Last week, I spoke at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.
It wasn't my normal 60-90 minutes on "Protecting SQL" or "Protecting Exchange" or even just an overview of DPM. This time, I was just 15 minutes of a "Business Opportunities in Windows Virtualization" - specifically, teaching Microsoft Partners how to provide a service of backing up their customers' data.
DPM 2006 actually already had materials on this architecture available to partners; but like most other sets of users, partners have been waiting for DPM 2007 for a more comprehensive solution - protecting Exchange, SQL, SharePoint as well as Windows file servers (which was all 2006 did).
Essentially, the primary technology burden for those starting a "hosted backup" offering usually is the hardware expense associated with providing a dedicated and isolated back up server for every customer. Since most customers start these kinds of projects small, with either a proof-of-concept or project server, the income doesnt cover the costs of the hardware.
Enter Microsoft Virtualization - in particular, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2.
Virtualization is a great way to consolidate multiple small servers into a single, robust hardware platform. In this case, one might deploy between 4 to 10 virtual machines inside a physical host server running MSVS.
Then, install a DPM Server inside of each virtual server -- and attach it to a different customer.
Now, virtual DPM server #1 can protect your Contoso customer's server(s) while virtual DPM server #2 protects Northwind Traders!
This way, the virtual DPM server is an actual member of the customer's domain - even (optionally) enabling customer end users to restore their own files thru DPM -- without any intervention from their IT or yours. It keeps one customer's data and Active Directory separate from anothers.
It also makes the hosted backup provider's business more scalable. If Contoso were to end up protecting 40 servers, the Contoso virtual DPM servers ends up being the only virtual DPM server on one host machine ... while Northwind Traders is only protecting 3 servers, so its virtual DPM server can be co-hosted with several other virtual DPM servers until that host's resoures are consumed.
From a resiliency perspective, the service provider can protect the Virtual Server hosts (including the various guest OS's) without even being able to see the data inside of the virtual DPM machines. This is a huge advantage and security benefit over remote backup technologies that try to back up across customers' domains ... where the backup application is able to see all of the original corporate data. Of course, one should "trust" one's service provider, but my preference is to trust them to provide a service, not trust them to not look inside. (no offense intended).
As a last nugget to consider -
If a small business were to experience a fire or theft in their offices, who is the first technology person that they are going to call? Their local integrator/reseller partner. So, wouldn't it be a good thing if the partner already had the data?! They can expedite new hardware, restore from their datacenter, and walk a fully ready to go server back to the customer.
And all it takes is DPM (today's DPM 2006 or the upcoming DPM 2007) and Microsoft Virtual Server - also already available.
Just add Service ... which is what Microsoft Partners are all about.