Everybody hates backup. Who wants to spend hours looking over logs, setting up backups jobs and then re-running them because they failed to finish inside the specified window of time, or just plain failed? Nobody, and the latest edition to VMware’s vSphere management toolset is built on great technology that makes backup easy. vSphere Data Protection is an integrated backup solution for vSphere virtual machines that is based on EMC’s Avamar technology. A number of people have been asking me about VDP lately, so I wanted to provide a quick summary of features and uses for VDP and VDPA.

VMware released vSphere Data Protection (VDP) in the 5.1 release of vSphere. It replaced the VDR application for built-in backup of vSphere virtual machines. In September of 2013, the released the 5.5 version. The VDP product brings EMC’s Avamar technology into vCenter for vSphere integrated backup. Avamar has the one of the best deduplication algorithms on the market making this a great addition to any backup plan. Avamar’s technology enables very efficient backups of hundreds of virtual machines by using variable length deduplication.

VDP comes in two editions. VDP is part of all vSphere purchases, while VDP Advanced (VDPA) is a licensed product sold per socket. The free edition can handle 100 VMs on a single backup appliance and you can deploy up to 10 VDP virtual appliances per vCenter. Now, if you need to backup more than 100 VMs, you will probably want an integrated management platform for scheduling and reporting, but you can do VM level backups for free with your vSphere licenses for up to 1,000 VMs.

VDPA allows for the backup of 400 VMs per appliance and like the free version, a single vCenter can support up to 10 appliances. I would make the same recommendation here about managing multiple appliances, if you need to handle more than 400 VMs in a backup schedule you may want to consider something that is a bit more “enterprise” capable like Avamar, etc. However, VDPA opens a number of options for backing up VMs from multiple locations.

There are a few backup limitations of which to be aware. The following is a list from the admin guide of things VDP cannot backup.

VDP will not back up the following specialized virtual machines:

  • vSphere Data Protection (VDP) Appliances
  • VMware Data Recovery (VDR) Appliances
  • Templates
  • Secondary fault tolerant nodes
  • Proxies
  • Avamar Virtual Edition (AVE) Servers

What makes this such a great addition to the platform are the options it opens for extending backup solutions across the enterprise. While you probably won’t look to VDP as a total backup solution for thousands of machines, you can use it to extend backups to remote locations or with both editions replicate to an Avamar based service provider for offsite backups and replication. The free edition cannot replicate to another VDP appliance, but can replicate to an Avamar grid or service provider. The advanced edition brings replication between appliances as well, so you can leverage multiple appliances to protect your data across sites without the need for additional backup software or hardware.

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The advanced edition integrates with Data Domain. With EMC Data Domain support you can leverage disk based storage for your VDPA backups keeping them off of your primary array, and leverage the deduplication benefits that DD brings. VDPA also brings agents for SQL, Exchange and SharePoint along with file level recovery and a number of other great features. You can see the full list on VMware’s site. http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-data-protection-advanced/features.html

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