Review: Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2016

System Center (SC) 2016, now in Technical Preview 4 (TP4) at the time of writing, is coming along nicely. We looked at Configuration Manager in Joseph’s excellent article and at Virtual Machine Manager 2016 TP3. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the other parts of SC, such as Service Manager, Orchestrator, and Operations Manager. Today we will review Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2016.
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Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.
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If you’re interested in seeing how DPM has evolved, we’ve got you covered: 2012 R2, DPM 2012, and even older versions. With the regular Update Rollup cadence for System Center 2012 / 2012 R2, new features are added every few months, so the 2016 wave of System Center doesn’t come with a huge amount of new innovation. This is, in some ways, a blessing for a resource strapped sysadmin—the delta is smaller, so upgrades should flow easier. To complete the “DPM picture,” you should also look at Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS). It’s basically a “free” DPM 2012 R2, without tape support, that lets you backup workloads to local disk and then to Azure.

Coming in DPM 2016 is support for mixed mode Hyper-V clusters (Windows Server 2012 R2 and 2016 nodes in the same cluster) and support for protecting workloads on Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). Also on the table are Resilient Change Tracking (RCT) and support for shielded virtual machines (VMs) that are protected by a virtual TPM chip and Bitlocker.

Reports in the DPM Console

Reports in the DPM Console


Mixed mode clusters ^

The upgrade story for Hyper-V keeps improving for every version. Going between 2012 R2 and 2016, you’ll be able to evict one existing node (or add a new one), clean install 2016, and then join it back into the cluster. Rinse and repeat until your whole cluster is upgraded, at which point you can “flip the switch” on the cluster functional level.

DPM 2016 will be able to backup VMs across both versions and track which host they’re on. However, note that Nano Server isn’t supported (at least not in TP4). That’s going to be a show stopper for Microsoft’s recommendation that Nano Server as the preferred virtualization host platform. I hope Microsoft will fix this in a later TP.

Storage Spaces Direct ^

S2D is an evolution of Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012 / 2012 R2. It can be used in a disaggregated fashion in which local storage on several hosts (four is the minimum, at the moment) is presented to a Hyper-V cluster as highly-available storage. Alternatively, it can be hyper-converged so that local storage in each Hyper-V host is used to store VMs.

DPM 2016 supports backing up VMs in this configuration, but again, not on Nano Server. I tested this with a few VMs on my four-node S2D (physical) cluster; it worked as expected.

Creating a Protection Group

Creating a Protection Group

Resilient Change Tracking ^

One of the big changes coming in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V is the shift away from relying on backup vendors writing their own file system filter driver to track changes in virtual disks. This functionality is moving into the core Hyper-V platform. Hopefully, third party backup vendors should be able to support Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V faster, since they don’t have to develop their own filter driver. DPM 2016 will, of course, support this functionality, which means that changed blocks are tracked using an on-disk map as well as an in-memory map. More details can be found in Taylor Brown’s excellent presentation at TechEd Europe 2014.

Backing up Bitlocker-protected VMs ^

With shielded VMs and virtual TPM chips coming to Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft drawing a strong security boundary between the VM / workload administrators and the fabric administrators, of course, backup becomes a challenge. Sure, you can run an agent inside the VM and back it up on a per-VM basis, but most enterprises want a single backup solution that protects all the VMs from a host perspective. DPM 2016 will support the backup of virtual TPM/Bitlocker-protected VMs.

Conclusion ^

Here’s a list of the supported workloads that DPM 2016 TP4 (and 2012 R2) can backup; it’s the usual suspects. Note that Exchange 2016 is not supported yet, neither by DPM 2016 TP4 nor 2012 R2. There’s a short survey that may be of interest to you.

Looking at user voice for DPM (and Azure backup), the top requests are being able to do item-level recovery from Exchange (third-party backup solutions offer this, but not through supported methods), 5-minute (instead of 15) intervals for SQL backup, support for protecting SQL Server 2014 databases stored on CSV volumes, support for protecting NAS and CIFS volumes, and automatically adding new VMs on a Hyper-V host. Even existing users seem mostly interested in incremental feature improvements, rather than huge new features.

Interestingly, a planned feature is managing on-premises DPM servers that do “disk to disk to Azure” from the Azure backup interface.

If you were looking for compelling features to throw out your current backup solution and invest in System Center, I think the forthcoming 2016 version will disappoint. It’s very much a gradual evolution of the current product, which is a solid backup solution for Microsoft workloads. To be truly competitive, it needs to add VMware backup support, as well as other enterprise workloads. I suspect this will happen in the future, but perhaps in Azure services instead of DPM.

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17 Comments
  1. avatar
    Joseph 1 year ago

    I'd love to use DPM but the way it handles is long term storage and not being able to backup to a SMB share or NAS storage makes it near useless. Are there any changes with this version

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  2. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 1 year ago

    Hi Joseph,

    I agree, only supporting local disk and SAN is hurting DPM.

    It's an architectural limitation because of how DPM stores data on the disk, it needs block access to the volume, which means local disk and SAN only. A decision made a long time ago that now limits it's capabilities. As Brad Anderson (at MS) is fond of saying "architecture matters", except he's talking about the great architecture of Intune, not the questionable decisions of the DPM team.

    /Paul

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  3. avatar
    Cavemann 12 months ago

    You can effectively achieve this by deploying DPM as a VM on an HV host/cluster and use SOFS for storing its VHDX file(s).

    https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/dpm/2015/01/05/announcing-deduplication-of-dpm-storage/

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    • Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
      Paul Schnackenburg 12 months ago

      Hi Cavemann,

      Not sure what you mean here? Joseph asked about DPM storing backups on SMB file shares or NASs. Storing VHDX files on a SAN with DPM does indeed give you data deduplication but not the ability to store backups on file shares / NASs. The issue is that not everyone wants to use their expensive SAN for storing backups and would prefer less costly options.

      /Paul

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  4. avatar
    Ethan Smith 10 months ago

    Any idea when this product is going to be released as a final/non-preview product?  I need to upgrade to new DPM 2012 R2 hardware soon but may postpone that if DPM 2016 is going to be available relatively soon.

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  5. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 10 months ago

    Hi Ethan,

    Your guess is as good as mine but as far as I understand, TP5 is the final preview and with Ignite coming up in September I think we'll definitely see both Win 2016 and SC 2016 RTM either before then or at Ignite.

    Hope that helps.

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  6. avatar
    Justin Severinsen 7 months ago

    I use Buffalo NAS boxes for my DPM servers storage.  They support the iSCSI protocol and are cheap storage.  I purchased a cheap 32TB NAS and made it a RAID 10 for 16TB of space for my DPM server.  So you can use NAS storage devices so long as they support the iSCSI protocol.

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    • Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
      Paul Schnackenburg 7 months ago

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for sharing, it helps everybody. Technically speaking, once you use the iSCSI protocol your NASs are acting as a SAN, because you're providing block level access as opposed to standard NAS access which is file / share access. But that's semantics - I'm glad to hear that this works. What's the model number of the Buffalo NASs you're using?

      Paul Schnackenburg

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  7. avatar
    Steve Hohman 7 months ago

    I am doing a similar thing as Justin with the Hi-Rely systems and iSCSI.  The entire disk is configured on the DPM server as an iSCSI LUN, then DPM handles the rest.  The backups have been a set and forget since day 1.

    https://www.high-rely.com/

    Steve Hohman

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  8. avatar
    Danny D 6 months ago

    +1 for the Synology product line.  We have been doing DPM 2012R2 backups to our Synology NAS over iSCSI for a few years and have never had a problem.  Its been very reliable on backups and restores, and surprisingly fast as well.  We are staging our first DPM 2016 server in a couple weeks, so we hope for similar success.

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  9. avatar
    Emely rogers 6 months ago

    Does anyone know why Disk used is extremely bigger than the available disk space?

    The report Shows

    Total Disk Space: 6TB

    Disk allocated: 6TB

    Disk Used: 19TB

     

    Thanks for your help

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  10. Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
    Paul Schnackenburg 6 months ago

    Hi Emely,

    I'm not sure why you're seeing that. Here's the documentation on DPM storage, https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh758026(v=sc.12).aspx, maybe you can find something in there. Otherwise I'd recommend SystemCenterCentral.com, that's a good place to ask any SC related questions. And if you do find out - pop another post in here so we can all benefit.

    Paul Schnackenburg

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  11. avatar
    ThomasI 5 months ago

    @Joseph @Paul @Cavemann:

    You can use an SMB share for your storage pool. We do this.

    As Cavemann said, you have to run DPM in a Hyper-V virtual machine, but there is no requirement for iSCSI or SOFS. You can just put your vhdx on the SMB share and attach it in Hyper-V manager. Job done.

    The SMB share has to be SMB3 for Hyper-V to use it.

    It works brilliantly, and you can even use a dynamically expanding vhdx. This was a huge benefit for us since DPM grossly overestimates the sizes it needs for our recovery point volumes. This does not matter now, since HyperV knows which parts of the volumes inside the vhdx is actually used and only expands the vhdx accordingly.

    Highly recommended...

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    • Profile gravatar of Paul Schnackenburg Author
      Paul Schnackenburg 5 months ago

      Hi Thomas,

      Yes, that's a good call. As far as DPM inside the VM is concerned this is a disk where it has block level access so that'll work just fine.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      Have you tested DPM 2016 with ReFS yet?

      Paul Schnackenburg

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  12. avatar
    ThomasI 5 months ago

    Hi Paul

    I am building a test environment for DPM 2016 now. I was hoping that DPM 2016 with its modern storage could solve a performance problem I have on a protected SQL Server, but Mike Jacquets answer to my post on this leads me to believe that it most likely will not. I will probably carry out the test anyway.

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  13. avatar
    suresh 2 months ago

    where can i download dpm 2016 package can you please send me the download link

    0

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