite Backup product before this project, but I’m definitely going to be giving it a closer look in the upcoming weeks. Through my years as a sysadmin, backups and restores have always been a chore; something you do because you have to, not because it’s sexy or fun. I caught myself having fun with their product and their people were always a pleasure to work with. Alan deserves special mention for going above and beyond the call of duty; he actually returned my calls from the beach on his day off. More about Yosemite in upcoming posts.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, DPM is a client-server product that allows you to define protected volumes and shares on your production file servers. The DPM agent replicates protected data to the central DPM server according to the schedule you define (as often as hourly); the DPM server stores these replicas. This replication happens at the file block, so only the data that is actually changing gets replicated. Once the data is safely replicated, DPM creates snapshots of the replicas according to a separate schedule. These snapshots can be used for end-user point-in-time recovery of files. Not only do you protect your data from loss events, you gain file versioning capabilities on all of your DPM-protected servers. When you want to archive your data to tape, you use a DPM-aware backup system (like Yosemite) or the included utilities to create a special backup snapshot of your replicas. The backup happens directly from the DPM server, which means you can do it in the middle of the day. DPM is the backup window killer.
DPM is a joy to work with. The actual protection process is extremely simple: install the DPM client on your file servers, define your protection groups (a collection of shares and volumes that have the same policies defined), and start synchronizing your data. This product really makes you sit up and take notice of the Windows Server 2003 Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) technology, as it extends it across the network to allow you to effortlessly create and manage point-in-time copies of your data (even if it wasn’t originally on a Windows 2003 server).
I found that it was actually harder to install DPM than it was to use it, and then only because it has some hefty dependencies. DPM requires SQL Server 2000 (plus service pack) and the SQL Server Reporting Services (plus service pack). It makes for a long install process, although the wizard-driven installer does most of the heavy lifting of configuration. If you’re having flashbacks to installing the MIIS Feature Pack, don’t worry; DPM installation is a lot less work. You owe it to yourself to grab the beta and look at this product.