Symantec, Microsoft Plant Flags in Data Protection

Symantec and Microsoft are about to launch new software for replicating and saving files on Windows systems at a greater frequency than many offerings on the market.

The releases will mark the companies’ entries into the growing niche of continuous data protection (CDP), which pares the backup window faced by organizations, because data can be protected immediately. CDP allows snapshots of data to be taken at specific points in time, protecting and recovering previous file versions.

Symantec will launch its Backup Exec 10D on Monday at an event in in New York City, months after releasing the product, code-named “Panther.”

Symantec officials aren’t talking about the software ahead of the event. But the company, which acquired Backup Exec through its purchase of Veritas earlier this year, said on its Web site the new product will “deliver the industry’s first and only Web-based end user file recovery functionality.”

Symantec, which has been preaching a fusion of security and storage since consummating the $10.5 billion Veritas deal, said a feature in the product called Backup Exec Retrieve lets users order up file restoration through a Web browser. This solution cuts administration costs because users don’t have to drag IT into the back up process.

“Whenever a change is made to a file, that change is captured, and it is protected,” Symantec said on its site. “But not only is the data protected, multiple versions of files are captured and available for recovery or retrieval. Backup Exec “Panther” beta only captures granular – or block-level – changes, not the whole file.”

This granularity is what is making CDP such a hot technology: At a time when the government has cracked down on corporations to retain records and recall them on the fly in the case of litigation, tools like CDP prove useful.

Microsoft has its own unique vision for fine backup, though it hesitates to call its new Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) a CDP solution. The company plans to formally unveil DPM at Storage Decisions in New York next Tuesday.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant took its beta public last April and has been building buzz ever since. DPM, which runs on top of a Windows Server 2003, leverages Microsoft’s point-in-time software, Volume Shadow Copy Services Writer SDK 1.0, by modeling how data managers can restore replicas.

There have been allusions to DPM as a product for CDP, an emerging technology which allows stored data to be backed up whenever any change is made. Ben Matheson, group product manager of DPM for Microsoft, has said DMP is more of a hybrid of disk backup because it only recovers from snapshots.

In many cases, Matheson said, Microsoft intends DPM to be an alternative to tape-based storage, which has to be physically transported and is considered less reliable than disk-based products.

Customers will be able to license DPM for $950 in a package that includes one DPM server license and three management licenses, the company said in July.

Pund-IT Research analyst Charles King said he will reserve judgment about whether Symantec’s of Microsoft’s products are true CDP, or just automated snapshot applications, after next week’s launches.

“I think the Microsoft and Veritas [Symantec] announcements next week will be two of the signature announcements this fall,” King said.

“It will be interesting to see how what they announce compares to the CDP for Files software that IBM announced a couple of weeks ago. They’ll all be in the same space, starting out at the lower-end server space and moving up.”

EMC is planning on getting into the CDP game, too, possibly with a reseller deal with startup Mendocino. Meanwhile, other startups like Revivio, XOSoft and others continue to hawk their wares.

King said certain mobile-friendly features, such as IBM’s ability to create a space within a laptop’s hard drive so that files can be backed up and automatically downloaded to the central server, could prove the key differentiation in an increasingly crowded market.

“I’d expect both Microsoft’s and Symantec’s solutions to offer the same thing, or something similar to that,” King said.

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