At Westminster College, we made the move to Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 last fall and, with a few caveats, we've been very happy with the migration. When it comes to recovery (which is really the whole point of backup), I've been extremely impressed at times and, at other times, left scratching my head but still getting the results that I wanted. Here's a quick roundup of my thoughts on DPM 2010:
- SQL protection and recovery is amazing. We back up our SQL servers every half hour with DPM. We have had to recover a database in the middle of the day that had become corrupt. From time of discovery of the corruption to the time that we were back in operation was on the order of 20 minutes for a 27 GB database. It's not going to get much better than that!
- Establishing protection is relatively easy. Getting new systems under protection is generally pretty straightforward. Some of the case should be easier, though at least the documentation is clear.
- Exchange protection is easy to establish; recovery leaves a lot to be desired. DPM has what I consider to be pseudo single item recovery for Exchange... at best. Protecting Exchange mailboxes is really easy. The recovery process is a bit convoluted and takes too long. However, once you've done it a couple of times, it's not terrible.
- Disk space usage is ridiculous. For some reason, DPM 2010 has never heard of the concept of storage deduplication. DPM backups use crazy amounts of disk space. Sure, disk space is relatively cheap, but that doesn't mean that companies want to buy a truckload of it just to back things up.
Despite the product's shortcomings, I'm quite pleased with DPM 2010, and I'm excited about what's coming in DPM 2012, which is currently in beta. I'm looking forward to a number of features in DPM 2012 (not all new features are in the beta yet).
SharePoint item level recovery improvements
In DPM 2010, SharePoint item level recovery is available, but the recovery process isn't all that easy to deal with. In DPM 2012, Microsoft has made more efficient the process by which SharePoint items can be restored by not requiring that the entire content database be restored to get a single item. The new SharePoint enhancements also work for SharePoint 2007 and 2010.
If you use DPM 2012 to back up Hyper-V virtual machines, DPM 2012 speeds up the process and simplifies it a bit. Further, DPM 2012 provides the ability to recover individual items even when DPM is running inside a virtual machine.
Improved deduplication - maybe
I've watched various outlets gather DPM 2012 information in the last couple of months, and I've seen more than one reference to a deduplication engine that will be present in DPM 2012; it does not appear to be enabled in the beta. This is by far one of the most critical items needed in DPM, in my opinion, and I hope that it makes its way into a future beta or the RC. If anyone reading this has been able to make dedupe work in DPM 2012, post a comment; I'd love to know about it!
Protection group colocation
A combination of short-term protection to disk and long-term protection to tape provides the best possible recovery opportunities, but DPM has been somewhat hampered in its ability to use tape. Although it does use tape quite well, individual protection groups can't share a single tape or set of tapes. This means that DPM may not be as efficient as it could be when it comes to using expensive tapes. DPM 2012 will allow administrators to co-locate multiple protection groups to one tape or set of tapes. In other words, tapes can be shared, which increases the products overall efficiency.
Generic data source protection
As Microsoft product teams create new products, the DPM team would like to make it possible for these teams to quickly onboard their products for use with DPM. The generic data source protection capability in DPM 2012 will allow any Microsoft application with a VSS writer to integrate with DPM.
DPM 2012 also includes an improved interface, centralized management of multiple DPM servers, and much more. As future betas are released, I will report back on what's included.
I've been perusing the DPM 2012 beta forums and found answers to other questions that will be useful to some readers:
- DPM 2012 will not directly support backing up ESXi.
- DPM 2012 will still not support long-term protection on disk. You still need to use a third-party virtual tape library product if you want to achieve this goal.
- Apparently, you will be able to upgrade from DPM 2012 beta to release candidate (RC) to RTM.
- You will be able to upgrade from DPM 2010 to DPM 2012.
I hope that DPM 2012 provides significant dedupe capabilities, but even if it doesn't, there is a lot of new meat in the product that will make it a great choice for Microsoft shops.
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at email@example.com.