Have you checked out the beta of System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2007? You should. DPM 2007 Beta 1 has substantially improved features across the board, but some of the SQL Server features are sure to be particularly attractive to many users.

I’d be willing to bet that many of you aren’t familiar with the existing version of DPM even though it’s been around since 2004, when it was launched as Data Protection Server. The FAQ for DPM 2006 explains that DPM is a server software application that’s designed from the ground up to optimize disk-based backup and recovery. Let’s fast forward to the home page of DPM 2007 and review some of the major feature enhancements, with a particular focus on the SQL Server world.

DPM 2007 offers customers continuous, byte-level data protection for Microsoft file and application servers, including core application servers such as SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Windows SharePoint Server. Backup and protection is seamlessly managed and uses disk and tape storage. DPM 2007 offers continuous, real-time data protection and backup with “lossless” restores for application servers such as SQL Server. The new feature list just for SQL Server reads like a DBA’s wish list.

My short editorial can’t possible cover the product in full. The DPM 2007 Beta 1 Web site provides a host of information and download information for Beta 1. Microsoft projects the release of Beta 2 in May 2007. The main site for the shipping version of DPM 2006 has lots of DPM 2007 info as well. Oddly enough, much of the DPM 2007 content on this site isn’t directly linked from the actual DPM 2007 beta site, so you’ll definitely want to peruse both locations.

It’s hard to categorize DPM 2007. If the product lives up to its white papers and FAQs, it will be a unique product that tightly integrates real-time data protection with lossless recovery, making the backup and restore experience feel like an integrated and seamless part of the core server environment, especially compared to the “bolted on” feel that many third-party products present today. DPM 2007 also looks like it will offer features not available from typical third-party solutions and will offer them in a package that, at first glance, seems like it will be much easier to use and integrate into your SQL Server environment than a typical third-party solution.

I’ll reserve final judgment on DPM 2007 until the product ships. But if the latest and greatest version of DPM lives up to even part of its hype, it could become a category killer in the third-party backup and data protection market. This product certainly bears watching and should be on the radar of anyone who manages a Windows-based file or application server.