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vSphere Data Protection (VDP) 101 [VMware]

Servers, Storage and Networking | Posted on April 11, 2013 by David Davis

The new VMware vSphere Data Protection solution, or VDP, is a VMware vSphere backup and recovery application. VDP is new vSphere 5.1 and is completely free with all editions of vSphere 5.1, starting with vSphere Essentials Plus. VDP replaces VMware’s previous backup and recovery solution – VMware Data Recovery (or VDR). Thankfully, VDP has so much more to offer us than VDR ever did.

Why Do You Need A Virtualization Backup Solution?
Before we discuss VDP in detail, let’s take a step back and ask: Why do you need a virtualization backup solution in the first place?

Most companies considering VDP are relatively new to VMware vSphere and virtualization. Also, most companies have a physical server backup solution in their datacenter already. The problem with traditional physical server backup applications is that they backup the virtual machines at the file level, with agents deployed in every virtual machine. This is inefficient and causes backups and recoveries to take much longer than they need to. Traditional agent-based backup also can cause performance issues because of the large amount of data that must be transferred during the growing backup window.

VMware Data Protection (VDP) Basics

With virtualization aware, agentless backup products like vSphere Data Protection, no agents have to be installed and only the changed blocks of the virtual machine disk files are backed up. Because snapshot technology is used, backups can be done anytime (even during the day) with no need for a “backup window”.  Thus, if you are using traditional backup applications in your virtual infrastructure but you have vSphere Essentials Plus, or better, you should consider using VDP.

vSphere Data Protection – The Basics
VDP is based on technology that VMware gained from EMC and has a vastly improved user interface over VDR. I like the new usability of VDP but the most important features are:

  • Virtual appliance deployment – There is no Windows OS to buy, no Windows OS to install/configure/patch/secure, and you can be up and running fast.
  • Integrates with the vSphere Web Client – You can backup and recover virtual machines from the same client you already use to administer vSphere.
  • Utilization of change block tracking (CBT) – utilizing the vStorage API for Data Protection (VADP), VDP can backup just the changed blocks of virtual machine disk files
  • Variable-length deduplication – VMware claims that by using the EMC Avamar technology in VDP, they can deduplicate up to 99% of file system backup data.
  • Change block tracking (CBT) restore – with CBT, VDP can restore just the changed blocks of a virtual machine to make restore faster than ever
  • File level recovery (FLR) – with FLR you can restore individual files if you don’t want to restore the virtual machine back to its last backup state

Backup Management in the vSphere Client

VDP – Things to Look Out For
As with many “included” / free products, there are sometimes things that you need to know (look out for) that may prevent issues later in the future. VDP has a few things that you need to know about. They are:

  • VDP can only backup up to 100 virtual machines and can only store up to 2TB of backup data. Because of this, VDP is only for small virtual infrastructures that don’t plan to scale larger than 100 virtual machines (or 2TB).
  • Each vCenter server can have up to 10 VDP virtual management machines running, giving you a total of up to 1000 virtual machines that can be backed up (but the jobs would have to be administered from those 10 different VDP management appliances).
  • You can only store VDP backup data on the VMFS virtual disk that is attached to the VDP appliance. Because this is how it works, it’s difficult to get the backup data offsite, onto tape.
  • It can’t backup physical servers
  • You must be using vCenter 5.1 and the vSphere Web Client version 5.1

Even with these limitations, if you are already building a virtual infrastructure (or already have) vSphere Essentials Plus or better, then VDP is a great solution at a very reasonable (free) price!

VDP Summary
VMware Data Protection is an excellent data protection solution for small and medium sized business who don’t anticipate that the numbers of VMs in their infrastructure will expand beyond 100. The new interface is well designed and a great improvement over VDR.

Are you a licensed user of vSphere Essentials Plus or better (or plan to be soon) and don’t have a virtualization-aware backup solution? Do you have a question you want to ask me, or another one of Softchoice’s dedicated VMware experts? Leave a comment below.

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