Update Rollup 5 for System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager is now available

We are excited to announce the release of Update Rollup 5 for System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager.  This is a feature-rich release and an important milestone in our cloud integrated backup vision. In the coming weeks, we will publish detailed blogs and videos of the new features, keep watching this space for more!

Azure is an integral and important part of this update rollup. Every feature of this update has an element of Azure plugged in to it. Customers will experience similar functionality and a more seamless experience irrespective of whether their data is protected locally or to the cloud. We have enabled more features for customers who are already using Azure for their long term backup & retention needs. If Azure is not an integral part of your DPM led backup strategy, this release still provides a compelling value prop.

The high level description of the enhancements in this update are divided into four categories:

  1. Support for new workloads

  2. Better data transfer and retention options to Azure
  3. Enhanced monitoring and alerting

Improved workload support

With Microsoft making regular improvements to its core applications like SQL Server and SharePoint, it becomes important to backup the latest versions of the application with new features for eg: SharePoint on SQL Servers with AlwaysOn.

It is also critical to have a consistent backup solution irrespective of the underlying platform – application could run on on physical servers, Hyper-V or VMware clouds, or Microsoft Azure. Having a single backup product that covers public and private clouds is a great management asset for IT administrators, and UR5 brings DPM a step closer to that goal.

The key updates around workload support are:

  1. Support for backing up SharePoint servers to Azure
  2. Support for backing up Exchange servers to Azure
  3. Support for backing up Windows Clients to Azure
  4. Support for backing up SharePoint servers with SQL Server AlwaysOn, to local disk and to Azure
  5. Support for backing up Microsoft workloads hosted on VMware, to local disk and to Azure

With support for SharePoint with SQL AlwaysOn, DPM automatically detects and handles SQL Server failovers without any user intervention. Thus the end-to-end backup and recovery workflow remains the same; there are no changes to the user experience!

The protection of SharePoint, Exchange, and Windows Client to Azure brings parity between the workloads that can be protected by DPM to the local disk and to Azure. This makes setting up of protection groups much simpler and intuitive – with a focus on a natural, customer-driven grouping of data sources.

This parity also extends to clouds. Whether the application is deployed in Hyper-V virtual machines, or VMware virtual machines, or Azure IaaS virtual machines – the protection flow and experience remain exactly the same! The support for Microsoft workloads hosted on VMware clouds goes a long way in having a uniform backup and management story.

Protect workloads to disk, cloud and tape.

For more details on supported workloads please refer to the DPM Protection Support Matrix

Better data transfer and retention options to Azure

Microsoft Azure is a fundamentally different backup target than what is encountered on-premises. Datacenters today are optimized for local backup over Gigabit Ethernet LANs and long term retention to locally attached tape drives. With Azure, this element of “proximity” disappears and solutions have to be creative to work around nuances that arise do to the lack of proximity.

A simple example is Initial seeding of backup data. During this step, the data is transferred from the production storage to the backup storage for the first time. Backing up a large data source will take longer time to complete. In typical enterprise deployments, throwing more local resources brings orders of magnitude difference.

However, attempting to do this with Azure will result in increased infrastructure cost that doesn’t yield the same results. A lot of customers may have low bandwidth, high latency internet connections which slows down the initial backup process.

The two Azure Backup-specific features added to DPM UR5 help to address some of these very concerns:

  1. Offline transfer of the initial copy to Microsoft Azure
  2. Multiple retention ranges with Azure Backup for a “better than tape” story

Offline transfer of the initial copy to Microsoft Azure

If you have terabytes of data that needs to be backed up to Azure, the initial seeding could potentially take a few weeks, over a slow network. UR5 leverages the Azure Import/Export Service, which enables you to ship encrypted data in hard disk drive to Azure to complete your initial seeding.

 New Offline Initial Replica for Azure

For more details on how to configure backup to Azure and the new DPM-Azure enhancements in Update Rollup 5 please visit the TechNet article.

Multiple retention ranges for long term retention with Azure Backup

In September 2014, we added Long Term Retention of data to Azure Backup with a maximum retention of 9 years. While it provided the retention range customers were looking for a Grandfather-Father-Son (GFS) scheme.

With the latest update, customers can truly look at Azure as a viable tape replacement alternative. With more retention points (366 – up from 120) and flexible scheduling & retention policies, customers can now backup to Azure for a longer duration and take advantage of cloud scale economies .

With our ultra-efficient storage mechanism in Azure, the complete backup, storage, and retention of data is now significantly better than tape-based long term retention strategies.

Multiple retention policies for Online Protection

Better monitoring and alerting

A backup solution is incomplete without extensive monitoring and alerting systems. Administrators already use the SCOM console to get a centralized view of their DPM deployment. With UR5, DPM now:

  1. Displays missed SLA alerts in the DPM console
  2. Provides enhanced reporting via SCOM

Continuing on our UR4 journey where customers could configure backup SLAs; with DPM display the alert in SCOM. The SLA missed alerts is also shown in the DPM console (without needed SCOM). This is useful for customers who don’t have multiple DPM servers but still need centralized alerting

The SCOM integration provided an aggregated view across all DPM servers. The new management pack for SCOM provides a powerful reporting infrastructure that can be used to generate data-rich custom reports and dashboards across multiple DPM servers! Customers no longer have to visit every DPM server to extract the canned reports – the new Reporting Management Pack provides all that and much more!

Install the DPM console on the SCOM server, and import the new Reporting Management Pack available on the Microsoft Download Center. There is also a demonstration report shipped with the Management Pack to help customers create custom reports as shown in the screenshot below.

 A demo report based on new reporting framework

More information about this feature can be found here

Try out the System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager Update Rollup 5 now and let us know your feedback.