Sometimes the most interesting SQL Server news has nothing to do with SQL Server; at least not directly. Last week, Microsoft announced plans to enter the disk-based backup and recovery market with Microsoft Data Protection Server (DPS), a low-cost, continuous, disk-based backup and recovery solution. You can read about independent software vendor (ISV) plans for DPS at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/dpserver/partner.asp .

"Customers are telling us that backing up and recovering their data is labor-intensive and complex," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division. "Exponential growth of business-critical data and new government regulations are increasing the cost and complexity of backup and recovery, forcing companies to rethink their data-protection planning. DPS has garnered broad industry support because it will help customers of all sizes shrink their recovery time from hours to minutes and drive down the cost of maintaining storage infrastructures."

You’ll find additional information about DPS, including an interview with Microsoft’s Yuval Neeman, Corporate Vice President for the Storage and Platform Solutions Group, at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2004/sep04/09-20DataProtectionServer.asp . I found the following excerpt from the interview to be helpful in understanding Microsoft’s vision for DPS:

“DPS is a separate standalone server that combines the technologies of replication and point-in-time snapshot technology. Once the data is replicated to DPS, the server creates a series of snapshots that reflect how a server looks at a certain point in time. Unlike backing up from tape, these snapshots take only seconds and have no impact on the server that's being protected. It moves only the bytes of the file that have changed versus the full file, which translates to faster incremental backups for big files. Using DPS, IT administrators have full control over how frequently they replicate the data and how many snapshots they keep on hand for fast, easy recovery. For example, administrators can choose to maintain 30 days or 60 days of snapshots. In our research, maintaining 30 days of snapshots lets companies recover approximately 90 percent of all files that would likely ever need to be recovered. And DPS can be configured to protect servers by taking snapshots on the hour, every two hours, every day, and so on. So businesses no longer need to rely on a full backup from a production server, which means they can avoid the shrinking backup window phenomenon. However, one of the biggest advantages that sets DPS apart from other data-protection solutions is that it lets companies not only back up but also recover files in minutes rather than the hours it usually takes to do it from tape.”

DPS is geared towards a much wider market than just SQL Server administrators, but databases chew up disk space, and managing the backup and recovery process for a large number of SQL Server instances isn’t a trivial task. Microsoft expects to release DPS in late 2005. We’ll need to keep our eyes on DPS as it develops. Let’s be honest, no one likes dealing with tape. Disk is faster and easier to use and manage. However, backing up to tape is cheaper. Microsoft’s entry into the disk-based backup market, combined with DPS’s strong support for SQL Server, will make for interesting options as we manage the mountain of data that our databases generate on a weekly basis.