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Note

This product has been discountined with the release 5.1 and replaced by the new VDP.

Disclaimer

I do not work for VMware and I’m not writing that VDR is the best backup product! First versions were affected by some bugs and issues… But now (from 1.2 release) could be one possible backup solution (of course with its limits).

VMware Data Recovery (VDR)

Note that this product works quite like the old esXpress (similar idea to have virtual appliance that handle the backup procedure).

Pro

  • it is a backup product and solution that can be used for SMB
  • it’s included in all vSphere 4.1 edition, exept the Essential
  • it could be cheaper than other solution?! Probably yes, but with less functions
  • works with a GUI (integrated in vSphere client) quite simple to understand
  • works in a virtual appliance (no addition hardware is required)
  • easy deployment with initial setup wizard
  • backup are at image level (and restore can be at file level, also for Linux VM)note that you can select individual vmdk (not so simple with some other backup software), that it use a single pass to have image and file level protection and that in some other product the Linux file restore is usually sold apart
  • file level restore can be handled from the destination VM in a simple way, without the needs of administrative access on the vCenter Server and/or hosts (not so simple to implement with other products)
  • it can do data deduplication (no additional license is required)
  • first backup is full, the other are with deduplication (so more effective that a full/incremental schema)
  • more important, if VM are virtual hardware 7 it can use Changed Block Tracking (CBT) to handle incremental changes in VMs (and reduce the backup traffic)
  • multiple restore points are displayed for each VM for easy restore
  • can save data to vmdk (or RDM) or NAS share (a CIFS share or a supported NFS datastore)
  • wizard with workflow to create and schedule backup jobs
  • it can work also without vCenter Server (just use the vSphere client with VDR plugin on a host)
  • can work LAN free (see following notes)
  • is agent-less (no agent is required in the VMs, and VMware Tools are recommended by not mandatory)

Cons

  • it require vSphere and a valid license for VDR (actuall all version, except the Essential Bundle has the VDR license)
  • it’s a product with limited features, compared to other backup solutions
  • is only a B2D solution and cannot (in a simple way) be integrated in other program to implement also a B2Tsee http://xtravirt.com/xd10131
  • data deduplication cannot be disabled
  • integrity check is very time expensive, and reduce the max size of a destinationin the next version (VDR 2.x) this operation (as well the reclaim task) can be scheduled in a different window of the backup tasks
  • only two destinations are supported (see following notes)
  • it is not able to send email notification itselfbut some addition scripts are now available:Email reporting for VDRalso next version (VDR 2.x) has integrate the email notification (and seems to work nice)
  • block reclaim not always work in the right way (also if you change the retention policy)
  • the actual plugin (but seems also the next version) is not tight integrated with vCenter inventories, it use his inventory (that is a copy of the Hosts&Clusters inventory)IMHO could be nice have the restore points and run a backup directly from the vCenter inventories.
  • the virtual appliance needs several resource (CPU and memory) to run fineBut this is the same problems of other backup programs
  • this product cannot handle application backup, like AD, Exchange, SQL databases… those application must be handled in a usual wayone solution could be use VCB guest scripting to dump the database in a files

Installation and configuration

Install and configure:

The procedure is really easy and note that now is possible have more VDR appliances to increase the backup power.

Also the appliance can work really well in DHCP (it does not require a static IP to work), but is better that it is in the same network of the vCenter and the Management interfaces of the hosts (to reduce network traffic).

The VDR plugin cannot be download from the vCenter Server, but must be installed as a separate part. The good news is that it can work without vCenter Server (so could be a good tool to take a backup of a virtual vCenter Server).

Another interesting aspect is than the catalog is in the destination, so it’s easy to re-deploy a new appliance and simple attach existing destinations.

How backup works

As all other products it first take a VM snapshot with guest quiescence (there is no way to disable it) then with snapshot is used to perform the backup (with virtual hardware 7 the CBT can be used to track changes from the last backup and reduce the amount of data to be handled from the backup process).

The data can be transfert in two ways (that are transport modes usual also for other backup solutions):

  • network based copy: data are read from the network
  • hot-add: data are read from the storage

To understand when VMware Data Recovery use network based copy instead of SCSI Hot-Add see: http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1012862

For VMware Data Recovery advanced options (and datarecovery.ini format) see: http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1013175

For more info see also:

Application level backup and restore

As written the only way is handle with traditional backup solution (agent based) especially if you need also an application granular restore. Of course, another solution is change backup product and use one that support application backup &  restore.

A really simple solution to handle at least the application data backup could be use custom guest scripts, in the same way of VCB scripting:

About the consistency… from Windows Server 2003 there could be also application consistency… if all application are compliant with VSS.

Troubleshooting

Some personal tips

  • How the appliance is recognized as a VDR appliance?Sound silly, but it use the note area: the first row must be “VMware Data Recovery Module”
  • Use “small” destination: less than 1 TB for vmdk destinations, and less than 512MB for CIFS destinationsThis reduce the time needed for the integrity check
  • Avoid, if possible, the CIFS destinations
  • Use in the right way the two destinations: create at least two different backup policy to have different scheduling (be sure to do not have ANY overlap in schedules)… this make restore possible also if you loose one destination
  • To have more than 2 destinations (for example to have some kind of “rotations”) more vmdk can be add to the appliance, but only two can be mounted (the others must be unmounted)AVOID to swap different destinations, because seems that the disk number is also use to identify a destination
  • How resolve the reclaim issue?In some cases the space is not free up (note that delete a restore point is not enough, space can be free ONLY after a reclaim)… there isn’t a simple solution if this happen… only format the destination… for this reason I suggest to keep more than two destination ready to be used
  • How to perform a LAN free backupJust be sure that hot-add can be used and that the destination is on the SAN or on a dedicated network
  • Reduce the number of concurrent tasks to avoid destination overload.This really depend on the destination performance, for example for a Terastation iSCSI I’ve choose to add the following advanced option:MaxBackupRestoreTasks=4
  • To add a mail report, use this script:http://www.sheenaustin.com/2010/10/20/vmware-data-recovery-status-report-script/
  • For VMs with Windows Server 2008 see the note in the admin guide:http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vdr_12_admin.pdf – pag 38Note that on vSphere 4.1 (I’ve not verify on 4.0) new VMs have already the disk.EnableUUID=TRUE parameter

VDR 2

The new vSphere 5 family will include also a new version of VDR (2.0) with some improvements:

  • The Data Recovery appliance uses CentOS 5.5 64-bit as its operating  system. This change provides better scalability and stability for the  appliance.
  • Swap files are no longer included in backups. Since swap files are  not relevant to restoring virtual machine systems, these are omitted,  allowing backups to complete more quickly and to consume less disk  space.
  • Integrity checks and reclaim operations are schedulable using the Destination Maintenance window.
  • Integrity checks are more flexible.
    • The progress is tracked. If Data Recovery stops an integrity  check, the check can be resumed without having to restart the entire  process. For example, a check might be stopped because the timeframe for  the maintenance window has passed. Note that if a user manually stops  an integrity check, when an integrity check is started again, it begins  at the start.
    • Other operations can be completed while an integrity check is  running. For example, backup and restore tasks can be completed while an  integrity check is running.
  • The performance of backup, integrity check, and reclaim operations has been improved.
  • Data Recovery is more resilient against transient network  failures. For example, backups to CIFS shares perform better even when  subject to transient network failures.
  • The backup appliance may be suspended from starting new backup jobs.
  • Email reporting is included.

Note that the upgrade process remain quite the same of previous version with basically those tasks: rename the old appliance, create a new one, attach the destinations.

Andrea MauroAbout Andrea Mauro (2312 Posts)

Virtualization & Cloud Architect. VMUG IT Co-Founder and board member. VMware VMTN Moderator and vExpert (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). PernixPro 2014. Dell TechCenter Rockstar 2014. MVP 2014. Several certifications including: VCDX-DCV, VCP-DCV/DT/Cloud, VCAP-DCA/DCD/CIA/CID/DTA/DTD, MCSA, MCSE, MCITP, CCA, NPP.