Microsoft Ready to Take On Symantec, Veritas in Backup and Recovery

Just days after Symantec officially absorbed Veritas, the largest independent supplier of backup and recovery software, Microsoft is going after the newly merged company's bread and butter.

Microsoft already has acquired anti-spyware company Giant Software and anti-virus provider Sybari, Microsoft to take on Symantec in its suite spot of security. Now, it's going after Symantec on its Veritas turf as well: backup and recovery.

Microsoft Friday July 8th said its widely anticipated Data Protection Manager 2006 backup and recovery software will ship this Fall and the company has answered the most significant question of all surrounding its entre into the backup and recovery market: how much it will charge for the software. Also, the company has launched an aggressive channel partner enablement program.

Pricing for DPM will start at an estimated price of $950, for one backup server and licenses to protect up to three file servers, though at least one partner anticipates pricing will ultimately be substantially less, in the $500 to $600 range for that configuration. Nevertheless Veritas is the undisputed market share leader in the Windows backup and recovery software market. Veritas recently upgraded Backup Exec 10 starts at $895 but Replication Exec starts at $1,495.

"We want to drive disk based backup to the mainstream market," said Ben Matheson, Microsoft's group product manager for DPM. "Channel partners now have a chance to sell disk based backup devices for all of the SMB customers in the world all the way up to the larges enterprises."

DPM backs up and recovers data from Windows based file servers to target disk-based backup devices, a process that helped put Veritas on the map with that company's widely successful Backup Exec product.

"I see the pricing getting very aggressive," said Stephen Alford, director of partner practices and solutions at SBS Pros, a Torrance, Calif. partner that sells both Microsoft and Veritas solutions. Alford has beta tested DPM and piloted it for two SMB customers. "[Veritas] Backup Exec is very expensive to upgrade. If Microsoft is aggressive enough, they will be a serious contender because its cheaper to install if they are familiar with the Microsoft server product line, it blends in so well."

Looking to offer an option to customers of older versions of Backup Exec, Microsoft is also offering an SDK that makes it possible to link Backup Exec servers as well as backup and replication software from other vendors to DPM. "Microsoft will be a serious contender because its cheaper and easier to install DPM fresh, than it would to [upgrade] Backup Exec," Alford said.

Symantec CEO John Thompson has repeatedly said he's not concerned. "We welcome them," he said when asked during a press conference at the spring Storage Networking World conference in Phoenix following a keynote address there. "Beating up on Microsoft is going to be a hell of a lot of fun."

But Alford said DPM will have a lot of appeal, notably in SMBs that have Microsoft Server products, Exchange and SQL Server. His tests on the second beta reveal that the product works as advertised, able to perform continuous backup of servers typically within an hour, and recoveries within minutes.

DPM has its share of flaws, Alford said. For one thing, file paths can only be 123 characters, which can be problematic when there are large file paths. Also, the server has experienced some unexpected crashes, which Microsoft said will be fixed. Also currently in the beta, it can only run under an administrator account, which could create a security problem, he noted.

Noting that 90-plus percent of its software sales go through the channel, Microsoft is integrating DPM into its Advanced Infrastructure Partner Program, which includes training and certification, and tools to help extol both the technology and business benefits of using DPM. A project guide and Web-based training will be offered in September.

Microsoft will release DPM to manufacturing within 30 days and it should be broadly available once CDs can be manufactured, putting it in the late September or early October time frame.