VMware’s new vSphere Data Protection backup application

With the vSphere 5.1 release VMware is replacing their current vSphere Data Recovery (vDR) product with a new product called vSphere Data Protection (vDP). vDR was first introduced in vSphere 4 as a simple image-level backup application for virtual machines, unlike other products that VMware acquired vDR was developed in-house. It was a no-frills backup application designed to meet the backup needs of smaller vSphere environments. VMware bundled it for free in most editions of vSphere so customers could chose to use it as a way to backup VMs directly from the virtualization layer instead of using traditional OS backup agents. VMware probably felt the need to be able to provide some level of backup support in their core product offering to make it complete. Their strategy is 3 levels of protection in vSphere:

  • High Availability (HA) to provide host level failure protection
  • SRM to provide site level failure protection
  • vDR/vDP to provide VM level protection

vDR was OK, it had limited scalability and very few advanced features that you typically find in more robust backup applications. It also seemed like there was very little product development done to vDR after it’s initial release to make it better. Despite being bundled with vSphere I suspect very few people used it as their primary backup system due to it’s limitations.

So in vSphere 5.1 VMware chose to scrap vDR and replace it with vDP which is based on EMC’s Avamar backup product. I suspect this was done because they did not want to waste development effort on vDR when they already had a backup application in-house that they could leverage. So they took the Avamar backup engine, put a new user interface on it to integrate it with the vSphere web client and re-branded it as vDP. Despite being based on Avamar which is a enterprise backup application, it’s been scaled down to be mostly suitable for smaller vSphere environments. It does retain some of the core Avamar features though like it’s advanced data deduplication capabilities. So vDP is a pretty nice upgrade from vDR, and like vDR it will be bundled for free in certain vSphere editions, however there is no upgrade path from vDP to the full Avamar product.

I was able to attend a session at VMworld that covered vDP and here’s some additional things that I learned about it:

  • vDP can only be managed with the new web interface, you cannot use the vSphere client to manage it
  • Like vDR, vDP is deployed as a virtual appliance
  • The vDP virtual appliance can be deployed in 3 sizes, .5 TB, 1TB or 2TB, this is the size of the virtual disk attached to the vDP appliance which serves as the target for the backup repository
  • Uses the Changed Block Tracking (CBT) feature for both backups and restores
  • Has the ability to restore VMs to different clusters and datastores
  • Supports file level recovery by mounting the backup image and browsing the file system
  • Has very basic reporting capabilities
  • Uses a variable length segment size for deduplication
  • Has a periodic maintenance window for garbage collection
  • vDP can be upgraded to newer releases by attaching the new ISO file to the vDP VM which will automatically sense it and upgrade itself
  • Only supports backing up to 100 VMs per vDP virtual appliance
  • Only supports up to 10 vDP appliances per vCenter Server instance
  • Supports up to 2TB of de-duped storage per vDP appliance
  • Deduplication is agentless and done on the vDP appliance (target)
  • Only 8 VMs can be backed up simultaneously
  • Backing up the vDP appliance is NOT supported, so you cannot do long term retention to tape, this limits the amount of backups that you can retain
  • Deduplication is limited to inside each vDP appliance, you cannot de-dupe across multiple vDP appliances
  • Restore rehearsals are available to manually test VM restorability
  • Supports SCSI hot-add feature as the preferred backup method
  • vDP does not use private APIs and leverages the same vStorage APIs (VADP) as other 3rd party backup apps
  • vDP does not support or integrate with VMware View or vCloud Director
  • vDP will work with vSphere ESX/ESXi 4.x and 5.x, it does require vCenter Server 5.1 though
  • vDP cannot be used without vCenter Server, in Linked Mode the vDP appliance will only work with the vCenter Server that it is associated with
  • Deduplication cannot be disabled and is not compatible with 3rd party deduplication storage
  • vDP can back up both powered on and powered off VMs

For more information on vDP you can visit VMware’s website, it should be available as part of vSphere 5.1 that is being released on 9/11

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