Free VM Backups — VMware’s vSphere Data Protection (VDP) Part 1

Free VM Backups — VMware’s vSphere Data Protection (VDP) Part 1

Contemplating the plethora of backup options in the world of VMware can prove a dismaying task. Fortunately, a few years back VMware decided to team up with the EMC BRS Team (now DPS) to build a purpose-designed VM backup solution to be bundled with vSphere. Based on proven Avamar enterprise backup technology from EMC, vSphere Data Protection (VDP) provided VMware vSphere admins a freely included (starting with vSphere 5.1) mechanism to back up guests and provide a more integrated data recovery solution than many competitors were positioning at the time. That said, there were definitely a few challenges to work out with the early product, but VMware has ensured that the product has received many great improvements over time.

In this post, we’ll give an overview of the capabilities of VDP and highlight what’s new in version 5.8. First off, it’s important to know that VDP is included with VMware vSphere Essentials Plus Kit and higher, and that VDP Advanced is purchased separately. Yes, there is a standard and an advanced variant of VDP: the first is free and the second is not, as it includes a significant uplift in data protection capabilities on the MS application side of things.

So just to spell it out, here are the features and benefits of vSphere Data Protection:

  • Wizard-driven setup and management to quickly and easily implement a data protection solution for a vSphere virtual machine environment
  • Significantly reduced backup data disk space requirements, with the patented, variable-length Avamar deduplication technology
  • Use of VMware vSphere Storage APIs — Data Protection as well as Changed Block Tracking (CBT) to reduce load on the vSphere host infrastructure and minimize backup window requirements
  • Agentless virtual machine backup and restore that reduces complexity and deployment time
  • Secure, efficient backup data replication to Avamar for off-site data protection
  • Direct-to-host emergency restore operation that enables virtual machine recovery even when vCenter Server and vSphere Web Client are offline
  • File Level Restore (FLR), which enables granular file and folder restoration without the need for an agent in Microsoft Windows and Linux virtual machines
  • Simple Web browser–based administration through vSphere Web Client
  • Appliance and backup data protection via a checkpoint-and-rollback mechanism
  • And here are some of the key additional features and benefits of vSphere Data Protection Advanced:
  • Increased capacity of as much as 8TB of deduplicated backup data storage
  • Deployment of external proxies enabling as many as 24 parallel backup operations
  • Integration with EMC Data Domain for additional scale, efficiency and reliability
  • Microsoft Exchange Server agent for application-consistent backup and restore of databases and mailboxes, including those protected by a database availability group (DAG)
  • Microsoft SQL Server agent that leverages the Virtual Backup Device Interface feature for proper backup and restore of databases in standalone configurations and clustered environments
  • Microsoft SharePoint agent that enables granular database backup and restore
  • Reliable, efficient replication of backup data between vSphere Data Protection Advanced appliances for redundancy and off-site data protection
  • Flexibility to restore replicated backup data at both the source and target locations
  • Automated backup verification that provides the highest level of confidence in backup data integrity
  • In-place upgrade of vSphere Data Protection to vSphere Data Protection Advanced

The key new features are all found in VDP Advanced, and here they are in summary:

  • Now supports up to 20 VDP instances per vCenter Server instance
    • If you think about the 8TB of backend pre-deduplicated storage, that means you could protect as much as 160TB of data before deduplication — provided you had the storage to put this on (it’s some serious protection capacity).
  • Cascading replication — allows for VDP Advanced to replicate to another VDP Advanced and then forward the replicated copy on to yet another VDP Advanced.
  • SQL Server AlwaysOn technology support — VDP Advanced can now back up SQL Server in a cluster configuration.
  • Exchange DAG support — VDP Advanced can recognize and protect the active or passive database copies.

So as you can see, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to back up your VMs, you probably already have access to what you need. If you need the application backup capabilities, don’t balk at the potential spend on VDP Advanced — it’s priced per socket and very competitively.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns about the information presented in this document.

Ben Thurston


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