This content is part of the Essential Guide: VMware virtual recovery and backup best practices and tools

How VMware VDP 6.1 backs up, replicates and restores vSphere VMs

VSphere Data Protection 6.1 uses image-level backup, vStorage API integration and variable-length deduplication technology to protect vSphere data.

VMware vSphere Data Protection 6.1 is a backup and replication product that consists of a Linux-based virtual appliance. This virtual appliance is preconfigured with EMC's Avamar software. VMware tightly integrates Data Protection with vSphere, allowing it to back up and restore vSphere VMs.

VSphere Data Protection (VDP) can back up VMs running in a VMware environment. A single virtual appliance can back up as many as 400 VMs and configure up to 20 VDP appliances in the same environment to scale up, providing protection for up to 8,000 VMs.

VMware VDP is an image-level backup product that integrates with the vStorage API for data protection. The VDP appliance communicates with the vCenter Server to take a snapshot of a VM's .vmdk files.

VDP performs deduplication with patented variable-length deduplication technology. Deduplication segments the incoming data stream, uniquely identifies data segments and then compares the segments to previously stored data. If the segment is unique, deduplication stores it on disk. If an incoming data segment is a duplicate, deduplication creates a reference and doesn't store the segment again.

An internal database called the deduplication store handles backup storage. Administrators can schedule backups and retention points on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. A built-in maintenance process takes cares of data integrity and the deduplication store.

VMware VDP benefits

VDP is included in vSphere Essentials Plus and higher licensing packages at no additional cost. It reduces the disk space backup data consumes through the use of variable-length deduplication across all backups and minimizes the backup window with Changed Block Tracking (CBT) and VM snapshots.

VDP is agentless, which means there's no need to install agents on VMs, except for some Enterprise Class applications. VDP also offers vCenter Server integration, application-aware backup and individual application item recovery, and it replicates jobs to another VDP appliance to avoid data loss should the primary site encounter problems.

VMware VDP deployment

Before you start a VDP deployment, first configure your domain name system (DNS) server. The DNS server must support both forward and reverse lookup on the VDP and the vCenter. Add an entry to the DNS server for the VDP appliance's IP address and fully qualified domain names.

VDP 6.1 is easy to deploy, provided you know your requirements, sizing and have adequate storage and compute power. Be aware that it's a resource-hungry appliance and a preconfigured Open Virtualization Format file. Once you've deployed it to your environment with the vSphere Web Client, connect with the following URL and start the configuration wizard:


The process takes less than five minutes to complete. The configuration wizard will ask questions about your environment, including vCenter Server networking details and the administrator's password.

vCenter Registration
Figure A. The VMware VDP configuration wizard.

You will also need to allocate storage as additional virtual disks which can -- but don't have to -- be on the same data store as the VDP appliance. You can have up to 8 TB of storage for a single appliance.

Create Storage
Figure B. Configure storage for VDP.

After the wizard finishes, you can return to the vSphere Web Client. You need to log off of the vSphere Web Client and then log back on to view the new VDP icon through the user interface. You should see a new green icon on the Home page and also a new menu item called "vSphere Data Protection 6.1 (Powered by EMC)."

Under the Configuration tab, you'll see backup appliance details such as:

  • networking details
  • time zone details
  • storage capacity with a gauge
  • backup window configuration
  • download links for different agents -- this is required only if you want to back up application-aware VMs such as SQL Server, Exchange Server or SharePoint Server
Backup appliance details
Figure C. VDP backup appliance details.

Now that the environment is set up, we can see the different backup and restore possibilities. Let's take a closer look at backup.

Create a new backup in VMware VDP

Go to the Backup tab and select Backup job actions > New to launch a wizard to create a backup job.

VMware VDP executes image-level backups, which means that the vSphere API for data integration backs up the VM. It also uses CBT to create incremental backups in which it only sends the altered parts to the deduplication store.

VDP job types
Figure D. Job types for VDP image-level backup.

If you prefer to back up only certain volumes, you also have the option to select individual virtual disks. The next page shows scheduling options; you can schedule daily, monthly or weekly.

Next, configure your retention policy; specify how many retention points you want to keep and for how long.

Create a retention policy
Figure E. Create a retention policy.

VMware VDP is fairly intuitive and has a decent user interface. Because it's completely integrated with the vSphere Web Client, it provides a single pane of glass for management and backup operations of the whole vSphere infrastructure.

How do you restore a full VM?

It's easy to restore a broken or corrupted full VM; thanks to VDP integration with the vSphere Web Client, you don't have to change a console. Select the Restore tab select the backup from the list of backups, and then click the Restore button. You can then select the check box titled Restore to original location, which has advanced options that allow you to power the VM on and connect to the network.

When you reach the recap page, click the Finish button. This will show you the progress of the VDP restore job in the vSphere Web Client window. You can customize the VM name, though I kept the default name, which is the name of the VM and then the date and time of its restoration.

VMware VDP 6.1 also includes options that are useful when you work with backups and restores, such as integration with vCenter alarms and alerts, the ability to clone backup jobs and restore rehearsal.

VDP has matured over the past few releases of vSphere. It's a robust, resilient product that allows you to protect backup data by copying it to a disaster recovery location with an internal replication mechanism.

Next Steps

Back up data before VDP deduplication

Enable Secure Socket Shell login for vSphere Data Protection

The relationship between vSphere Data Protection Advanced and vSAN

Dig Deeper on VMware backup software