Providing Client-Server Backup and Recovery at Microsoft with System Center Data Protection Manager 2010
Technical Case Study
Published: June 2011 | Updated: May 2013
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Learn how Microsoft Information Technology (IT) used System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2010 to create a comprehensive client-server data backup and recovery solution. The new DPM 2010-based solution has enabled Microsoft IT to provide online and offline backup services to employee PCs, consolidate their backup servers by 40%, lower costs by $6 million, and reduce monthly support calls by 46%.
Technical Case Study, 1.31 MB, Microsoft Word file
Products & Technology
Microsoft IT needed a client-server backup and restore service that offered greater scalability and storage capabilities for servers, that supported end user backup and restore of PCs, and that could reduce the cost of administration and support.
Microsoft migrated its Microsoft System Center DPM 2007 servers to DPM 2010 and added support for PC backups via the DPM 2010 client.
Microsoft IT is responsible for providing infrastructure and managed services to internal Microsoft business units that have opted in to the company's Corporate Data Protection Service. This service is responsible for protecting business, financial, and legal data; and for protecting source code running on file servers, Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft SQL Server (including SAP running on SQL Server), and Source Depot servers.
As the Microsoft global infrastructure grows, so does the need for an effective data backup strategy. Before deploying DPM 2010, Microsoft IT's backup technology consisted primarily of DPM 2007 and a third-party backup-to-tape solution for sites with local tape libraries. Microsoft IT used DPM 2007 to back up and restore a wide array of servers, offering automated synchronization of backup data within a small backup window, which enabled backups to be performed during business hours. DPM 2007 also provided disk-to-disk backups and disk-to-tape backups for off-site storage.
Although DPM 2007 provided many benefits to Microsoft, Microsoft IT recognized the company's need for a backup and restore solution with greater scalability and storage capabilities for its increasing number of servers and the need to simultaneously improve system manageability to reduce the cost of administrative operations.
Furthermore, Microsoft IT wanted to establish a more holistic approach to data backup and recovery by extending services to personal computers (PCs)—something that had not been offered in the past. Within this mandate to support PCs, a top priority was to provide a means to continue backup and restore functionality on roaming PCs that were temporarily disconnected from the corporate network. Finally, any end-user-oriented solution had to offer customizable settings and be easy to use in order to promote self-service and minimize requests for assistance from Microsoft IT administrators.
As the company's first and best customer, Microsoft IT regularly adopts early releases of Microsoft technologies, tests them in a real-world environment, and provides critical feedback to improve products before they are generally available to the public. Microsoft IT worked closely with the DPM team that developed DPM 2010 as the centerpiece of the new end-to-end, client-server data backup and recovery solution.
Why DPM 2010?
DPM 2010 is Microsoft's latest generation of backup and restore technology that enables disk-based and tape-based data protection and recovery for servers in and across Active Directory domains, including SQL Server, SharePoint Server, virtual servers, file servers, and even Microsoft's internal source code environment. DPM 2010 performs replication, synchronization, and recovery point creation to provide reliable protection and rapid recovery of data. In addition, DPM 2010 servers offer significant scalability improvements. Microsoft IT wanted to see how they could consolidate their DPM 2007 servers into a smaller number of more scalable DPM 2010 servers.
Microsoft IT was also interested in DPM 2010's client-side support. With the DPM 2010 client, Microsoft IT would be able to provide an intuitive, customizable application that end users could install on their PCs and essentially self-manage their backup and restore processes. Another feature of interest to Microsoft IT was the DPM 2010 client's ability to store backup files on a roaming PC's local hard drive, and then automatically synchronize with the DPM 2010 server as soon as the PC reconnected to the corporate network.
Finally, DPM 2010 is based on a ready-made technology that had the potential to unify Microsoft IT's backup/restore service on a single product, giving Microsoft IT the means to offer an end-to-end client-server solution.
This section is divided into two parts. The first part describes the server implementation. The second part discusses the client implementation.
Server-Side Migration to DPM 2010 Server
This section summarizes the planning and implementation steps that Microsoft IT took to deploy the DPM 2010 servers.
- Determine deployment approach. Microsoft evaluated their existing DPM 2007 environment and decided to migrate the protected resources to new DPM 2010
servers instead of upgrading existing servers to DPM 2010. The decision to migrate to new servers instead of upgrading the existing
servers was based on the following factors:
- The partition scheme used on the DPM 2007 servers did not provide the disk space required to perform an in-place upgrade.
- Certain features in DPM 2010 that Microsoft IT wanted to utilize are only available during new installations/migrations.
- Migrating to new servers provided Microsoft IT the opportunity to standardize their servers on Windows Server 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008.
- Server migration enabled Microsoft IT to take advantage of DPM 2010 scalability enhancements to consolidate and reduce the total number of DPM servers.
- Define deployment architecture.
Microsoft IT developed a DPM 2010 server deployment architecture that
encompassed their three primary data center locations: Redmond, Dublin, and
Singapore. The data centers utilize remote SQL instances, Storage Area Networks
(SANs), and virtual tape libraries. Figure 1 shows the DPM 2010 server
Figure 1: Overview of Microsoft DPM 2010 server topology
- Calculate Server Requirements. Microsoft IT analyzed their existing DPM 2007 servers to determine opportunities for server consolidation.
- Calculate Data Storage Requirements. Microsoft IT used internal tools to mine and analyze the data from DPM 2007. Using this data, Microsoft IT planned for more efficient use of storage by identifying the areas where storage was over-allocated and where space could be reclaimed.
- Identify Protection Group Changes. Microsoft IT reviewed and modified their existing protection groups to ensure they were appropriate for use in the new DPM 2010-based environment.
The migration needed to provide continuous data protection using both disk-based and tape-based data protection to existing file, SQL Server, and SharePoint servers. The implementation approach was to migrate the servers that had backup configurations that were difficult to protect using DPM 2007 first, and then migrate the remaining servers.
The migration process included the following steps:
- Stop protection of one or more protected resources in DPM 2007.
- Upgrade the DPM 2007 agent to the new DPM 2010 agent.
- Start protection of the protected resource(s) in DPM 2010.
- Backup data was left on the old server until it expired. It was then deleted and the storage returned to the storage pool.
Results of Migrating to DPM 2010 Server
The results from the DPM 2010 server migration are as follows:
- Consolidation of servers and data storage. Worldwide, Microsoft IT was able to achieve a 40% reduction of DPM servers in their data centers, dropping from 133 DPM 2007 servers to 80 DPM 2010 servers. In addition, DPM 2010 optimized the existing data storage.
Figure 2 shows the consolidation of servers for each region.
Figure 2: Consolidation of DPM servers
- Reduced operational costs. DPM 2010's block-level backup allowed Microsoft IT to protect many remote servers that previously required a local tape drive and frequently required hands-on knowledge to resolve ongoing issues with the tape libraries. This has resulted in savings of over $6 million US in tape library and ongoing maintenance and repair costs.
- Optimized bandwidth utilization. Previously, providing backup for branch offices consumed a large amount of the bandwidth as the branch offices often used lower-speed ISDN lines. With DPM 2010, backups are spread out over 24 hours instead of being scheduled all at once.
- Reduced support calls. Microsoft IT noted a 46 percent reduction in monthly support incidents by migrating to DPM 2010 Server. To date, DPM 2010 Server has also lowered operational costs for reactive break/fix work by over 60 percent.
Client-Side Adoption of DPM 2010 Client
Microsoft IT designed a pilot program to test and validate the DPM 2010 client before expanding to a larger-scale deployment. This section describes the planning and implementation efforts for the initial pilot, as well as the ongoing adoption of the DPM 2010 client that has been underway since the close of the pilot.
The five-month DPM 2010 client pilot program began in early August 2010, and finished at the end of December 2010. The pilot's objectives were as follows:
- Enlist at least 500 participating users during the pilot period
- Validate DPM 2010 client functionality, including reliability, scalability, and performance
- Determine whether the technology was ready for larger-scale deployment and whether it was ready to become a Microsoft IT-supported backup solution
As shown in Figure 3, Microsoft IT installed a single DPM 2010 server for the pilot and allocated storage space for backups from a SAN pool in Puget Sound. DPM 2010 client systems in the same domain, as well as other clients in South America, Europe and the Middle East, Asia, and the South Pacific all utilized this single server during the pilot.
Figure 3: Topology of DPM 2010 client pilot program
Microsoft IT used the following steps to implement the DPM 2010 client pilot:
- Microsoft IT loaded a DPM 2010 server in a Hyper-V® virtual machine onto an existing Windows Server® 2008 R2 server in North America. An initial six terabytes (TB) of data storage were allocated from a SAN pool.
- The support path was defined in order to assist pilot participants. Microsoft IT initially estimated their incident rate for supporting the DPM 2010 client would be approximately 6%, meaning an estimated 6% of participants would contact Microsoft IT support once per month for a DPM 2010 client-related issue.
- In order to obtain a representative mixture of users, Microsoft IT emailed approximately 1,000 "opt-in" invitations to individuals with a variety of roles, backgrounds, and backup/restore needs. The email provided a link to an announcement page on an internal web site for people to learn more about the pilot effort and download the client installer.
- Participants downloaded the DPM 2010 client installer from the internal web site and installed the software onto their local machines.
- Microsoft IT administrators added the participants' PCs to the appropriate protection group, which was determined by the location of the participants and their expected cumulative size of backed-up materials.
- Throughout the pilot, administrators monitored the client systems via the DPM 2010 Administration console.
- As more participants joined the pilot program, additional space demands were accommodated by raising the allocated data storage from 6 TB to 15 TB.
- At the end of pilot, Microsoft IT sent out a survey to capture participant feedback.
The results from the five-month pilot are as follows:
- The pilot ultimately involved 812 client systems, spanning five continents.
- User satisfaction was extremely high. 48% of respondents said they were very satisfied; an additional 33% were satisfied.
- 66% of respondents requested a storage quota between 10–15 GB.
- Microsoft IT also obtained the following results by monitoring the DPM 2010 client:
- Performance. Although corporate-attached and remote users in North America saw little network latency when connecting to the DPM 2010 server, regions outside North America occasionally experienced connection latencies greater than 80 milliseconds.
- Reliability. Microsoft IT confirmed that the clients operated as expected on both roaming PCs and those connected to the corporate network, performing initial complete backups of identified/protected folders and file types, and then collecting subsequent incremental changes. The pilot's monthly incident support rate was 3.2%—only half of the initially estimated 6%.
- Scalability. Microsoft IT successfully deployed four different protection groups with data quotas ranging from 5 GB to 20 GB. Pilot administrators also validated that a single DPM 2010 server could host all pilot client systems.
With the successful completion of the pilot program in December 2010, Microsoft IT expanded use of the DPM 2010 client and had adopted the technology as a supported backup solution for Windows 7 clients. This adoption of the DPM Client technology commenced soon after the close of the pilot program and continued through the Windows 7 client deployment. When Windows 8 released with its own client data backup feature (File History), Microsoft IT has been replacing the DPM Client deployments with File History since Win8 RTM. Microsoft still supports DPM Client on Windows 7, however Microsoft IT is planning to convert them all over to File History by FY13 Q4.
In addition to the original DPM 2010 server used in the pilot program, Microsoft IT added seven more DPM 2010 servers to regional data centers in order to mitigate the regional network latency issues that were identified during the pilot.
Figure 4 illustrates the deployment topology that is current as of June 2011.
Figure 4: Microsoft's DPM 2010 client topology as of June 2011
Microsoft IT took the following steps to expand the DPM 2010 client deployment after the close of the pilot program:
- Similar to the pilot program's web page, Microsoft IT added an internal self-service help site to assist users with basic DPM 2010 client questions. A distribution list was also created for users to contact Microsoft IT DPM administration support to help resolve DPM issues.
- DPM 2010 servers and storage were allocated to regional data centers to support DPM 2010 client activity, and each server was configured for disaster recovery (DR) by using an alternate DPM 2010 server as a rotation point. Table 1 summarizes these allocations.
- Microsoft IT announced the availability of the DPM 2010 client backup/restore service to employees, and notified internal support teams so they could guide users with PC backup/restore questions related to the DPM 2010 client backup service.
Table 1: DPM 2010 Servers and Storage Allocated to Support DPM 2010 Clients
DPM 2010 Servers Allocated
Storage Space Allocated
Disaster Recovery Rotation Point
2 (including original pilot server)
Each North America server supports the other
Each Europe server supports the other
Each Asia server supports the other
North America servers
Note: The DPM 2010 servers allocated for supporting PC backup and recovery services are separate from the set of 80 DPM 2010 servers that support server backup and recovery as described in the previous section of this paper.
Current DPM 2010 Client Status
The following list summarizes the status of Microsoft IT's DPM 2010 client adoption as of June 2011.
- To date, Microsoft IT has deployed the DPM 2010 client to over 3,000 systems
worldwide. The distribution and numbers of clients are displayed in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Distribution and number of people using DPM 2010 client as of June 2011
- Eight DPM 2010 servers currently support the worldwide user network. Regional monitoring of client systems confirms that average connection latency to each regional DPM 2010 server is no more than 35 milliseconds.
- Microsoft IT has enough servers in place to support a significant
amount of client expansion. The average DPM 2010 server supports 1,000–3,000
DPM 2010 clients. Microsoft IT foresees the ability to support a total of 8,000–15,000
DPM 2010 clients with no additional DPM 2010 servers required.
Note: If Microsoft IT deployed stand-alone DR servers, the DPM 2010 servers could support an even greater number of clients.
- As illustrated in Figure 6, the monthly support incident rate for DPM 2010
client has continued to drop. At the time of publication, the rate is
Figure 6: Incident rate for DPM 2010 client support calls
In the course of working with DPM 2010 to design,
implement, and operate the new
end-to-end data protection solution, Microsoft IT followed these best practices:
- Implement a server deployment strategy that offers minimal disruption to operations. When performing a complete migration to DPM 2010 servers, Microsoft IT recommends a phased approach. Because the data protection model with DPM is so different from other data protection solutions, taking a phased approach helps to assess the impact of the new model and the changes required.
- Determine whether server upgrades or migrations are best. Due to space considerations and the desire to utilize features that are only available in new or migrated DPM 2010 installations, Microsoft IT decided that the best deployment path was to migrate to DPM 2010 server instead of upgrading the DPM 2007 servers. Microsoft IT recommends that whenever possible, start with a new server installation and migrate to DPM 2010 to provide the greatest flexibility.
- Use appropriate tools to calculate storage requirements. Microsoft IT recommends that if DPM 2007 servers are already deployed, view the data that DPM 2007 provides to see how to make it more efficient for storage in DPM 2010. When using third-party backup products, calculating storage requirements is not as easy due to the differences in how other products back up and store data. Make sure to understand those differences and the amount of change that occurs in the protected data, and account for that in your calculations.
- Determine the optimal type of client deployment for an organization. DPM 2010 offers a variety of means for client deployment, including:
- Manually download, install, and configure the client
- Use Active Directory to push the application to targeted client systems
- For high-end deployments, use System Center Configuration Manager or System Center Essentials to push the application to client systems
- Configure DPM 2010 servers to push the application out to identified client systems
- Use Sysprep images to include the DPM 2010 client application
- Craft an appropriate communication plan to inform users about service availability. Users need to know about the DPM 2010 service, how to access the application, and what support processes are in place to help them if they need assistance.
- Use surveys and monitor space usage to determine optimal per-system space quota limits. Different people and roles can have significantly different backup storage requirements. Microsoft IT received requested data quotas by pilot participants at the start of the pilot program, but also monitored actual data usage throughout the program to confirm optimal quotas.
By implementing a DPM 2010 client-server solution, Microsoft IT derived a number of benefits:
- Reduced costs. The DPM 2010 client-server solution saved costs in two main areas:
- Using DPM's block-level backup enables Microsoft IT to protect many remote servers that previously required a local tape drive and frequently required hands-on knowledge to resolve ongoing issues with the tape libraries. This has resulted in an estimated savings of more than $6 million US in tape library and ongoing maintenance and repair costs. An additional benefit is that branch offices no longer need to provide hands-on support.
- Microsoft IT expects to save an additional $3.2 million US over the next three years by reducing the costs associated with dispatching technical support personnel for PC-based backup and restore activities and data recovery, and by reducing costs for the purchase of external hard drives by employees for use as a backup source.
- Improved utilization of resources. Microsoft IT was able to consolidate 40% of their DPM 2007 servers when migrating to DPM 2010. In addition, storage utilization is far superior to the previous deployment. The ability to grow and shrink storage allocation as needed is a big win in DPM 2010.
- Fewer support incidents. Moving from DPM 2007 to DPM 2010 reduced monthly server support incidents by 46%, and lowered operational costs for reactive break/fix work by over 60 percent to date. Microsoft IT also notes a continuing drop in the DPM 2010 client monthly incident rate, which is approaching 1%.
- Improved productivity. With a continually expanding percentage of users adopting the DPM 2010 client as their backup and restore solution, Microsoft IT expects to increase end user productivity by drastically reducing the instances of PC-based data loss.
- Improved PC data protection. DPM 2010 client backs up important data on roaming PCs when the computer is not connected to the corporate network. By storing backup files on the local hard drive, DPM 2010 client provides a viable means to protect data on roaming PCs.
- Greater flexibility for end users. The DPM 2010 client enables users to customize their backup settings, specifying particular folders and/or file types that they want to include in their backups.
Microsoft IT had been using DPM 2007 to offer server backup and restore services to a number of internal Microsoft business units. However, the third-party tape libraries that were used in conjunction with DPM 2007 were costly to operate and maintain. The company's continuing growth placed more demands on the existing system. Microsoft IT recognized the company's need for a client-server backup and restore service that offered greater scalability and storage capabilities for its increasing number of servers, supported end user backup and restore of PCs, improved system manageability, and reduced cost of administrative operations.
Adopting DPM 2010 as Microsoft IT's end-to-end backup and restore solution was the answer. By migrating their DPM 2007 servers to DPM 2010, Microsoft IT was able to consolidate the number of servers by 40% and significantly reduce dependency on the third-party tape backup technology, saving the company $6 million US in the process. Similarly, Microsoft IT expects to save an additional $3.2 million US in the next three years as more end users adopt the service, thereby reducing PC data recovery costs and purchases of external hard drives for backups.
DPM 2010 has also significantly reduced support costs for both server and PC customers. Break/fix support costs have been cut by 60%, monthly server support incidents have been reduced by 46%, and monthly DPM 2010 client-based support calls have dropped by almost 50% since making the DPM 2010 client available to end users.
With DPM 2010, Microsoft IT can now offer a unified backup and recovery solution across the enterprise, supporting production servers and corporate PCs alike. Because DPM is part of the Windows Server System, backup administrators can use familiar tools such as Microsoft Management Console (MMC) to manage the environment. Moreover, with end users now able to automatically continue their backup and restore processes on roaming PCs that are not connected to the corporate network, employee productivity should increase as the frequency of lost files is reduced.
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