Microsoft Azure Backup Server v2 Launched

Microsoft has launched version 2 of MABS, the Microsoft Azure Backup Server v2, with support for Windows Server 2016 and vSphere 6.5.


So far we’ve had 2 versions (v1 and v1 update 1) of MABS, the freely licensed (but your pay Azure Backup pricing) slightly modified version of System Center Data Protection Manager. MABS v1 was based on DPM 2012 R2, and MABS v2 is based on DPM 2016, with the cool features of DPM 2016:

  • Modern Storage, which improves performance and reduces consumption by leveraging ReFS Block Cloning, VHDX, and Deduplication.
  • Improves Hyper-V backup, by supporting WS2016 hosts and by using the built-in (WS2016 Hyper-V) Resilient Change Tracking (RCT) for incremental backups without 3rd party software being placed into the kernal of the host’s management OS.
  • Support for Shielded Virtual Machines, the ultra-secure platform on WS2016 Hyper-V.
  • Support for Storage Spaces Direct (S2D).
  • The ability to install MABS v2 on WS2016.

MABS v1 Update 1 added support for VMware vCenter & ESXi 5.5 and 6.0. MABS v2 adds vCenter & ESXi 6.5 to the list. Note that if you install MABS v2 on WS2016 then VMware protection will be in preview mode, while we wait for VMware to release support for VDDK 6.5 for WS2016. You can learn more on from this video.

You can download MABS v2 from here or from a recovery services vault in the Azure Portal.

The supported backup server configuration is:

  • Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016
  • Processor: Minimum: 1 GHz, dual-core CPU. Recommended: 2.33 GHz quad-core CPU
  • RAM: Minimum: 4GB. Recommended: 8GB
  • Hard Drive Space (program files): Minimum: 3GB, Recommended: 3GB
  • Disks for backup storage pool: 1.5 times size of data to be protected

My Top 5 Features in System Center Data Protection Manager 2016

Microsoft’s System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) has undergone a huge period of transition over the past two years. Significant investments have been made in hybrid cloud backup solutions, and DPM 2016 brings many improvements to this on-premises backup solution that all kinds of enterprise customers need to consider. Here are my top 5 features in DPM 2016.

5: Upgrading a DPM production server to 2016 doesn’t require a reboot

Times have changed and Windows Server & System Center won’t be released every 3-5 years anymore. Microsoft recognizes that customers want to upgrade, but fear the complexity and downtime that upgrades often introduce. Upgrading DPM servers and agents to 2016 will not cause production hosts to reboot.

4: Continued protection during cluster aware updates

The theme of continued protection during upgrades without introducing downtime continues. I’ve worked in the hosting business where every second of downtime was calculated in Dollars and Euros. Cluster-aware updates allow Hyper-V clusters to get security updates and hotfixes without downtime to applications running in the virtual machines. DPM 2016 supports this orchestrated patching process, ensuring that your host clusters can continue to be stable and secure, and your valuable data is protected by backup.

3: Modern Backup Storage

Few people like tapes, first used with computers in 1951! And one of the big concerns about backup is the cost of storage. Few companies understand software-defined storage like Microsoft, leading the way with Azure and Windows Server. DPM 2016 joins the ranks by modernizing how disk storage is deployed for storing backups. ReFS 3.0 block cloning is used to store incremental backups, improving space utilization and performance. Other enhancements including growing/shrinking storage usage based on demand, instead of the expensive over-allocation of the past.

2: Support for Storage Spaces Direct

While we’re discussing modern storage, let’s talk about how DPM 2016 has support for Microsoft’s software-defined hyper-converged infrastructure solution, Storage Spaces Direct. In recent years, these two concepts, inspired by the cloud, have shaken up enterprise storage:

  • Software-defined storage: Customers have started to realize that SAN isn’t the best way to deploy fast, scalable, resilient, and cost-effective storage. Using commodity components, software can overcome the limitations of RAID and the expense of proprietary lock-in hardware.
  • Hyper-converged infrastructure: Imagine a virtualization deployment where there is one tier of hardware; storage and compute are merged together using the power of software and hardware offloads (such as SMD Direct/RDMA), and turn cluster deployments into a simpler and faster process.

Windows Server 2016 took lessons from the previous two versions of Storage Spaces, Azure, and the storage industry and made hyper-converged infrastructure a feature of Windows Server. This means that you can deploy an extremely fast (NVMe, SSD, and HDD disks with 10 Gbps or faster networking) storage that is cost effective, using 1U or 2U servers, and with no need for a SAN, external SAS hardware, or any of those other complications. DPM 2016 supports this revolutionary architecture, ensuring the protection of your data on the Microsoft on-premises cloud.

1: Built for the Cloud

I’ve already discussed the cost of storage, but that cost is doubled or more once we start to talk about off-site storage of backups or online-backup solutions. While many virtualization-era backup products are caught up on local backup bells and whistles, Microsoft has transformed backup for the cloud.

Combined with Azure Backup, DPM 2016 gives customers a unique option. You get enterprise-class backup that protects workloads on cost effective (Modern Backup Storage) storage for on-premises short term retention. Adding the very affordable Azure Backup provides you with a few benefits, including:

  • A secondary site, safeguarding your backups from localized issues.
  • Cost effective long-term retention for up to 99 years.
  • Encrypted “trust no-one” storage with security mechanisms to protect you against ransom-ware and deliberate attacks against your backups.

In my opinion, if you are not using DPM, or have not looked at it in the past two years, then I think it’s time to re-evaluate this product.


Seeding Azure Backup Using Secure Disk Transfer

Microsoft’s online backup service, Azure Backup, was recently updated to greatly improve how the first big backup is done to the cloud. These improvements impacted the Azure Backup MARS agent, Microsoft Azure Backup Server, and System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM). I recently recorded a short video to explain the problem, the soluition, and I show how you can use it – the process is the same across each of the 3 products.



Installing Azure Backup Server (DPM) Agent Leads To 0x80990a2b Error

This post explains how to solve an issue where installing the Azure Backup Server or DPM agent to a machine fails with a 0x80990a2b error.

I was asked to deploy Azure Backup to backup content on PCs in the office (organized admins –> that’s another story). I decided to test with my Windows 10 PC. I logged onto our Azure Backup server, and used the GUI to deploy the agent and it failed:

Install protection agent on <Machine Name> failed:

Error 347: An error occurred when the agent operation attempted to create the DPM Agent Coordinator service on <Machine Name>.

Error details: Unknown error (0x80990a2b)

Recommended action: Verify that the Agent Coordinator service on <Machine Name> is responding, if it is present. Review the error details, take the appropriate action, and then retry the agent operation.

I searched my services for something called DPM Agent Coordinator and found nothing. The DPM community is full of stories about Windows Firewall causing issues – I tried to disable it but it made no difference. And the 0x80990a2b error wasn’t appearing in my search results.

Next I decided to try a manual installation on my PC. That failed with the same error, but this time there was a clue:


There is a log file for the installation. I opened the log and started reading. There was the error about not being able to initialize something called an AC (Agent Coordinator). I was getting frustrated but kept reading.



WARNING    Failed: Hr: = [0x80990a2b] : MARS agent found. Cannot install Microsoft Azure Backup Agent

Now was exactly when I remembered that I had been backing up my OneDrive using the Azure Backup MARS agent. I remove the agent, cleaned up the backup, and re-ran the original agent deployment from the Azure Backup Server GUI. The agent installed perfectly and was added to the protection group.

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Azure Backup Project Venus Has Gone Live

Woohoo! Azure Backup has started the evolution from a very basic online backup service to something very interesting – the price is already super competitive versus MozyPro and the gazillions of Ahsay-based vendors but functionality has been a challenge.

If you’re not aware of Venus, then read this article I wrote for In short, Azure Backup customers can get a customized version of DPM (being referred to as a new Azure Backup server) to perform on-premises backups of files & folders as before, but now it adds Hyper-V, VMs, SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Exchange, and Windows clients. You then configure a policy to send an encrypted copy of all/subset of your data to Azure. The Azure Backup server keeps short-term retention and the Azure Backup vault keeps long term retention.

I found a download URL last week. At the time, it only shared a file saying “come back next week”. Well, it’s next week now. I checked it last night – no change. Mark Taylor (@ChorusMark) pinged me on Twitter late last night (I saw it this morning) and sure enough, the download went live:


The description goes as follows:

With Microsoft Azure Backup, you can protect application workloads such as Hyper-V VMs, Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange and Windows clients to:

  • Disk (D2D), giving high RTOs for tier 1 workloads
  • Azure (D2D2C) for long term retention.
  • And, you can manage the protection of various protected entities (servers and clients) from a single on-premises user interface.

You can deploy Microsoft Azure Backup server as:

  • A physical standalone server.
  • A Hyper-V virtual machine – You can run DPM as a virtual machine hosted on an on-premises Hyper-V host server, to back up on-premises data.
  • A Windows virtual machine in VMWare – You can deploy DPM to provide protection for Microsoft workloads running on Windows virtual machines in VMWare. In this scenario DPM can be deployed as a physical standalone server, as a Hyper-V virtual machine, or as a Windows virtual machine in VMWare.
  • An Azure virtual machine – You can run DPM as a virtual machine in Azure to back up cloud workloads running as Azure virtual machines.

If you log into your Azure subscription, you’ll see that Azure Backup vaults show the new feature too:


The system requirements are as follows:

Operating system – you must supply a license, either via virtualization rights or normal physical licensing:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1


  • Minimum: 1 GHz, dual-core CPU
  • Recommended: 2.33 GHz quad-core CPU


  • Minimum: 4GB
  • Recommended: 8GB

Hard Drive Space:

  • Minimum: 3GB
  • Recommended: 3GB
  • Disks for backup storage pool: 1.5 times size of data to be protected

SQL 2014 is included in the setup. This license is free and can only be used for Azure Backup server. FYI, I’ve been pre-warned that a pre-requisite is .NET 3.5.1 and this can take about 1 hour to install. Plan your time around this!

I haven’t found a launch announcement from Microsoft and the AB site doesn’t have any documentation yet. But this will be very similar to a DPM setup for Azure Backup.


I forgot to address the localisation of the above Microsoft Azure Backup Server (MABS). The Azure Backup team wanted to get MABS out as quickly as possible, so English was released first. More localisations will be released over time – the team really is customizing DPM to Azure Backup to make MABS, which you’ll see when you’re required to supply backup vault credentials to complete the setup, and they want to get more functionality into people’s hands as rapidly as they can.

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Microsoft News – 7 September 2015

Here’s the recent news from the last few weeks in the Microsoft IT Pro world:


Windows Server


System Center


Office 365



  • Meet AzureCon: A virtual event on Azure on September 29th, starting at 9am Pacific time, 5pm UK/Irish time.

A Roundup of WS2016 TPv3 Links

I thought that I’d aggregate a bunch of links related to new things in the release of Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 3 (TP3). I think this is pretty complete for Hyper-V folks – as you can see, there’s a lot of stuff in the networking stack.

FYI: it looks like Network Controller will require the DataCenter edition by RTM – it does in TPv3. And our feedback on offering the full installation during setup has forced a reversal.







Nano Server

Failover Clustering

Remote Desktop Services

System Center

Microsoft News – 6 January 2015

A few little nuggets to get you back in the swing of things. And yes, I have completely ignored the US-only version 1.2 Azure Pricing Tool that suffers from “The Curse of Zune”.


Windows Server

System Center

Windows Client


Microsoft News Summary – 12 September 2014

The big news yesterday was the leaking of screenshots of Windows “Threshold” (9). Most of them were more of the same, but we saw confirmation of some recently rumoured changes.


System Center Operations Manager

System Center Data Protection Manager


  • StorSimple Snapshot Manager: StorSimple Snapshot Manager is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that simplifies data protection and backup management in a Microsoft Azure StorSimple environment. You can use StorSimple Snapshot Manager to configure backup schedules and retention policies, generate on-demand backups, and clone or restore volumes.
  • The Microsoft Azure Sales Strategy for Small and Medium Enterprises: An article by me on
  • Announcing Long Term Retention for Azure Backup: Previously, we had announced long term retention for cloud backups from DPM. With this month’s release of the Azure Backup service, we are extending that capability to cloud backups from all currently supported SKUs of Windows Server and Windows Server Essentials.
  • Getting started with Azure Backup: It’s nice and easy, but resellers really could use a central portal.


Retaining my backup of PowerShell scripts for 9 years!

Windows Intune

  • Intune to support iOS 8 on Day 0: Next week iOS 8 will be released to the public, and the Windows Intune service will be ready on Day 0 to manage devices on this new version of the platform. With Managed Domains, enterprise data will be tracked from its source, which will allow management systems to better separate corporate from personal data. Document Extensions will provide significant interaction between applications, introducing new extensibility opportunities that iOS hasn’t had previously.
  • Day Zero Support for iOS 8 with Intune: Earlier this week Apple released iOS 8 to developers (public release on 9/17), and the Windows Intune service is ready to support your use of it.
  • Data sent to and from Windows Intune and System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager: As a Windows Intune customer, you have entrusted Microsoft to help protect your data. Microsoft values this trust, and the privacy and security of your data is one of our top concerns.

Office 365

  • Microsoft withdrew KB2889866 from Windows Update: "We are investigating an issue that is affecting the September 2014 update for Microsoft OneDrive for Business. Therefore, we have removed the update from availability for now. We apologize for any inconvenience that this might cause." < You wouldn’t care if you followed my "wait 1 month before approving updates" advice.
  • Office 365 Certificate Update Will Affect Some Exchange Deployments: On Sept. 23, 2014, Microsoft is planning a certificate change to the Microsoft Federation Gateway. Organizations that have hybrid networks combining Office 365 services with Exchange Server or that use the Microsoft Federation Gateway to establish trust relationships need to set up a certificate update process before the Sept. 23 deadline to "avoid any disruption" in service, according to Microsoft’s Wednesday announcement.


  • Azure Rights Management Administration Tool: Azure Rights Management Administration Tool installs the Windows PowerShell module for Azure Rights Management. Azure Rights Management provides the ability to enable the use of digital rights management technology in organizations that subscribe to the Office 365 services.


  • Microsoft stock hits highest price since 1999: With that in mind, Microsoft’s stock has hit a 52-week high today (Sept 6th), coming in at $45.93 at the time of closing, suggesting that Wall Street appears to approve of new CEO Satya Nadella’s direction for the company. FYI – the stock is now at $47.
  • Forget Conventional Wisdom, Microsoft (MSFT) Is A Growth Stock Again: Microsoft sales are growing at an annualized rate of over 25 percent again and the stock is up over 30 percent in the ensuing 7 months, well over double the increase in the broader market during that time.
  • (UK Government, William) Hague reassures MPs of data safety in Microsoft’s Dublin Data Centre: William Hague, the leader of the House of Commons, said there is nothing to fear after an MP said he was concerned about the security of parliamentary data stored on Microsoft’s Cloud-based servers in Europe. Billy-boy should read the news more, as one of his colleagues points out. This is exactly why Microsoft is fighting the US government on foreign-located data access.

Microsoft News Summary – 8 September 2014

It’s been 5 days since my last of these updates – events, meetings and travel take their toll!

Below you will see an announcement on how to deploy DPM in Azure to backup stuff from within Azure VMs (not a host level backup). Please note that this is licensed using on-premises SysCtr SML licenses and cloud management licensing is not the same as on-premises licensing. A SysCtr Datacenter SML covers 8 VMs in the cloud, so you might need lots more SysCtr licensing to manage Azure.

Microsoft has also launched a Migration Accelerator for Azure based on the InMage acquisition. Right now, the preview is limited to the USA. That’s pretty dumb; anyone who knows MSFT virtualization knows that Europe is the place to be.

Oh – the MSFT versus FBI Irish data centre case rumbles on. It’s clear that the motivations of the US government were not speed (the Irish government would have been quick to help) but are more along the lines of “Mine! MINE! MINE!!!! MY PRECIOUSSSSS!”.

Windows Server



Office 365