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Microsoft and i365, the Seagate subsidiary built off its EVault acquisition, announced a partnership today for a new multi-platform, cloud-connected data protection solution they say will disrupt the midmarket in data backup and recovery and give Symantec a run for its money.

The two companies are teaming up to extend the capabilities of Data Protection Manager, which to this point has only been available for environments exclusively running Microsoft platforms, says Terry Cunningham, vice president at Seagate and general manager of i365.

“This is a very strategic project for Microsoft to blow the doors wide open on data protection, because they’ve been very limited on the penetration of DPM because of the pure, Microsoft-only customer base,” Cunningham says. “So we’re going to market with Microsoft and Seagate producing a total solution in hardware and software.”

Cunningham has a lot of experience leveraging the channel within the storage and data protection market—as head of Seagate Software, Cunningham helped to build that division of the storage giant up into the behemoth that then became Veritas Software, which Symantec eventually snapped up to complete its storage and security empire. At its peak under Cunningham’s command, Veritas ran over $1 billion in sales through the channel.

A decade after building up the Verita channel, Cunningham says he hopes to recreate the magic with i365, a subsidiary that many internal stakeholders refer to as ‘Seagate Software 2.0.’ The company is primarily based on technology and services developed after Seagate’s 2006 purchase of EVault for $185 million. Focused exclusively on the midmarket in a niche positioned squarely between the consumer buyer and the enterprise buyer, i365 is touting its hybrid of storage software solutions for both on premise and cloud-based data protection.

“The market has shifted to where the idea of SaaS or cloud-connected storage is now mostly understood as a viable way to do storage, but it’s not a rip and replace; it’s a complementary part of overall data protection and business continuity services,” Cunningham says. “We have a very clear and strong point of view that not everyone is going to pure cloud. There’ll always be on-prem data to protect and there will always be cloud data to protect and some combination of those things is the way the real world will look.”

He says the partnership with Microsoft was borne out of the need for i365 companies to better support the heterogeneous on-premises storage environments of the modern midmarket customer.

“It is a clear direction for us to become agnostic to the data protection that’s on prem,” Cunningham says. “So in the case of DPM, it backs up data from your Exchange server to your appliance, disk to disk, and then from that appliance gets it to the cloud. And there are all sort of incremental services or components that you can choose how to mix and match. You don’t have to do the whole thing: if you just want to back up to disk, you can use it for that or if you want back up to disk and then trickle to the cloud, you can do that as well.”

The two companies expect to see the fruits of their partnership labor with a new product offering sometime around the beginning of second quarter 2010. Analysts are already lauding the partnership as an ideal marriage.

"This partnership is a win-win for both companies, allowing Microsoft DPM customers to leverage i365’s proven technology, expertise and cloud infrastructure to not only extend their data protection across non-Microsoft platforms but also into the cloud for offsite protection," Laura DuBois, research director of storage software for IDC, said in a statement.

Cunningham says the results will ‘rattle a few cages’ in the storage market and will provide channel partners a significant opportunity to sell data protection into the midmarket.

“We think this will absolutely revolutionize the midmarket data protection segment. we’re going to disrupt he world of data protection in a very significant way,” he says. “With the Microsoft partnership on a worldwide basis, the first form of this will probably come as an edge device. It will be an appliance, a Seagate box, with Microsoft and EVault software all bundled together through the channel. We think this is a killer app for the channel.”

In particular, Cunningham says that the rivalry with the old guard in storage will shake up the market in an interesting competition, given his history with Veritas.

“We’re going to have a little fun disrupting the old guys,” Cunningham says. “There are companies out there that shall remain nameless–but i helped build it–which is the world’s larges midmarket backup franchise and we’re going to have some fun messing with them.”